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Fibromyalgia vs. Mostly Raw & Mostly Vegetarian Diets

How plant-based does one’s diet need to be to effectively treat fibromyalgia?

January 14, 2013 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited

Høstmark AT, Lystad E, Vellar OD, Hovi K, Berg JE. Reduced plasma fibrinogen, serum peroxides, lipids, and apolipoproteins after a 3-week vegetarian diet. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 1993 Jan;43(1):55-61.

Kaartinen K, Lammi K, Hypen M, Nenonen M, Hanninen O, Rauma AL. Vegan diet alleviates fibromyalgia symptoms. Scand J Rheumatol. 2000;29(5):308-13.

Donaldson MS, Speight N, Loomis S. Fibromyalgia syndrome improved using a mostly raw vegetarian diet: an observational study. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2001;1:7. Epub 2001 Sep 26.

Bennett RM. A raw vegetarian diet for patients with fibromyalgia. Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2002 Aug;4(4):284.

Holton KF, Kindler LL, Jones KD. Potential dietary links to central sensitization in fibromyalgia: past reports and future directions. Rheum Dis Clin North Am. 2009 May;35(2):409-20.

Vandenkerkhof EG, Macdonald HM, Jones GT, Power C, Macfarlane GJ. Diet, lifestyle and chronic widespread pain: results from the 1958 British Birth Cohort Study. Pain Res Manag. 2011 Mar-Apr;16(2):87-92.

Lamb JJ, Konda VR, Quig DW, Desai A, Minich DM, Bouillon L, Chang JL, Hsi A, Lerman RH, Kornberg J, Bland JS, Tripp ML. A program consisting of a phytonutrient-rich medical food and an elimination diet ameliorated fibromyalgia symptoms and promoted toxic-element detoxification in a pilot trial. Altern Ther Health Med. 2011 Mar-Apr;17(2):36-44.

Hänninen, Kaartinen K, Rauma AL, Nenonen M, Törrönen R, Häkkinen AS, Adlercreutz H, Laakso J. Antioxidants in vegan diet and rheumatic disorders. Toxicology. 2000 Nov 30;155(1-3):45-53.

Michalsen A, Riegert M, Lüdtke R, Bäcker M, Langhorst J, Schwickert M, Dobos GJ. Mediterranean diet or extended fasting's influence on changing the intestinal microflora, immunoglobulin A secretion and clinical outcome in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia: an observational study. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2005 Dec 22;5:22.

Arranz LI, Canela MA, Rafecas M. Fibromyalgia and nutrition, what do we know? Rheumatol Int. 2010 Sep;30(11):1417-27. Epub 2010 Apr 1.

Haugen M, Kjeldsen-Kragh J, Nordvåg BY, Førre O. Diet and disease symptoms in rheumatic diseases--results of a questionnaire based survey. Clin Rheumatol. 1991 Dec;10(4):401-7.

