I have been asked many times what I think most helps relieve the symptoms of Fibromyalgia and chronic pain. Well, the answer is simple and not really magical: diet and exercise. Like anyone, the healthier we are the better we will feel. The better we eat and the more we move, the better we will feel. ALL of us can improve the way we take care of our bodies!
I will start with diet. First of all, stop eating processed foods. Processing takes the life and ability to nourish our bodies right out of our food. Secondly, if it is white in color, you probably shouldn’t eat it. White flour, white sugar, white potatoes, lots of mayo on your sandwich, it just isn’t going to be helpful. Substitute whole grain flour; use honey, stevia or dates for sweetener, or eat a piece of fruit; substitute sweet potatoes or yams for white potatoes; use a little bit of mayo or hummus or mashed avocado on your sandwich. These are not new revelations for a better diet. Chances are very good that you have heard these things before. Consider the possibility that changing your diet will change your life. AND consider that you CAN do it. Take baby steps and don’t beat yourself up when you go back to your old ways. Perfection doesn’t exist. Pick yourself up and go forward. It really is what you do 80% of the time that counts the most. Try it for a few months and see how you feel.
If you already do the above, I would bet there are ways you could eat more nutritiously. You could add more raw fruits and vegetables to your diet, particularly dark greens. You could have a smoothie with spinach in it every day. I realize how disgusting that sounds! I thought so at first, too, until I tried it. I didn’t know the spinach was there! The only thing that was different was that my smoothie looked like a St. Patrick’s Day creation. If you can get past drinking something green, you are good to go! Try putting it into a colored glass.
You can also try switching from iceberg lettuce to romaine or green leaf. If that is already part of your diet, add chopped kale. (Personally, I like the curly green kale and not the dinosaur/Tuscan/Lacinto kind.) My point is, find ways to get fruits and vegetables, in their natural form, into your body. If eating raw fruits and veggies wreaks havoc on your digestive system, see how you feel if you lightly steam or stir-fry them. Eating the colors of the rainbow will help you more than you can imagine. I will write more about diet another day.
About exercise…as my rheumatologist says, “A toned muscle will always feel better than an untoned one.” I know it hurts to exercise, but over time it hurts less during and after the exercise, you have more energy during the day and you have more restful sleep. That is quite a payoff!!! Try walking just a quarter-mile every other day, more if you can. I started out that way and have been able to do half-marathons, the 3-day breast cancer walk (60 miles over 3 days!), and hike the 4-day Incan Trail to Machu Picchu (a lifelong dream). SO MUCH is possible! Before I became active again, the only thing stopping me was fear and fatigue, but mostly fear. Once I let go of the fear of the pain, I was able to really live my dreams. If you are afraid of exercise, I understand completely, but you have to let go of that fear so you can get the most out of your life. There is no other way.
So, as I was saying, start out walking a short distance and slowly work your way up. Look for a “therapeutic” or “restorative” yoga class. There won’t be much “exercise,” but your body will be able to be in more positions than sitting or lying down with relative comfort and you will learn breathing techniques that will move more oxygen into the muscles. If you are in Reno, I have a class, “Yoga for Challenging Bodies,” at 5:15 on Monday nights. Let me know if you are interested. Yoga (the right kind) and Tai Chi are both very good for most FMS patients. You can also play with your animals, or those at a shelter, or your kids or someone else’s. The point is to be more active and in ways that you enjoy. It will feel better than “exercise.”
One more thing. I used to smoke, but quit before I got FMS. If you smoke, quit. Smoking deprives your body (your muscles!) of oxygen. To feel their best, your muscles need all the oxygen and nutrients they can get. All of your other efforts will be diminished if you smoke, as will your general health, the health of anyone around you, and your finances will suffer. I know it can be very difficult to quit, but there is help out there. Take advantage of it and do the best thing you can do for yourself and your family.
Now go out there and kick some Fibro Arse!
P.S. As always, I am not giving you medical advice. That is your doctor’s job. 🙂