Lifestyle Modifications for Fibromyalgia

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When you have fibromyalgia (FMS) or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS or ME/CFS), you hear a lot about the need for lifestyle changes. That’s a pretty broad term, though, and the very thought can be overwhelming. What do you need to change? How much do you need to change? Where should you start?

The thing to do is break it down into manageable parts. Once you start identifying aspects of your life that may be contributing to your symptoms, you can start making positive changes. Everyone’s life is different and every case of FMS or ME/CFS is different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. However, looking at the different things in this article can help you get started making changes to help improve your quality of life.

Avoid addressing symptoms: get to the cause

Many conditions such as infectious disease result directly from invasion by pesky viruses or bacteria. These conditions can often be dramatically improved by certain drug therapies that target the pathogens biochemistry that is different from our bodies.

Other conditions, such as those common in the western world, have genetic components but seem to be most significantly influenced by our lifestyle choices. Fibromyalgia is such a disease, and it is a result of impaired health. Many millions of dollars are made on methods that are directed at treating symptoms rather than focusing on the cause and improving our health.

Change diet and improve digestion

Thankfully it is becoming common knowledge that good nutrition and exercise are not the only factors for having good health. Our brain chemistry is just as important, and poor mental health can influence the development of many other conditions.

Emotional stressors such as job dissatisfaction, boredom, loneliness, marital difficulties, or sexual frustrations can lead to depression or anxiety which can negatively impact all areas of health. Avoiding these issues or attempting to mask them with addictions such as alcohol, tobacco, soft drinks, or coffee will only spiral into more negativity.

Proactively addressing the root causes of concern via therapy, prayer, or meditation can lift destructive burdens and eventually lead to less emotional and physical pain.

Coping Skills

Anyone who’s living with a chronic, debilitating illness has to come to terms with health-imposed limitations and changes, and that can be hard. Illness can make us feel afraid, insecure, hopeless, depressed, and bad about ourselves.

Just as we need to learn pacing techniques and improve our diets, we need to develop good coping skills. This might mean changing your outlook on things, and a lot of people need help making that adjustment. Professional therapists can help, through traditional talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Part of coping with your illness is reaching acceptance. That doesn’t mean giving in to your condition – it’s more about accepting the reality of your situation and doing what you can to improve it, rather than fighting against it or waiting helplessly for a miracle cure to come along.

Address emotional stressors

Thankfully it is becoming common knowledge that good nutrition and exercise are not the only factors for having good health. Our brain chemistry is just as important, and poor mental health can influence the development of many other conditions.

Emotional stressors such as job dissatisfaction, boredom, loneliness, marital difficulties, or sexual frustrations can lead to depression or anxiety which can negatively impact all areas of health. Avoiding these issues or attempting to mask them with addictions such as alcohol, tobacco, soft drinks, or coffee will only spiral into more negativity.

Proactively addressing the root causes of concern via therapy, prayer, or meditation can lift destructive burdens and eventually lead to less emotional and physical pain.

Little Things, Big Impact

Just as seemingly little things in your daily life can exacerbate your symptoms, little changes to your daily life can help alleviate them. This could mean changing the way you dress or finding ways to keep yourself from getting too hot or cold. No matter how bizarre or trivial your particular issues may seem, someone else with these conditions has dealt with it as well. That’s why it’s important for us to learn from each other.

Use agents that calm your hyperactive nervous system

It’s also helpful to use agents that calm this hyperactive nervous system, such as calming neurotransmitters like GABA or calming nutraceuticals like L-theanine and inositol, and magnesium. Calming adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha and botanicals like valerian, passionflower, and chamomile are helpful as well.

The Holidays

Especially busy times like the holiday season can be difficult for us. Shopping, cooking, decorating and other preparations can take so much energy that we have none left for actually enjoying those special days. However, if we learn to plan and prioritize, we can make it through those busy times with fewer problems. 

Find the RIGHT doctor

This step cannot be overemphasized. Not seeking medical treatment or advice can be a big mistake, as they are trained to monitor all areas of our physical health. Individual health education and prevention are wise and encouraged steps for all of us to take, but never to the point of avoiding regular doctors’ visits.

Having said that, it is important to find the right doctor one that is thorough, supportive, kind, a good listener, open-minded, and emphasizes lifestyle changes as the first defense against disease

Finding Support

You may spend most of your time alone at home or feel distanced from other people because of your illness. It’s also hard to find people in our lives who truly understand what we’re going through.

Through support groups in your community or online, you can find people who will understand and support you. That support can help you feel less alone, improve your outlook, and find new treatments or management techniques.

 

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References:

  • Lifestyle Modifications for Fibromyalgia via NYU Langone
  • 5 Lifestyle Tips for Fibromyalgia By Julie M. Gentile via Practical Pain Management

 

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