Acknowledgements

Images thanks to Snowflakesarewhite  and Jenessa Read / Flickr

Transcript

Raw vegan diets seem to really help reduce fibromyalgia symptoms, but what about just a mostly raw diet? That was tried next. Fibromyalgia engulfs patients in a downward, reinforcing cycle of unrestorative sleep, chronic pain, fatigue, inactivity, and depression, so they tested whether a mostly raw and actually vegan diet would significantly improve fibromyalgia symptoms. And boy did it. This is the standard survey designed specifically to measure the impact of fibromyalgia on a person's life. At the beginning of the study they were doing pretty bad. By two months though they were doing significantly better. And by the end of the study, at seven months the whole curve had entirely shifted. Significant improvement in each one of these measures. In summary, a diet intervention using a mostly raw, pure vegetarian diet produced dramatic improvements in FMS symptoms. When this study was reviewed in Current Rheumatology Reports, the editor noted that it had the most impressive results of any of recent fibromyalgia treatment study, for example 3 times the improvement that the Mayo Clinic was reporting for their fibromyalgia program. Yes it was not a double blind placebo controlled study, but, as they note, it's difficult to design such a study when it comes to diet, since people tend to notice when they've been switched to a vegan diet. Raw vegan diets seemed to help; mostly raw vegan diets seemed to help. Eating vegetarian worked; what about just eating mostly vegetarian—that was the one tried most recently. 14 fibromyalgia sufferers put on a mostly vegetarian Mediterranean diet for 2weeks and did not see significant improvement.  Maybe they didn't give it enough time? We'll never know. Bottom line is that the best science to date suggests a plant-based diet in it's many forms, may help people with fibromyalgia. Just because it's the best science we have doesn't mean it's necessarily very good science. These were all small, poorly controlled, relatively short-term studies—but what's the downside to giving it a try? Turns out that people with chronic widespread pain syndromes tend to eat pretty crappy diets, perhaps explaining their higher rates of other chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. Even if a healthy diet doesn't help their fibromyalgia symptoms, at least it may prevent them from falling ill with something else. The last thing someone who feels miserable all day needs is another disease.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Jonathan Hodgson.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

If you missed the first half of this topic, see my last video Fibromyalgia vs. Vegetarian & Raw Vegan Diets.

Other inflammatory conditions have been successfully treated with semi-vegetarian "flexitarian" diets. See Dietary Treatment of Crohn’s Disease. Cutting down on meat may also help reduce the risk of cataracts (Preventing Cataracts with Diet), obesity (Thousands of Vegans Studied), hypertension (Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death), metabolic syndrome (Metabolic Syndrome and Plant-Based Diets), and diabetes (How to Prevent Diabetes) though there does appear to be a stepwise drop in risk as one's diet gets more and more centered around plant foods.

For some more context, check out my associated blog posts: Plant-Based Diets for PsoriasisPlant-Based Diets for Fibromyalgia, and How Probiotics Affect Mental Health

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Celia

    Well, let me tell you about my firbomyalgia, Dr. Greger – IT´S GONE! I have been a vegetarian sine 2008 and there was no improvement whatosever, but as from May 2012, I have been following Dr. Essy´s diet a no-oil plant based lifestyle and the exclusion of dairy and eggs, plus the addition of dark lgreen veggies did the trick. I jump out of the bed sparkling every day!! it´s priceless! I am 48, pre-menopausal and have no menstrual cramps anymore either! For me, a no oil plant based diet is the Holy Graal of Pain killing. Period.

    • Veganrunner

      Celia that is amazing! By no oil do you mean processed-out of a bottle?

      As a side note, in case you just noticed we are only getting 3 videos a week because nutritionfacts.org is a bit cash strapped. I would hate to lose my morning video and coffee routine. I bet even 20.00 would help. Just click over to the donate page. It’s that easy.

      • Celia

        No oil – zero oil, processed. I am not even consuming nuts or avocados. I started the diet to control my 25-year-resistant cholesterol actually, the fibromyalgia thing was an unexpected bonus! Lost 28 pounds so far, cholesterol dropped 70 points for the first time ever and I am happy as bird! so happy that I am going for that donation ( I am in Brazil and wish we had these materials available in Portuguese fo people could have access to good info).

        • Veganrunner

          More good news!

    • http://www.facebook.com/viola.wyderka Viola Wyderka

      Great news, thanks for sharing

    • Thea

      Celia: How inspiring. Thanks for sharing your story. I have a friend with fibromyalgia, and I’m going to share your story with her to reinforce Dr. Greger’s information. Thanks.

    • HemoDynamic, M.D.

      Happens all the time with my patients too. It’s just too bad that MOST doctors don’t employ evidence based medicine unless it involves prescribing more meds.
      Congratulations! I wish everyone with Fibromyalgia could hear your story.

