Image Credit: Samantha Craddock © This image has been modified.

Plant-Based Diets for Fibromyalgia

Millions suffer from fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by months of widespread pain, often accompanied by fatigue, sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, cognitive difficulties, headaches, low back pain, and other problems. Its cause is unknown and there is no known cure.

In terms of reducing pain and other fibromyalgia symptoms, according to the latest review,  “Vegetarian diets could have some beneficial effects.” Based on what kind of evidence? In my 5-min video Fibromyalgia vs. Vegetarian & Raw Vegan Diets I review the 20 years of science we have so far, in which vegetarian and raw vegan diets were put to the test.

Both vegetarian and raw vegan diets led to significant improvements in fibromyalgia symptoms, but what about just mostly vegetarian diets or mostly raw vegan diets? That was the subject of my 4-min. follow-up video Fibromyalgia vs. Mostly Raw & Mostly Vegetarian Diets. How plant-based does one’s diet need to be to effectively treat fibromyalgia?

The vegan “Hallelujah diet” appeared to perform the best. When the study was reviewed in the journal Current Rheumatology Reports, the editor noted that it had the most impressive results of any recent fibromyalgia treatment study—three times the improvement that the Mayo Clinic was reporting for their fibromyalgia program. True, it was not a double-blind placebo controlled study, but 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; but what about just eating mostly vegetarian? That was the most recent trial. Fourteen fibromyalgia sufferers were put on a mostly vegetarian Mediterranean diet for two weeks and unfortunately did not see significant improvement.  Maybe the researchers didn’t give it enough time?

Other inflammatory conditions have been successfully treated with semi-vegetarian “flexitarian” diets, though, for example, 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.

The bottom line is that the best science to date suggests a plant-based diet in its many forms, may help people with fibromyalgia. Just because it’s the best science we have, though, 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? Dietary surveys show that people with chronic widespread pain syndromes tend to eat pretty crappy diets, which helps explain 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.

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. Either way, I would recommend trying giving a aspartame-free plant-based diet a try (see Aspartame-Induced Fibromyalgia).

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

25 responses to “Plant-Based Diets for Fibromyalgia

Comment Etiquette

On, you'll find a vibrant community of nutrition enthusiasts, health professionals, and many knowledgeable users seeking to discover the healthiest diet to eat for themselves and their families. As always, our goal is to foster conversations that are insightful, engaging, and most of all, helpful – from the nutrition beginners to the experts in our community.

To do this we need your help, so here are some basic guidelines to get you started.

The Short List

To help maintain and foster a welcoming atmosphere in our comments, please refrain from rude comments, name-calling, and responding to posts that break the rules (see our full Community Guidelines for more details). We will remove any posts in violation of our rules when we see it, which will, unfortunately, include any nicer comments that may have been made in response.

Be respectful and help out our staff and volunteer health supporters by actively not replying to comments that are breaking the rules. Instead, please flag or report them by submitting a ticket to our help desk. is made up of an incredible staff and many dedicated volunteers that work hard to ensure that the comments section runs smoothly and we spend a great deal of time reading comments from our community members.

Have a correction or suggestion for video or blog? Please contact us to let us know. Submitting a correction this way will result in a quicker fix than commenting on a thread with a suggestion or correction.

View the Full Community Guidelines

    1. Though not traditionally recognized as such (since anti-inflammatory drugs don’t seem to help), new data (like the correlation of fibromyalgia pain with cytokine levels) do indeed suggest an inflammatory component.

      Thanks for leaving a comment Jessica!

      1. Technically not an Inflammatory disease but if you’ve got Costochondritis (Inflammation of the chest wall) as some Fibro patients do, this is relevant.

      2. i know this post is very old, but is this guy being serious? A 16 person trial and suddenly it’s an inflammatory illness. 3 years on, NCBI are still saying it’s not an inflammatory illness.

      3. Are there any video discussions regarding the autoimmune disease “polymylagia rheumatica”? Diet recommendations .. would be great avoiding even plant based foods that contribute to inflammation.

