Fibromyalgia and the Sugar Connection

Sugar has a tendency to make pain more pronounced for many people and with many different conditions.  Of course, diabetics shouldn’t eat sugar, but for instance, pain levels tend to rise for people with arthritis too.  Fibromyalgia is no exception.  If you drop sugar from your diet you’re likely going to notice a big change in your pain levels.

Sugar cookieWhen you’re living with fibromyalgia, you may often find yourself giving in to sugar cravings when your fuel tank is low. Sugar does provide a quick burst of energy, but what if downing a candy bar or reaching for an energy drink does you more harm than good? Although no specific diet has been proven to improve fibromyalgia pain, getting that sugar monkey off your back could benefit your overall health and make you feel better.

People with fibromyalgia fall into a common cycle when it comes to sugar, says Kristi Mizelle, MD, MPH, director of the Rheumatology Holistic Care Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. You feel pain and, as a result, become inactive, gain more weight, have no energy, and then look for things like sugar to get a pick-me-up. When you come down from that sugar high, you often feel worse, she explains.

Sugar can be more than just a crutch, though. For some, it’s a full-fledged addiction, and it can be a big problem for those with a chronic pain syndrome like fibromyalgia, says Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, medical director of Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers and author of several books on chronic pain. Dr. Teitelbaum says that, in some people, sugars may actually cause fibromyalgia or make existing fibromyalgia pain even worse. “Sugar aggravates low blood sugar and adrenal problems, yeast (Candida) overgrowth, and nutritional deficiencies that worsen fibromyalgia,” he says.

Once the addiction is broken, it takes 6 to 12 weeks to feel a significant improvement in fibromyalgia symptoms, but in as few as 10 days after coming off sugar, most people have more energy and feel mentally sharper, he adds.

The first three days you drop sugar from your diet are the toughest.  After that it gets easier, but you still have to watch mindless habits.  For instance, if you always grab a handful of jelly beans from your co-workers desk, you may do so without thinking.  Take note of all the different places and times when you eat sugary foods on a routine basis.  This will help you notice when they come up and you’ll be more mindful.

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