By: Dr Alex Robber
Could a keto diet improve conditions of chronic pain, including fibromyalgia?
Although there is not an abundance of studies to confirm the efficacy of ketogenic diet for people with fibromyalgia, new research and anecdotal evidence indicate it may be helpful to some. Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized throughout the body by pain and tenderness, exhaustion and often sleep problems and memory and concentration difficulties (“fibro fog”). It has been shown that no single diet can improve such symptoms.
The ketogenic diet is like the Paleo diet
The ketogenic diet is like the Paleo diet, favoring whole foods, and reducing sugar, grains, and refined foods. Yet the ketogenic diet is highly low-carbon, protein-moderate, and high-fat. It induces a ketosis state in which the fat reserves of the body are used for energy, and which has been at least anecdotally associated with a reduction in hunger.
What Is A Ketogenic Diet?
Anything you eat turns your body into energy. And the energy that shouldn’t be used is stored as fat. When you’re not eating anything for a long time, your body starts breaking down the fat into energy. The cycle is ketosis. But this cycle can also be activated by starving your carbohydrate body. The body must turn to its store of fat without certain carbohydrates. So, a ketogenic diet is meant to hold the body in a ketosis state and to burn fat. This usually means removing and replacing simple carbohydrates and processed foods with protein and leafy greens.
Individuals with fibromyalgia greatly benefit when on low-carbon or ketogenic diets
John (Jack) Shelley-Tremblay, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Deputy Professor of Neurology at The University of South Alabama, conducted research on the effects of carbohydrates on symptoms of fibromyalgia; And while he’s wary of diet fads, research suggests that the ketogenic diet is beneficial for a number of conditions, including ADHD and autism spectrum disorders, for example. He states that some European studies have found that many people with fibromyalgia “when they’re on a low-carb or ketogenic diet significantly change.”
The Brain Craves Energy to Run
“American standard diet has a lot of sugar, refined grains, and stuff you wouldn’t have seen in human evolutionary history,” says Dr. Shelley-Tremblay. Science, he says, shows that people with fibromyalgia don’t naturally metabolize sugars and other carbohydrates, so their cells, including their brain cells, are needing energy. “The brain is the body pound’s most energy-craving component for pound, and it needs sugar to fly,” says Shelley-Tremblay, referring to the use of glucose as its primary fuel by the brain in normal circumstances.
It can help you lose weight
A ketogenic diet has the first advantage that it can help you lose weight. And we know the weight loss can have a huge impact on the severity of fibromyalgia symptoms. Being overweight increases the amount of pain you experience and saps the energy you have. Of course, losing weight when you have fibromyalgia can be difficult as when you are dealing with symptoms it is difficult to exercise. So, a low-impact diet alternative really does help.
Basic ketogenic diet plan
So, a basic ketogenic diet plan would be something like this:
- Breakfast: A smoothie with kale, almonds, and coconut milk.
- Lunch: Steak salad.
- Dinner: Pan-fried cod with garlic.
As you can see, the ketogenic diet aims to integrate protein into fresh meat and nuts. And it removes items such as bread, or rice, made from grain and rich in carbohydrates. A ketogenic diet has many benefits. And some of those benefits could support someone with fibromyalgia.
People with fibromyalgia are in a constant state of deficit
People with fibromyalgia, say Dr. Shelley-Tremblay, are in a constant state of deficit and have difficulty meeting the brain’s energetic needs. The effect may be exhaustion, discomfort, poor sleep and fibro fog, which he defines as “a disorder associated with diminished cognitive ability, specifically reduced short-term or working memory, decreased attention capacity, fatigue, and concentration problems.”
It’s a vacillating triangle, he says. “Poor sleep, both triggered and intensified by pain, leaves you with less cognitive capacity to dampen the pain enough to function.” Moreover, he says, are the energy deficits associated with the metabolic disorders underlying fibromyalgia?
Ketogenic diet can increase the amount of energy you have
Furthermore, a ketogenic diet will increase your strength. The body turns it into glucose when you eat carbohydrates. Glucose is easy for the body to process, which means it can give you a temporary boost in energy. But it is also consumed so quickly that once the glucose is gone you can feel a sudden loss of energy.
Fat is moved through the body more slowly as energy. You will push the body to burn fat for energy, by adopting a ketogenic diet. And your body has a steadier supply of energy, using fat instead of carbohydrates as fuel. That helps avoid the inevitable spikes and dips in the energy that you experience all day long.
High Blood Sugar Leads to Lethargy
In an earlier study published in the Journal of Musculoskeletal Pain, Shelley-Tremblay, together with Allen Ernst and John P. Kline, compared the effects of carbohydrate consumption on mood in a small group of women with fibromyalgia with the effects on a similar-size group of women who did not have fibromyalgia.
Many women with fibromyalgia acknowledged they craved carbohydrates and frequently used them to try and control their moods and give themselves a boost in energy. So when the researchers fed them a big dose of a “super-sugar Kool-Aid mixture” after making participants fast for 8 to 12 hours, according to Shelley-Tremblay the women expected to feel better.
The researchers measured the female blood glucose, assessed their mood using a Mood States scale model, and documented electrical activity using electroencephalography (EEG) in certain areas of their brains.
Reference: Can a Ketogenic Diet Help With Fibromyalgia? by Wyatt Redd via Fibromyalgia Treating