        1. Hi, Marlenea. There is nothing specifically addressing polymyalgia rheumatica (I think that’s what you meant) on this site, but there is a great deal about inflammation and food. You can find the videos on inflammation here:

          A quick pubmed search on diet therapy for polymyalgia rheumatica also yielded no results, but I will dig deeper into this when I have time for a more thorough search.
          Basically foods that tend to be anti-inflammatory are colorful fruits and vegetables, such as dark green leafy vegetables, cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, and berries. To find out what foods are inflammatory for you personally, keep a food journal in which you record, honestly, everything you consume and how it makes you feel. This will help you to identify foods that may help or worsen your condition. I hope that helps!

  1. I deal with Lupus and Fibromyalgia. For a year and a half I adhere to the Hallelujah Diet and I can say without a doubt it was the best I felt in the last ten years. I am still a vegetarian, but processed foods are back to being a daily part of my diet. I am working hard to get back to no processed foods because I realize it is one of the keys to feeling better.

  2. I think medicine needs to question the role and involvement of microwave frequencies in inflammatory disease and syndromes, since microwaves interact with human body tissue in various physiological ways.

  3. Thank you Dr. Greger for the continued information. I am a 50 year old with Ehler Danlos Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. Over the last 15 years my health was on a downward spiral and despite years of specialists and medicines I was basically disabled. I did not work, I could not do any basic household chores , or garden, in fact I could barely stand to sit or stand for more than 30 minutes at a time. Sleep, what was that. The pain was so intense I had heart palpitations that I was told was a response to intense chronic pain. My liver developed issues as my weight went up and I used bottle after bottle of pain meds, advil, tylonel etc.
    Then I was told I was depressed because I showed my frustration and actually shed tears. I was angry that this was my life.. I started watching things like Forks over Knives, I found your website and others and then made a decision. I became my own specialist and slowly started switching to a plant based existence. I figured it was free to try, had no adverse side effects and was extremely more cost effective. I am now two months meat free, I use an occasional advil but am off all other meds except for a BP pill. for the past 6 months I have removed 90 % off the dairy from my life.. ( working on giving up that morning latte.) I have also removed the manufactured food items.
    The results 50 % of my pain is gone!!! I have returned to work!!!!! I have hope!!!! I did not think I was going to be alive in two more years now I think I will maybe be able to live again.

    While it is hard to learn to eat , cook , shop, change your life completely. And while I still have weight to lose and a liver to improve, high cortisol and many other damages I did to my body to reverse, I have hope. My daughter said to me, “Mom we went to the movie and you could walk and you were not crying from pain when we left,” a small thing to many but huge to someone who has lived with this pain.

    So thank you for all the information and know you are changing peoples futures. Anyone in pain please try getting off meat and dairy and learning what healthy foods to replace them with… you may just get your life back.
    Patricia Thompson

    1. Patricia, you brought tears to my eyes with your story of how you are healing you. If only more people with chronic issues would just try a plant based diet. Have you read “The China Study”? Blessings.

      1. Kathi, I have recently started to read it. I have family members who still do not believe this, even though they watched what I described as my death inch by inch. My eldest had been a vegetarian for several years and I did not listen to her so I understand it is a personal journey for everyone. My youngest and I are now together on the journey as I passed my EDS on to both of my children. I believe they will have a better life than I had. There is nothing to lose by trying it, people just have to be willing to accept that what we grew up believing was wrong. I think if more people tried this most of us could obtain health and not be dependent on “medication”. Thank you for the kind words and better health to all.

    2. Congratulations on your success and thank you for sharing your story. I am sure it will encourage many to try a plant based diet. So, you have only helped yourself but helped others as well.

      1. Lawrence , That would be a wonderful outcome. It is so hard to even think, let alone try and gather the right information when you are in pain or ill. My family lost so much while trying to get answers both financially and to our quality of life, I pray that others will find the information and just approach it with an open mind as I feel so many could be healed so easily.

    3. Patricia, I have a niece with EDS. I believe strongly that a plant-based way of eating could help her greatly. I’d love to connect with someone who has done it and had success. Are you still following a plant-based way of eating? How has your success been? Thanks!

