Can what I eat help me feel better?
There is no specific diet that is best for people with CFS/FM, but experience has taught us that certain foods are tolerated better than others. For example, a diet high in red meat and fat causes lethargy and indigestion or abdominal “fullness” in many patients. Why? Because red meat and fatty foods like fried foods and gravy are harder to digest than lighter foods. In very simplistic terms, heavier foods require more energy to digest. (Perhaps that is why after a big meal like Thanksgiving everyone feelings like lying down and taking a nap!) On the other hand, a “prudent diet” of fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates (like potato, rice, and pasta) and light meats (chicken, turkey and fish), is tolerated much better.
From experience we have also learned that certain food groups and habits are not tolerated well in CFS/FM. These are Sugar, Caffeine, Alcohol, NutraSweet® (aspartame), and Tobacco recollected by the anagram, SCANT. Most PWCs crave sugar and note that sugar can provide a much-needed burst of energy. However, using sugar for a “quick fix” leads quickly to a hypoglycemic “crash”, and the need for more sugar. The sugar junkie finds himself on a roller coaster of sugar ups-and-downs characterized by brief sugar highs and long hypoglycemic lows with lethargy, loss of energy, perhaps even weakness,
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tremor, and faintness. The only way to avoid this roller coaster is to eat small frequent meals and reduce refined sugar intake (sweets, candies, jams, jellies, even natural sweets like honey). Caffeine is also frequently used for a quick fixer-upper, but it too leads to a “crash” later on. Alcohol is not physically tolerated by most PWCs, and tobacco is simply unhealthy. Aspartame is widely used as a sugar substitute (NutraSweet® or Equal®, for example), but many people do not know that this purported “natural” product is broken down in the body to formic acid and eventually methyl alcohol. Formic acid (formaldehyde) is used as embalming fluid, and methyl alcohol is the highly toxic contaminant of “white lightening” that may cause blindness and kidney failure. In simplistic terms, aspartame just adds more toxins to the overburdened PWC, and in our experience frequently leads to headache or increased fatigue. Try to reduce your intake of SCANT, but you need not avoid them altogether.
Many people with CFS/FM are sensitive to dairy products and wheat (or gluten). If you suffer with abdominal complaints consider a 4 or 5 day trial diet that excludes any dairy products and wheat. We call this our Modified Elimination Diet, and copies are available from the office.