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Fibromyalgia and the Paleo diet

Updated on January 10, 2013

Benefits of Paleo diet

Fibromyalgia is a debilitating condition that is characterized by chronic pain in the muscles and joints, an overall feeling of anxiety and discomfort and a disruptive sleep patterns and insomnia. This condition affects women and men alike, though most sufferers are women. According to research done on Fibromyalgia, it is possible to reduce the symptoms of this ailment through good lifestyle and proper and balanced diet of food groups. This is where the paleo diet comes in place. As the main rationale for the paleo diet is to remove all diet that is not eaten by early caveman (Paleolithic man) making the body eat only the food which, according to paleo diet promoters, are genetically dictated as the body’s preference.

Paleo diets are based on a simple assumption- if our ancestors didn’t eat it, we shouldn’t eat either. So to fight against the illnesses caused by our modern diets, we should return back to our paleo diet. Paleolithic diet consists mainly of fish, grass-fed meats, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots, sea foods, nuts and seeds. Dairy products, grains, sugar, processed food and oils, legumes, alcohol and starches are not part of Paleo diet.

Studies have shown that by adapting paleo diet, there is significant reversal of auto immune diseases includes Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, and Vertiligo to name only a tiny fraction of autoimmune diseases. Elements of autoimmunity are likely at play in conditions as seemingly unrelated as Schizophrenia, infertility, and various forms of cancer. Interestingly, all of these seemingly unrelated diseases share a common cause, damage to the intestinal lining which allows large, undigested food particles to make their way into the body. This is called “leaky gut and the autoimmune response”.

There is a strand of truth on the claims of Paleo diet and its effects on Fibromyalgia patients because it basically removes all unnecessary food from the everyday diet of an individual. A paleo diet excludes all forms of processed foods, junk foods, and food with chemical preservatives, refined sugar, MSG (monosodium glutamate), artificial flavorings, refined carbohydrates and many more. It can be said that through the rigorous adherence to such a diet, one can lessen the effects of Fibromyalgia and its debilitating symptoms.

Benefits of Paleo diet

As a whole, paleo diet helps us in many ways. Health benefits of Paleo diet includes stability in our blood sugar levels, burning of our stored fat thus helping us in reducing our weight, improvement in our sleep, reduction in getting allergies, strengthening of the immune system of our body and get a balance energy throughout our day. The Paleo diet can reverse the signs and symptoms of insulin resistant, Type 2 diabetes. Research has showed that our Paleolithic ancestors and contemporary hunter-gatherers in many ethnic groups today shows virtually no heart attack or stroke while eating ancestral diets and living a more active and less sedentary life. Five studies have been made to shed more light on the importance of the paleo diet in our daily life. In 2007, four more studies have been made that have tested ancestral diets and have found them superior to Modern diets, diabetic diets and typical Western diets in regards to weight loss, reducing cardiovascular disease risk factors, and reducing risk factors for type 2 diabetes. These studies are peer-reviewed, conducted by various scientists from a large variety of institutions, and published in reputable scientific journals, including the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Nutrition and Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diabetololgy.

As the paleo diet provides a good alternative diet for people suffering from Fibromyalgia, there are foods which should not be included in one’s diet in order not to aggravate the condition. These are some of the food one should avoid if suffering from Fibromyalgia.

Physical activity and fitness

Like other organisms, human structure and function are genetically determined and were shaped over thousand years of evolutionary experience by selective pressures of the environment in which our species evolved. Since the emergence of our genus more than 2 million years ago until the agricultural revolution of 10,000 years ago, humans have occupied a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Because the portion of our genetic constitutions which determine our fundamental anatomy and physiology have remained relatively unchanged over the past 40,000 years, the exercise capacities and needs of modern humans remain similar to those which had been originally selected by evolution for stone age men and women living as hunter/gatherers. The sedentary nature of contemporary humans living in industrialized societies is vastly at odds with the activity levels required of our ancestors. Present day guidelines for minimal physical activity levels fall 65 % below those observed among living hunter-gatherers. This discordance between our genetically determined exercise requirements and those encountered in present day industrialized societies has been implicated as one of the causes of a wide variety of chronic diseases including obesity, non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, coronary heart disease, hypertension and osteoporosis.

The main components of the Paleo diet

Vitamins

Fruits and vegetables are rich in variety of substances such as minerals, vitamins, anti oxidants and phyto-nutrients. They help the human body against the development of cancers and other serious illnesses such as diabetes, neurological deficits etc. Most fruits contain 0.4 - 0.8 calories per gram which is very much low as compared to the modern day diet which makes any regular eater of fruits practically safe from becoming obese. Substantial evidence is available which shows that those individuals who consume high calorie diets, which is prevalent in many modern foods are more prone to over eating and as a result increasing risk of weight gain and diseases which is linked to obesity.

Vitamin B12 should also be a part of the staple diet of any person today. Adults should take about 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B-12, which is critical for proper cell metabolism. The main sources of Vitamin B12 are Fish and meat. Other vitamins are also acquired just by staying solid in a paleo form of diet.