  4. After a lifetime of all over body pain, and all that comes with it, I am getting some relief by cleaning up my “vegetarian” diet and adopting the McDougall way of eating….except, I am abstaining from the nightshades and gluten, for now. I have to find some answers. I’ve taken a lot of meds and had periods of a couple years at a time mostly in bed. It’s miserable for sure. Having said that, the ordinary veg diet which included all the good whole foods, but some refined and processed foods, prepackaged meals, chips, and dairy….I just couldn’t get better. Coffee is also a problem and so once again, I am weaning off coffee. Not only is the pain of the Fibromyalgia better, but all the other things that go along with it are better and the depression is lifted. I have been able to get off all meds except a single dose of Armour thyroid. I don’t know what it takes for any of us to get IT, but I hope and pray that I never go back to my old eating habits. Love my whole foods. Mostly I love that I can be in so much less pain.

  5. I am a massage therapist and
    nutritionist. I have worked with many people with fibromyalgia. I used to have
    it and my sisters each have autoimmune diseases. One has rheumatoid arthritis
    and one has lupus. Obviously there is some kind of inherited tendency toward
    inflammatory conditions. I was actually vegetarian when I had the worse
    symptoms of fibromyalgia. I don’t think the
    vegetarian diet caused the problem but I do think that eating grains played a
    role. I went on a raw vegetarian diet starting with a month long juice fast
    that included some soy protein powder from Shaklee. I also started taking food
    based supplements, including lots of garlic.. This saved my life since doctors
    thought I was crazy at first and then diagnosed me with FMS only to prescribe
    anti-depressants. I only took one pill and decided I needed to find a more natural
    way to regain my health since their approach disconnected me from my body and
    did not solve the problem.

    This was over 20 years ago and I now understand better what
    happened. I had Lyme disease all along that was missed the three times that I
    was tested. This challenged my immune system that would normally destroy
    bacteria that should not be in my gut. I developed small intestinal bacterial
    overgrowth. (I would say that about 90% or more of my clients who have FMS have
    SIBO). Going vegetarian improves the gut biome and takes away the possibility
    of undigested meat protein that feeds bad gut bacteria. Going raw vegan takes
    away wheat that also often feeds the bad bacteria and the foods that cause
    inflammatory responses due to leaky gut (grains and dairy). Raw fruits and
    vegetables add much needed antioxidants while not promoting inflammation. Live
    foods have so many benefits that I won’t elaborate upon here. I have found the
    fastest treatments to include reducing inflammation, eating mostly raw and
    vegan (I test for food sensitivities), and treating dysbiosis with herbs,
    fermented food, probiotics and proteolytic enzymes. I also often find heavy
    metal toxicity and so I give nutrients to increase glutathione and metallothionein
    production. Some clients eat a very
    small amount of pasture raised meats and wild caught fish after a number of
    months of the vegan diet and they still keep the pain at bay. The founders of
    the Hallelujah diet are massage clients of mine and are doing a great service
    for improving people’s health. I am part of a raw food movement that started
    over 30 years ago following the teachings of Adi Da based on the books, “The
    eating Gorilla Comes in Peace,” and the “Green Gorilla.”

    Currently, I am helping my sister with RA to treat it with a
    raw vegan diet. She did not listen to me years ago and has been on the usual
    drugs for RA. Enbrel and Methotrexate landed her in the hospital for a month
    with a severe lung infection and congestive heart failure that nearly killed
    her. Instead of drugs, she now has a vita mix blender and is making her green

    1. I forgot to mention that I also treat for mitochondrial dysfunction with Co-enzyme Q10, and methylated B-vitamins. I do not supplement with L-carnitine but some people need more for their mitochondria, which is the reason for some red meat and salmon in the diet.

  6. Just on my own I have noticed less pain since I quit eating meat about 3 months ago. Not taking my pain pill nearly as often altho I’m still dealing with the headaches (generic med on that)

  7. I’m certainly not an expert, but my wife has fibromyalgia and I’ve been researching like crazy trying to help her.

    I think that we’ll eventually find out that Fibromyalgia is tied to chemical sensitivity and genetic SNPs. My wife, who has MTHFR, has a reduced capacity for her body to naturally detox.

