For anyone who has fibromyalgia, or knows someone who does, you know the toll it takes on a body, both physically and mentally. The pain can be debilitating during the day and can keep you awake at night causing your body and mind to become fatigued from lack of sleep. Even when you think you’re asleep, the pain keeps you from falling into a restorative deep and restful sleep, leaving you feeling lethargic and with little to no energy in the morning.
I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia many years ago when I was a single mother with two young energetic boys. During the flare-up that led to my diagnosis, my muscles and joints hurt so badly I couldn’t even walk up a flight of stairs, much less effectively parent my two boys. Thank goodness their father was able to pick them up and keep them for a couple of days until I was able to somewhat function again.
As the years passed, flare-ups appeared during difficult, stressful times in life, if I worked out too strenuously for too many days in a row, or if I went on eating binges of food too delightful to pass up. Sure, I felt the pain after, but sometimes in the heat of the moment it was easy to forget the consequences as I shoveled that second piece of cake into my mouth or that extra handful of M & M’s.
During the past six months I decided to re-evaluate how I was treating my body. The fibromyalgia pain was more constant and more severe, seriously intruding into my normal daily activities. There had to be an answer.
I visited my doctor who gave me a prescription of Flexeril to take before bedtime and Neurontin to take during the day. I’m not a good patient when it comes to taking medication, so I decided to do a little more research on my own for an alternate answer.
The biggest culprits for me had been lack of sleep–which I mentioned earlier is common with fibromyalgia because one can’t sleep due to pain, said pain causes lack of sleep…and on and on in a vicious cycle, stress, diet, and exercise–or lack thereof.
Since life itself is stressful, I realized stress was inevitable. However, the way in which I was dealing with it had room for improvement. A lot of room, actually. That’s when I began to take yoga and meditation seriously. And it has helped tremendously. While I still don’t handle stress in an exemplary way, I’m learning, steadily improving and getting stronger.
I was a bit obsessive about running and working out, and have learned and implemented new workouts that give me a great cardio workout, like bicycling, cardio boxing, and a library of favorite DVD’s, as well as more muscle toning exercises, that have allowed me to cut back on running. Also, I’ve given myself permission not to engage in vigorous exercise every day. I’ve developed a healthy balance which has developed a healthier and less painful me.
As for diet, I had read that dairy, artificial sweeteners and gluten are the three biggest culprits for triggering fibromyalgia symptoms. I knew right away that cutting out all three would never work for me. I’m not that disciplined when it comes to food. I weighed the pros and cons of trying each one individually to see if excluding any of them would make a difference. Bottom line–I’ve cut way back on artificial sweeteners, choosing sugar over a sugar substitute. I haven’t, however, been able to give up my vice, A & W Ten. Although a friend told me recently that there is a root beer that is made with Stevia. I will have to look for it. 🙂
Since my husband has Celiac disease and I cook for him by those guidelines, the obvious choice was to try eliminating gluten. I have to say what a HUGE difference it has made. In the past six months, I’ve rarely had a headache, which was becoming a daily event, my daily activities are no longer curtailed, my pain has been kept to an absolute minimum, and I haven’t been waking up groggy, exhausted, stumbling through brain fog, feeling that way as well throughout the day. While I still have an occasional flare-up and I still take an occasional Flexeril tablet at bedtime, I’ve not had to take a single Neurontin, which was prescribed to take on a daily basis, several times a day.
The fact that one ingredient is so toxic for me and has the potential to do so much damage and cause so much pain is enough to keep me away from it even when I see something that before would have been irresistible to pass up. Gluten = poison to my body, and from what I’ve read, it reacts that way to many others with fibromyalgia. So for anyone who reads this who suffers from chronic pain, it’s worth a try so you can have a shot at living your best life and lifestyle.
And the best news? I still get to eat my Greek yogurt. 🙂
All is Grace