Roughly 70% of our immune system lives in our digestive tract. This is why many experts believe in the brain-gut connection and firmly believe that what we eat affects the way we think, feel, and act. For those living with fibromyalgia, it’s important to know and understand that what we put into our body directly affects fibromyalgia symptoms. This is where the elimination diet steps in and helps determine which foods have a direct impact on the way we are feeling.
In this article about fibromyalgia and the elimination diet, we are going to discuss the importance of gut health and the role an elimination diet can play in getting the gut healthy again and decreasing symptoms.
What is an Elimination Diet?
An elimination diet is when you cut out all potentially harmful foods from your diet for a short amount of time (usually six weeks), and then reintroduce them one at a time. This helps to reveal which foods are culprits to your digestive issues and which are okay to continue eating. It’s not an exact science but it can be eye-opening to how foods affect your aches, pains, and other symptoms.
The elimination diet was the first thing I did to get back on track with a healthy gut and lower my body pains. The reason I did this was to avoid a full retaliation by my body (added discomfort, headaches, fibro fog, etc). I knew eliminating foods I’m used would be a great way to figure out which foods are causing issues and fibromyalgia flares. (If you are traveling soon and are thinking about putting off the elimination diet because of it, read this article for tips on Traveling on an Elimination Diet by Dr. Kara Fitzgerald.)
What are the benefits?
Before jumping into foods to eliminate, let’s discuss the benefits.
- Reveals food allergies
- Helps reduce IBS symptoms
- Helps heal leaky gut syndrome
- Provides relief for skin irritation
- Relieves migraines and headaches
- Decrease adrenal fatigue
- Improves fibro fog/difficulty thinking
How to Do an Elimination Diet
I’m not going to lie – an elimination diet takes time, commitment, and patience. It’s going to suck and you’re going to hate it but I promise you one thing – it will be worth it. Once you start improving symptoms and begin to feel better then you will understand the importance of sticking to it.
The steps for an elimination diet:
- Remove all the following foods from your current diet for the following six weeks. (Some experts say three weeks is enough time but I recommend giving it six weeks to allow all traces to be fully out of your body.)
- Keep a food journal to track your moods, pains, and other symptoms. More about this is further down in the article.
- After the six weeks (or however many weeks you decided), begin to reintroduce one food group at a time for one week. Record your symptoms and notice any changes.
- Continue to reintroduce food groups one at a time per week and track any noticeable changes in moods, pains, or symptoms.
- Review your food journal and determine which foods are culprits for your body and consider removing them permanently from your diet.
Foods to Avoid
- Citrus fruits
- Added sugars
- Bad oils such as hydrogenated oils (sunflower, canola, vegetable, etc)
The Fibro Diet
According to research and other studies, there are foods that will relieve fibromyalgia symptoms and other foods that will worsen symptoms. It can be overwhelming to track which ones are to be avoided, which can be okay to consume in small amounts, and the foods that should be avoided altogether.
Foods to Eat During an Elimination Diet
If you take all of those foods away, you may be asking yourself, “What is left to eat?” There are plenty of options to choose from and those options are going to be all-over good for you!
- ‘Clean’ proteins: cage-free eggs, organic, grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish
- Vegetables (pay attention to greens such as kale, broccoli, and spinach)
- Nuts and seeds: cashews, hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds
- Healthy fats: avocado, coconut milk, cooking oils such as grapeseed, olive (extra virgin)
- Gluten-free grains: gluten-free, organic quinoa, oats, rice
- Fermented foods: kraut and kimchi
Rule of thumb for your plate:
- 40% vegetables
- 30% protein
- 20% healthy fats
- 10% whole-food carbs and fruit
Keeping a Food Journal
During the elimination diet, track your food with a simple food diary. I write down everything I eat and drink as well as any associated pains such as stomach issues or headaches. By doing this, I can make any connections to the foods I’m eating.
Apps to track foods:
- My Fitness Pal
- Lose It