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I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2006, but I am sure I have had it most of my life. For many years I searched for that magic pill that would make me feel normal. The one that would stop the pain, give me energy and banish the chronic migraines. After years of trying medication after medication and feeling worse and worse, I started looking for answers elsewhere. I found that it was up to me. Like it or not, I had to make some lifestyle changes. Changes I did not want to make.
Evidence proves – lifestyle changes make the most impact when it comes to improving the symptoms of fibromyalgia. A combination of diet, exercise, stress reduction and learning how to pace yourself often works better for fibromyalgia pain and fatigue than most medications. I was sick of feeling sick so I had to at least try to make some changes.
Once I became aware of all the toxic chemicals in our food and what they are doing to our health, I decided to start with my diet. I made some radical changes, no sugar, no processed food, no chemicals. Food became my medicine. I could choose to eat food that caused more pain inflammation in my body or I could eat food that calmed and healed my body. When I began to think of food this way, it became easier to make the right choice.
Exercising was a little harder, I don’t like to exercise so I really had to push myself. Now I make sure to get some exercise every day. I have to admit, making these lifestyle changes really did help me feel better. I am not saying that the pain and fatigue are gone. I am saying I feel more in control. I am managing my fibromyalgia symptoms, not the other way around.
Of course, we are all different. The degree to which fibromyalgia impacts our lives may be different. My symptoms may be different from yours. Even if we have the same symptoms, a treatment that works for you may not work for me. Even so, I think there are 5 lifestyle changes that are absolutely necessary to improve our symptoms and gain more control over our lives.
The 5 Lifestyle Changes We Must Make
- Improve Sleep – The restorative function of sleep is when your body heals and repairs itself and also helps your brain function properly. Most of us with fibromyalgia have sleep disturbances that prevent us from getting the restorative sleep we need for this to happen. The lack of restorative sleep explains the daytime fatigue and brain fog we experience. Poor sleep also leads to more pain, depression and anxiety. Evidence shows when sleep is improved, other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia also improve. Treating your sleep disorder should be top priority. You may want to read a series of posts I have written about improving your sleep.
- Eat Right – Although there is no set diet for fibromyalgia, some foods can make us feel better and some make us feel worse. Avoid refined sugar and highly processed foods that contain chemical additives and artificial ingredients. These foods produce inflammation in the body and have a tendency to increase pain and trigger other symptoms like headaches, indigestion, or fatigue. Whole, natural, anti-inflammatory foods that are high in vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants have the opposite effect.
- Exercise – Moving your body may be the last thing you feel like doing, but it really does help. Exercise has been shown to have benefits for all of the symptoms of fibromyalgia, including pain, fatigue, and sleep problems. It helps improve your balance, boosts your mood, reduces stress, and increases strength. The key is to start slowly and gradually increase your activity level. I started with stretches that I could do even while in bed. Then I started walking for short periods each day and gradually increased my steps. Now I use a pedometer and aim for 3500 steps a day. On good days I have reached 6000 steps.
→ While exercise has been found to be beneficial for fibromyalgia, exercise can make symptoms worse in people who have chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Reduce Stress – Stress has an immediate effect on your body. In the short-term, that’s okay. But stress that continues for a long period of time puts your health at risk. There are numerous emotional and physical disorders that have been linked to chronic stress, including fibromyalgia. The constant release of stress hormones affect the brain, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and muscles in negative ways. Stress is a big factor in symptoms flare-ups. It’s important to learn techniques that will help you prevent, manage and cope with stress. This post may help: How To Manage Fibromyalgia Stress & Anxiety.
- Pace Yourself – Pacing means finding the right balance of activity and rest that is right for you. Pay attention to your body and know your own limits. Determine how much and what kinds of activity you can do without intensifying your symptoms. This goes for mental activity as well as physical activity. Pacing will help you avoid doing way too much one day, then taking several days to recover. If you’re having a bad day, try to do a little bit, and if you’re having a good day, don’t do too much. By pacing, you will gain more control over your symptoms. If you don’t quite understand pacing I recommend reading WHAT THE HELL IS PACING ANYWAY? by Donna at FibroGeek.co.uk.
These 5 lifestyle changes have helped me feel like I have more control over my fibromyalgia symptoms. Do I still have bad days? Yes I do, but by making the right choices the good days out number the bad. Do I always make the right choice? Not always, but 95% of the time I do choose what is best for my health.
Do I still wish for that magic pill? ABSOLUTELY!
Have you made any lifestyle changes that helped? Or any that didn’t? Please share by leaving a comment.