    You add in all the GMO / Round-up Ready crops in the US, the effect of glyphosate on not only the foods we eat (deficient in Manganese) but also its effect on the body’s ability to process / uptake manganese, and you have a whirlwind of issues.

    It’s uncanny how many of the amino acids and neurotransmitters are effected with glyphosate and how ironic that the same ones are the ones that through most trials help / assist with fibromyalgia (if you add supplements that effect them).

    To me, it’s too coincidental to ignore. That’s why a vegan diet would make most sense as long as it doesn’t include GMO wheat, soy or corn. You also eliminate glyphosate residual chemicals in meat, eggs and dairy (that also lack manganese that nature intended).
    This would explain why leaky gut, SIBO, other neurological conditions are so prevalent with people with fibromyalgia as well. I think supplements can help and diet certainly can, but avoiding glyphosate residues in foods is where to start. That (to me) is nearly impossible but it would help to eat only 100% non GMO processed foods (if you eat any processed foods at all) and organic (or at the very least non GMO fed) meat. Also, there has been some research (in Europe) that a few herbs can also protect mitochondria damage from glyphosate. Perhaps layering that in too would help. They called it Dig1 in Europe. It’s Dandelion, Barberry one one other herb. Swanson sells it as Gallbladder Support in the US. I’m planning on getting that for my wife too.

  8. GREETINGS ………to every body , i am MORRISON
    BELL from LONDON(UK). I was once diagnosed with LUPUS in September 2014.
    I back than i was having skin rashes all over my body, this was very
    unbearable to me , then life was without meaning to me due to my health
    status , i tried my possible best to get
    cured but all seems in vain, So all through those period of my life, i
    was unhappy.
    I still kept doing research on possible
    cure for LUPUS since 2014 though i knew science has no cure for it yet,
    few years ago while i was on search in the Internet i came across
    different testimonies on how this great man called DR.ODIGIE has been
    saving souls with his herbal medicine , people recommended that he has
    been using his medicine to cure LUPUS and different disease permanently
    and they advice that anyone who haven’t get in contact with him should
    contact him now for help.
    So After reading several testimony from
    different people concerning DR.ODIGIE medicine for curing LUPUS , i said
    to myself that God could use any means to heal his servant , So without any doubt, i
    contacted him about my LUPUS Diagnosis treatment ,i explained my problems to him, without wasting time, he told me
    that he is going to help me , So he prepared a herbal medicine for me
    which he sent to me and he told me to use it according to the
    instruction that i will see on it, so i abide to him, before i know it, i
    was beginning to feel some changes in my body , the skin rashes i had on my body was gone and so i went for medical check
    up and to my greatest surprise, i was healed and cured from the disease i
    tut then can never be cured from my LUPUS but DR.ODIGIE gave me reasons to live , I am so very happy now as i am sharing my
    testimony and i want to use this medium opportunity to tell anyone who
    is having this sickness LUPUS or any kind of disease like HERPES, HEPATITIS B ,DERMATOMYOSITIS . ACNE, CHRONIC pain, syphilis, gall stone and
    lot’s more should quickly contact DR ODIGIE on his email at:( . His Herbal medicine is one of a kind and i believe he
    can also cure you too just as he has cured me..THANKS …………….

  9. Hi Dr. Greger,

    I really admire your work on the documentary film “What the Health”. I have diabetes and my poor wife has Fibromyalgia. We decided to turn vegan as a result of watching the documentary. Since turning vegan my diabetes has significantly improved and my wife’s fibromyalgia symptoms have improved significantly. I want to say thank you for your contributions to the documentary and I wish there were more physician such as yourself as this world would be a healthier place for all. I have a new perspective on my health and I will share what I have learned with others. Thank You So Much!


  10. Can a joint replacement surgery or any orthopedic surgery where metal hardware (rods pins screws plates) is used trigger fibromyalgia? I have hardware in my body from knee and back surgery, and have recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This