Plant-based diets may be effective for the treatment of fibromyalgia, a painful condition suffered by millions.
Millions suffer from fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by months of widespread pain, as well as fatigue, sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, cognitive difficulties, headaches, low back pain, and other illness. It has an has an enormous impact on the quality of life of patients who may a reduced capacity to carry on the activities of daily living; every day activity becomes more difficult, more time consuming or simply impossible. It's cause is unknown and there is no effective treatment for this illness. What can we do for sufferers? Well, according to the latest review on fibromyalgia and nutrition, "Vegetarian diets could have some beneficial effects," based on what kind of evidence? Well, back in 1991 a survey was sent to a few hundred folks suffering from various chronic pain conditions, including fibromyalgia asking if they found any success trying various diets. Some folks tried a vegetarian diet, some folks tried a vegan diet. Some reported the various diets helped with pain, stiffness, and swelling. Folks reported the vegan diet reduced disease symptoms more effectively than the vegetarian diet with rheumatoid arthritis, but what we needed was to put these diets to the test in formal studies. First one was in '93. Ten fibromyalgia patients put on a vegetarian diet for 3 weeks. The measured levels of oxidation, and inflammation, and cholesterol went down, fine, but of interest from a clinical point of view is the positive effect of the treatment upon pain status of most of the patients. 7 out of 10 of them felt better. However, they weren't sure if the improved condition of the fibromyalgia patients in the course of treatment with a vegetarian diet was due to the improvement of their antioxidant status or what. A vegan diet was first put to the test in 2000 in Helsinki. You can tell English is not the researchers first language with sentences like "Plants face heavy load of light." The point they're making is good though. "UV light generates free radicals in their tissues…All this means is that plants must be very well prepared to meet the challenges of the oxygen radical stress and contain a broad variety of antioxidants. That's why plants don't get sunburned and their DNA damaged hanging out all day in the sun without any sunblock on. So what would happen if you had people Live exclusively on plant items? In other words, what might be the effects of a strict vegan diet on the symptoms of fibromyalgia. In fact this study used a raw vegan diet. The rheumatoid patients said they felt better when they started to eat the living food diet, and the symptoms got worse when they returned back their previous omnivorous diet, but what about the fibromyalgia patients. Both groups reported having quite a lot of pain at rest in the beginning of the study, but there was a significant decrease in the raw vegan group, which gradually disappeared after shifting back to the omnivorous diet. They also found other significant changes such as improvement in the quality of sleep, reduction of morning stiffness, and improvement in measures of general health. So for example, here's morning stiffness. The light bars represent those about to go on the raw vegan diet and the dark bar is the omnivorous control group. They start out about the same, but after a month and a half, those eating vegan felt significantly less stiff, which continued through the end of the 3-month study. And when they went back to eating their regular diet the stiffness returned. What about pains at rest? Same thing. Significant improvements in fibromyalgia pain on a plant-based diet. The study only lasted 3 months, but it can be concluded that vegan diets had beneficial effects on fibromyalgia symptoms at least in the short run.
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.
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One thing all sufferers should consider is an aspartame-free trial period (see Aspartame-Induced Fibromyalgia).
Why do plant-based diets help with chronic pain conditions? There may be a number of reasons why vegetarians only have about half the odds of being on painkiller drugs (see Say No to Drugs by Saying Yes to More Plants). Potentially inflammatory compounds in animal products include Neu5Gc (The Inflammatory Meat Molecule Neu5Gc), endotoxins (The Exogenous Endotoxin Theory), and animal proteins (Diet & Rheumatoid Arthritis).
On the other hand maybe the potassium in plant foods modulates adrenal function? See my video Potassium and Autoimmune Disease. If it is the Anti-Inflammatory Antioxidants, then that could certainly help explain it. See Antioxidant Power of Plant Foods Versus Animal Foods.
Vegetarian and raw vegan diets appear effective, but what about just mostly vegetarian diets or mostly raw vegan diets? That's the subject of my next NutritionFacts.org video Fibromyalgia vs. Mostly Raw & Mostly Vegetarian Diets.
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