Fibromyalgia vs. Mostly Raw & Mostly Vegetarian Diets

Fibromyalgia vs. Mostly Raw & Mostly Vegetarian Diets
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How plant-based does one’s diet need to be in order to effectively treat fibromyalgia?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

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.

FIQ 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, there were significant improvements in each one of these measures. So, less physical impairment; they were feeling better; less absenteeism; less pain, fatigue, stiffness, anxiety, depression. 

“In summary, a diet intervention using a mostly raw, pure vegetarian diet produced dramatic improvements in [fibromyalgia syndrome symptoms].” When this study was reviewed by Current Rheumatology Reports, the editor noted that it “had the most impressive results” of any recent fibromyalgia treatment study—for example, nearly three times the improvement that the Mayo Clinic reported 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 switch to a vegan diet.

So, raw vegan diets worked; mostly raw vegan diets worked. Even just eating vegetarian seemed to help. What about just eating mostly vegetarian? That was the one tried most recently. Fibromyalgia symptoms put on a mostly vegetarian diet for two weeks, and did not see any significant improvement. Maybe if they gave it more time? We don’t know.

Bottom line is that the best available science to date suggests eating plant-based diets, whether vegetarian or vegan, may help people with fibromyalgia. Just because it’s the best science we have doesn’t mean it’s necessarily very good science, right? These were all very small, poorly controlled, relatively short-term studies. But, what’s the downside of 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. So, 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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Snowflakesarewhite and Jenessa Read via flickr

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

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.

FIQ 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, there were significant improvements in each one of these measures. So, less physical impairment; they were feeling better; less absenteeism; less pain, fatigue, stiffness, anxiety, depression. 

“In summary, a diet intervention using a mostly raw, pure vegetarian diet produced dramatic improvements in [fibromyalgia syndrome symptoms].” When this study was reviewed by Current Rheumatology Reports, the editor noted that it “had the most impressive results” of any recent fibromyalgia treatment study—for example, nearly three times the improvement that the Mayo Clinic reported 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 switch to a vegan diet.

So, raw vegan diets worked; mostly raw vegan diets worked. Even just eating vegetarian seemed to help. What about just eating mostly vegetarian? That was the one tried most recently. Fibromyalgia symptoms put on a mostly vegetarian diet for two weeks, and did not see any significant improvement. Maybe if they gave it more time? We don’t know.

Bottom line is that the best available science to date suggests eating plant-based diets, whether vegetarian or vegan, may help people with fibromyalgia. Just because it’s the best science we have doesn’t mean it’s necessarily very good science, right? These were all very small, poorly controlled, relatively short-term studies. But, what’s the downside of 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. So, 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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Snowflakesarewhite and Jenessa Read via flickr

Doctor's Note

If you missed the first half of this topic, see 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 (see Preventing Cataracts with Diet), obesity (see Thousands of Vegans Studied), hypertension (see Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death), metabolic syndrome (see Metabolic Syndrome & Plant-Based Diets), and diabetes (see 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 additional 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.

37 responses to “Fibromyalgia vs. Mostly Raw & Mostly Vegetarian Diets

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  1. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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).

        1. No nuts and avocados? Mind if I ask, don’t you think they are extremely important for us? like proteins zinc iron calcium and etc..? I am vegan by the way and I always consume avo cados nuts a lot of fruits and veggies. I eat mostly raw diet.

          1. Protein is in all other foods.
            Calcium is in all green vegetables.
            Zinc is in many berries and fruits etc.

            I’m sure you can have an avocado here and there. but what she is saying is NOT to make a mass habit out of it.

            For her, it worked.

            From my perspective; the oil in an avocado is natural and unprocessed, so perhaps avocados are ok for most people.

            Avoiding oil usually means NO oil that comes in a bottle (extra virgin, olive, coconut, sunflower, canola, etc). They ALL coat the receptors within the digestive system and encourage diabetes and heart issues). Zero Cholesterol oil is a Marketing Trick to make you think its not going to damage your heart.
            Its like coke saying Zero Sugar, (but its full of Aspartame).
            Its evasive marketing.

            I’m sure that the oil you get from eating an avocado is way better than having oil from the bottle.
            But Celia went hardcore. and she has benefited from it.

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

      1. Yes, a FB friend just posted this morning about feeling so lousy and achy every…single…morning…and she’s probably only around 5 years older than I am…and I feel sparkly and new every….single…morning, I cannot even imagine feeling that bad every day. So, I posted a gentle question to her: “have you tried changing what you eat?” and then I posted this very video for her. And Dr. John McDougall has a very short youtube about fibromyalgia and he says “Give me 2 weeks of your time and effort and I can almost guarantee you’ll feel better by going plant-based and most folks feel better after 4 to 7 days.” Why wouldn’t ANYONE suffering want to at least TRY this out? Shout out to Celia & thanks for posting your situation…wishing you continued good health!

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

    1. 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.

  7. Yes, me too we have eating vegan as a life and I can tell you that when I got fibromyalgia and couldn’t walk and was on 27 pills a day. Muscle relaxers, pills to help for side affects and I gained wait too. But now I lost all the weight and not on any pills and my husband has no more heart problems and we are both not on any medications, why because we are eating a plant based diet and its working. I so glad we are eating this way. But I always wonder when I get stressed will it come back!! But not yet

  8. I’m 28 and was diagnosed with fibro about 5 years ago. It has slowly been getting worse leaving me in constant fear of where my life is headed. Instead of going to my Dr. and increasing my medication again I am going to go vegan and no oil. Let’s see how it goes.