Vitamin D should also be present in our diets. The caveman way of meeting vitamin D needs is to stay in sun for 5-30 minutes between 9.a.m to 3.p.m, and requirement of 15 microgram, which recommended by many medical experts, would be easily achieved in this way. The analysis revealed that except for vitamin D, which would have been supplied by endogenous synthesis in hunter gatherers, it is entirely possible to consume a nutritionally balanced diet from contemporary foods that mimic the food groups and types available during the Paleolithic period. The macronutrient content of the experimental diet (38 % protein, 39 % fat, 23 % carbohydrate by energy) varied considerably from current western values.( Loren Cordain, PhD1* 1Department of Health and Exercise Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado)

Proteins and carbohydrates

In a modern world, we have substituted our proteins diet with carbohydrate diet which is against the diet that our ancestors had followed. Caveman used to eat a diet which was strong in proteins. In contrast, we ingest a diet which is rich in carbohydrates. This is evident on the “staple” food of human cultures today. In most western and Middle Eastern countries, bread has been the staple food for thousands of years, while in Asian countries, Rice is universal, this shows how over reliant are we to carbohydrates which is totally absent from the Paleolithic diet humans ate.

High protein diets play a cardio-protective role in our body. It is one of an effective weight loss strategy that can be taken by over-weight individuals. Furthermore, by restricting our carbohydrates diet, we can prevent ourselves from illnesses such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension and many more. The high reliance upon animal-based foods would not have necessarily elicited unfavorable blood lipid profiles because of the hypo lipidemic effects of high dietary protein (19-35 % energy) and the relatively low level of dietary carbohydrate (22-40 % energy). Although fat intake (28-58 % energy) would have been similar to or higher than that is found in many modern diets, it is likely that important qualitative differences in fat intake, including relatively high levels of Mono unsaturated fatty acids and Poly unsaturated fatty acids and a lower ω-6/ω-3 fatty acid ratio, would have served to inhibit the development of cardiovascular disease.

Other dietary characteristics including high intakes of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and phyto chemicals along with a low salt intake may have operated synergistically with lifestyle characteristics (more exercise, less stress and no smoking) to further deter the development of cardiovascular disease.

Fatty acids

Research and epidemiological studies have proved that diets rich in mono-unsaturated and Omega-3 fats have strongly reduced the occurrence of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity etc. One of the greatest deviations away from our ancestral diet is the amounts and types of fat found in modern grain feed animals vs. the amounts and types of fats found in grass fed or wild meat, fowl and fish. Our ancestors use to eat the meat of wild undomesticated animals which contains large amount of Omega-3 fats and low amounts of saturated fats. However, today it’s not like this. Now we prefer those dairy products, which is rich in fatty constituents.

Also the transition from a very physically active lifestyle of our ancient ancestors as they traverse their natural outdoor environment to a sedentary, indoor lifestyle is the root of many of the debilitating chronic diseases that are endemic in our culture. The intuitive solution is to simulate the indigenous human activity pattern to the extent of recreating the rigorous lifestyle of early humans which this is possible and practically achievable. Suggestions for exercise mode, duration, intensity, and frequency are outlined with a focus on realigning our daily physical activities with the ancient form of lifestyle that is encoded within our genome.

Minerals and micro nutrients

The key minerals that are needed by the body are potassium, salts, and calcium along with other lesser minerals such as zinc, iron which are required in lesser quantities. Fresh produce foods are almost sodium free. Caveman didn’t have table salts or high sodium processed foods. Calcium is involved in building the muscles and for the growth and development of bones. Potassium helps against development of kidney stones. It counters the effect of sodium chloride for people with Hypertension, which is raising blood pressure and it is also helpful in preventing bone loss. Fortunately, simple public health interventions are available to increase the micronutrient intake among populations, whereas it is difficult to increase the intake of energy and protein. The population can be advised to increase the intake of food rich in micronutrients, Furthermore, supplements can be administered to high-risk groups through contact with the health system e.g. iron-folic acid to pregnant women. Finally, prevention and treatment of infections are important, since infections lead to loss of micronutrients.

Misconceptions about paleo diet

We are living in the age of perfection today. Everyone wants to be perfect. But no one wants to take the road which leads to perfection. We are so much thinking about the future these days that we don’t even bother about our past. No-one wants to hear the truth. People, who have no idea about Paleolithic diet, have many misconceptions in their minds.

A common misconception of many about the Paleo diet is that I require people to totally avoid carbohydrates, which is totally not true. Practically all plant matter is composed of carbohydrates and eliminating carbohydrates completely in any diet will mean the exclusion of all vegetables and fruits. What are not prescribed in the Paleo diet are highly refined carbohydrates found in bread and in other similar forms. This type of carbohydrates is totally absent from the diets of early humans.

On top of that, there is growing evidence that a grain based diet is highly detrimental to our health. Some would say that paleo diet is too much rigid and restrictive. Good health is about more than just diet, it also includes the way of life. One is not required to be “rigid” but one is required to be disciplined and careful. People who follow a paleo diet seem to do so because it makes them feel better. Although there would be some restrictions in the beginning but with the passage of time, when one would get used to it, it can be a refreshing thing to experience.