  • Diane Krstulovich

    WOW! fyi, the Hallelujah Diet is mostly raw and vegan http://www.hacres.com Thanks MUCH!

    ps – you might want to use a little less olive oil than the author calls for (or none!) and slightly fewer nuts but it’s your call

  • Randy Sandberg

    Yay, being Plant-Strong wins again! Thanks for yet another informative video Dr. Greger. :-D

  • Laura

    After two years of detoxing lead from my system, and reversing high blood pressure and closing a long standing ileocecal valve problem, I am now testing for high lactic acid, in the case of mitochondria dysfunction. This being the case I have been told about coq10. What I don’t understand is if meat carries the highest level of coq10, how can that be replaced with a plant based diet? I also understand that russet potatoes have a sufficient level of coq10 but have been dismissed in a previous nutritionfacts video. I have been enjoying one green juice a day including parsley, celery, cucumbers and spinach.
    If I go off of all meat – what else would replace the coq10 that I am in desperate need of?

    • http://twitter.com/lianopbs fabien COQUEL

      Coq10 is made by the body, so a diet rich in antioxydants, vitamins and minerals will get you the coq10 you need !

  • http://www.facebook.com/sherri.nussbaum Sherri Allen

    I started eating this way in June 2013. Didn’t even know about his recommendation for the vegetarian based eating. It just made perfect sense to me, but I was forced to look at my eating, how bloated my body was from sugar, wheat/grains, bread and not near enough water. So far I’ve lost 27 lbs. However my weight can vary 5-20 lbs if I binge eat any of the above. Fruit is my dessert and my snack. I drink almond milk and enjoy it. Use only unsalted butter (hey I still want some dairy and since gave up eggs except for hard boiled I’m allowing it for now..lol) So glad to find this site. Its encouraging and IT WORKS. I feel so much better energy wise. Still alot of joint and muscle issues from Mixed Connective Tissue Disease and a multitude of side effects. I look forward to following your blog.

    • nick

      I encourage you to drop the butter – if you’re already so close to giving your body just what it wants, why not go all the way?

  • ikeboy

    I had a horrible case of FM/CFS, and it was green (mostly) smoothies that turned me around–not overnight, took a good year and a half, but I feel fine now, very active (I’m 66), and work out w/ kettlebells, etc. Wish I had cut out wheat and gluten at the same time, recovery might hav been quicker. Thanks for the article, it’s awesome, and my hat is off to everyone who struggles w/ this challenge!! Let plants be our medicine!

  • LynnCS

    I want what Celia has. I have been a vegetarian since 1980. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in ’91. The pain just got worse and worse. Depression became the norm and eventually I was put on Cymbalta. I went raw vegan in June/July of 2011 and things started getting better. I got myself off the Cymbalta. Lots of scary side effects. Now I am partly raw and some cooked. I can see that I need to clean it all up even more. I am a thousand times better, but Still searching. I want to jump out of bed sparkling too. Thanks all for posting!

  • Vegastatia

    I think the study indicates that a vegan diet can lessen symptoms, however, it is not a cure for most people. I have been vegetarian for 25 years and vegan for 10, but I still have fibromyalgia. I’m sure my diet and lifestyle ensure my symptoms are not as severe as many others however in order to manage my FM I also need multiple other factors to help me such as drugs, weekly physio, water therapy, exercise and pacing. The drugs are essential and allow me to work 4 days a week and still have a bit of a social life. The other thing about FM is that it is very individual so that some things work for some people and not for all people. I think it’s important to keep it all in perspective.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=608590997 Lori Woods

      That’s exactly right. This disease seems to vary quite a bit from person-to-person. I have also been vegetarian for quite some time and vegan for five years. I too still have the fibromyalgia. And yes, exercise, pacing, sleep, and a small dose at night of an SSRI help me the most too. I’m a HUGE proponent of a plant-base diet for health, environment and animal rights. I feel better in general and I think it’s an important component to any fibromyalgia treatment plan, but a component, not a cure-all.

  • Juli G

    A note for celiac patients: both Hing & Beano are NOT GLUTEN FREE>