Is there a diet for fibromyalgia?

Some people say their fibromyalgia symptoms are worsened by certain foods or food additives — such as refined flour, dairy products, sugar, sugar substitutes or MSG — but there's no clear research-based evidence to support this.

Some studies show a benefit in avoiding certain foods or additives, while other studies don't show such a correlation. Scientists are investigating possible connections between the consumption of gluten and fibromyalgia symptoms, but more research is needed.

People who have fibromyalgia are also more likely to be overweight or obese, and both problems impact quality of life. For some people, losing weight can help reduce fibromyalgia symptoms.

Can techniques such as meditation help reduce pain?

The power of the mind is a real factor in pain perception. For example, studies have shown that anxiety that occurs in anticipation of pain is often more problematic than the pain experience itself. In that sense, the mind has a negative impact on symptoms.

Many of the people who come to Mayo Clinic's fibromyalgia clinic are perfectionists who have very high expectations for themselves. They haven't adjusted to more realistic expectations after they developed fibromyalgia symptoms. These people have difficulty learning to relax.

They may push through the pain and keep doing activities to the point of exhaustion. However, as people learn to moderate their activity levels, they gradually adjust their expectations, and are able to become more active without overdoing it.

People report lower levels of pain when they can slow their heart rate by deep breathing and doing other relaxation techniques. In our clinic, we teach people about tools they can use to tap into what they have within their own power.

Can misconceptions about fibromyalgia be harmful?

If people with fibromyalgia believe there is no help for them, they're going to remain untreated. Even if there isn't a cure, there are treatments that can really improve their quality of life. They need to recognize that it's OK to ask for help with things, and that it's OK to give themselves time for exercise and relaxation each day. They need to make their own health a priority.

July 11, 2015 See more In-depth