Avoid these Fibromyalgia causing foods

Nightshade vegetables

Vegetables such as Paprika, White potatoes, Eggplant and Tobacco are all included in the Nightshade family of vegetables. These vegetables contain chemical compounds called Solanine that can cause pain and aching in the muscles and joints and can also increase the feeling of weakness and fatigue for Fibromyalgia sufferers. There are well documented cases where these types of vegetables once eaten by people with Fibromyalgia experienced crippling and debilitating pain. Also smoking tobacco is one of the most destructive things any Fibromyalgia patients can do to one’s body.

Grain containing Gluten

Grains rich in Gluten such as barley, rye and wheat have shown to be bad for people suffering from Fibromyalgia. People suffering from the said condition tend to also have gluten allergies and some are intolerant to gluten. Allergic reaction may tend to be simple inflammation and swelling, to respiratory problems, fatigue, weakness and an overall pain that is felt throughout the body, muscles and joints. One can reduce the effects of Fibromyalgia by limiting or even eliminating gluten rich foods from one’s diet. This is in line with the logic of the Paleo diet where processed flour was not present in the diets of cavemen.

Artificial Sweeteners and Food enhancers and additives

One of the most famous food additives known to humanity is MSG or Monosodium Glutamate. This famous food enhancer is a target for attack coming from medical societies worldwide. People with Fibromyalgia must steer away from MSG and foods that contain such artificial flavoring agent. In a book titled, Nutrition and Rheumatic Disease, MSG is said to induce a wide range of symptoms which can aggravate Fibromyalgia. These symptoms are headaches. Stomach disturbances, muscle aches and pains in the joints and dizziness. It is best to eliminate the use and intake of MSG from one’s diet and make sure to eat only foods that are MSG free.

Artificial sweeteners can also aggravate Fibromyalgia due to the compounds it uses to mimic the sweet taste of sugar. Alongside MSG, any artificial flavoring agent can cause irreparable harm not only for people suffering from Fibromyalgia, but also to people that have other diseases and conditions. Artificial flavoring are considered as toxins by the body and thus burdening the liver into producing enzymes that will nullify the adverse effects of these artificial chemical compounds. It is best to completely avoid these chemicals from your diet.

Alcohol

Alcohol is one of the main beverages one must refrain from intake, especially if one is suffering from Fibromyalgia. Alcohol is poison for the body, especially in high quantities. The liver is the main organ which is affected the most of excessive alcohol intake. Though the ill effects of alcohol do not directly aggravate symptoms experienced by Fibromyalgia patients, it can wreak havoc to other more important organs of the body and thus weaken you completely. Refrain from alcohol intake and see the difference.

Caffeine

As one of the most noticeable symptoms of people suffering from Fibromyalgia is insomnia and sleep disturbances. As caffeine is one of the most used mood changers by people worldwide, it is best to limit or even eliminate the intake of this foods which caffeine from your diet. Caffeine is often used by people to keep them awake, which is directly opposite to the needs of Fibromyalgia patients. This is why it is best to remove caffeine from one’s daily diet and find alternatives to such drinks as coffee, green tea and other beverages or foods which high caffeine content.

Conclusion

Increasing evidence suggests that a Paleolithic diet based on lean meat, fish, vegetables and fruit may be effective in the prevention and treatment of common Western diseases. Avoiding dairy products, margarine, oils, refined sugar and cereals, which provide 70% or more of the dietary intake in northern European populations, may be advisable. Atherosclerosis is highly dependent on dietary manipulation in animal experiments. Dietary factors that can lead to atherosclerosis include fat (any type) and casein, and hypothetically cereals. Stroke, ischemic heart disease and type 2 diabetes seem largely preventable by way of dietary changes in a Paleolithic direction. And insulin resistance, which may have far‐reaching clinical implications as a cause of unregulated tissue growth, may also respond to an ancestral diet.

The paleo diet is based primarily on the notion that our physical make up and our dietary preference are all dictated by our genes. As like herbivores are genetically programmed to eat only plants, carnivores are genetically programmed to eat meat and humans are genetically to eat a certain type of diet. Though further studies are to be made, one can see the potential truths on their claims. It has been widely accepted that the form of diet is a major factor to one’s health. How and what we eat dictates the health of our bodies. Though the paleo diet can offer one solution to achieve a diet that is more in tuned with the genetic dietary preference of our body, it is also important to understand that lifestyle has more impact in our lives. How we live our lives and how we go about through our daily activities dictates how healthy we are. With the growing trend of sedentary life, vices and other detrimental activities that can drastically weaken the human body, any diet will be of negligible effect if one’s lifestyle is not changed. So, in order to make the most of the paleo diet, one must do it in tandem with a highly active lifestyle which mimics the rigorous life of early humans. This will ensure that all of the food we eat is digested properly, turned into energy and maintains the healthy functions of the body.

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