    1. Chelle333: I’m sorry you are going through that with the fibro. You are way too young for those types of problems!

      As Dr. Greger often points out, there is no downside to trying a healthy diet. It may or may not help with your fibro symptoms, but it’s not going to hurt you. The side effects are all good. I’m not sure how much research you have done. There are some details that are important to attend to. (For example, Coke and potato chips are vegan – but not healthy.) I recommend going through PCRM’s free 21 Day Kickstart program – where they hold your hand for 21 days with meal plans, recipes, inspirational messages, and an RD moderated forum. Also, Dr. Greger’s new book, How Not To Die, has an entire section dedicated to describing exactly what a healthy diet looks like. If you are interested in any of these ideas or additional ideas, let me know and I’ll provide some links and whatever else I can help with. Best of luck to you.

  9. I’m really happy for those of you that diet has helped. Diet does not help everyone. Looking back 22 years I have always had a good diet meaning fruits and veggies at every meal and not the ridiculous half cup serving that is suggested. I’m talking whole fruits, apples, pineapples, grapefruits, 2 cups of berries etc. I’m talking whole veggies, the whole head of broccoli, whole bunch of Swiss chard, whole head of lettuce plus more veg in a salad. I’ve recently been a year as a mostly vegan usually having seafood or meat 2x a month rather than be a fussy eater around friends. I am still in chronic pain. I developed Sarcoidosis 3 years ago. I ate clean, simple and cheap seriously never venturing into the inner isles of the grocery store and still this. I am however at my highschool weight with no diabetes or high blood pressure. I do have some heart problem do to scarring in my lungs from Sarcoidosis and other organ problems. I am persisting at being vegan because it is something in my power that may help.

  10. People never cease to amaze me!
    Sickness and good health are food choices.
    Is the animal protein addiction that strong?

    Ann replied to your comment: “Why would anyone choose to live with this? Why not cure it?
    http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/fibromyalgia/

    There, unfortunately, is NO CURE. 9:24 AM

    You have been removed from Charleston Fibromyalgia Meetup.

    The person who removed you said:

    —————————————————————-
    Robert, your comment was unkind, unhelpful, and inaccurate. You obviously have found a cure, so are not suffering from chronic pain or related symptoms of Fibromyalgia et al. I have removed you from the group, as it obviously will not be of help to you as a peer support group, and you will not be helpful to the group with your one-size-fits-all “cure”.
    ——————–

    1. Robert: If you are looking for some feedback: You could have worded your comment with a lot more diplomacy. Also, if memory serves, the NutritionFacts videos on the topic of Fibromyalgia do not profess to have a cure for everyone, but are about minimizing problems/helping the situation for many sufferers. So, saying that there is a cure does not help you make your point.
      .
      That said, the response you got is narrow minded. People who do suffer from Fibromyalgia would presumably want to know about safe and effective ways of reducing their pain and other symptoms. For that reason, the response you got is sad.

  11. Is there a connection between fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and/or adrenal fatigue? They seem to have similar symptoms. Does Dr. Greger have information on adrenal fatigue or how to overcome it through a plant based diet?

  12. I don’t see any video’s or information on polymyalgia rheumatica. Do plant based diets help with this auto immune disorder. Should someone who has polymyalgia follow the daily dozen? Thanks in advance

    1. Hi Michelelyn, since one of the hallmarks of polymyalgia rheumatica and autoimmune diseases in general is inflammation a WFPBD like the daily dozen would be an excellent choice for someone with polymyalgia. A WFPD has more anti-inflammatory properties than any other diet. When I first transitioned to a vegan diet 15 years ago I did a mostly raw, plant based diet known as the Hallelujah Diet (which by the way is still around today http://www.hadiet.com). Over the years I’ve watched literally dozens of people with rheumatic and autoimmune diseases have all their symptoms disappear. I’d say give it a try, you have nothing to lose but a debilitating disease.

  13. After seeing dozens of health care providers for my fibromyalgia over 20 years I learned that 80% of all those diagnosed with FMS do not actually have the disorder, which is a brain chemistry problem (the brain is not able to produce the chemicals that prevent pain from external stimuli). I am one of that 20% and though I have been a strict vegan (no oil, low-fat) for over 6 years, I still have pain and have to take opioids to control it. I take much less than I did initially, but still have significant pain and fatigue. I know that the diet has helped me. I am grateful that I now have some semblance of a life. But those with true FMS may not understand that diet may not provide a cure.

  14. Wrong French subtitles:
    The French subtitles is this video are those that should be with the other video : Fibromyalgia vs. Vegetarian & Raw Vegan Diets.
    Please correct this. Thank you.

  15. Hello everyone, I have a question – have anyone heard of or tried a 5-htp for improving mood and sleep while diagnosed with fibromyalgia ? I’ve found this article and it seem to be interesting and helping as well -> brain-feed.com/can-5-htp-help-with-fibromyalgia-symptoms If anyone tried it please let me know! thank you Bára

  16. Hi Bara and thanks for your question. While I have not deeply investigated the studies of 5-HTP supplements, what I can share with you about 5-HTP is that it is one of the precursors for serotonin, the brain hormone in our bodies that is often referred to as “the happiness hormone” (as Dr. Greger quotes in this video: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-wrong-way-to-boost-serotonin/). There have been other supplements (L-tryptophan in particular) used to boost serotonin levels that have had adverse and even deadly effects on those taking these supplements (again, refer to the video above). Studies have shown however that following a diet with a high carbohydrate to protein ratio from plant foods can help the brain to uptake the necessary precursors for serotonin and thereby improve mood and other symptoms associated with disorders such as fibromyalgia: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/a-better-way-to-boost-serotonin/, https://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-best-way-to-boost-serotonin/

    Finally please review this video which shows the benefits of a plant based and possibly raw vegetarian diet for fibromyalgia: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/fibromyalgia-vs-mostly-raw-mostly-vegetarian-diets/

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