Can a Ketogenic Diet Help With Fibromyalgia?

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Could a keto diet improve chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia?

While there’s not an abundance of studies proving the effectiveness of the ketogenic diet for people with fibromyalgia, emerging research and anecdotal evidence suggest that it may be beneficial for some. Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder defined by pain and tenderness throughout the body, fatigue, and, often, sleeps problems and difficulty with memory and concentration (“fibro fog”). No single diet has been shown to improve these symptoms.

The ketogenic diet is similar to the Paleo diet

The ketogenic diet is similar to the Paleo diet, which emphasizes whole foods and the elimination of sugar, grains, and processed foods. But the ketogenic diet is extremely low-carb, moderate in protein, and high in fat. It produces a state of ketosis, in which the body’s fat stores are used for energy, and which has been associated with a reduction in hunger, at least anecdotally.

What Is A Ketogenic Diet?

Your body turns everything you eat into energy. And the energy it doesn’t need to use is stored as fat. When you don’t eat anything for a long time, your body begins breaking that fat down into energy. This process is called ketosis. But you can also trigger this process by starving your body of carbohydrates. Without those carbohydrates, the body has to turn to its store of fat. So, a ketogenic diet is designed to keep your body in a state of ketosis and burn fat. Usually, that means eliminating simple carbohydrates and processed foods and replacing them with protein and leafy greens.

People with fibromyalgia “improve dramatically when they are on a low-carb or ketogenic diet

John (Jack) Shelley-Tremblay, PhD, professor of psychology and adjunct professor of neurology at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, has done research on the effects of carbohydrates on fibromyalgia symptoms. And while he’s skeptical of diet fads, he points to research suggesting that the ketogenic diet is helpful for a number of conditions including, for example, epilepsy and autism spectrum disorders. He notes that some European studies have found that many people with fibromyalgia “improve dramatically when they are on a low-carb or ketogenic diet.”

The Brain Craves Energy to Run

“The standard American diet has a lot of sugar, refined grains, and things you wouldn’t have found in the evolutionary background of humans,” says Dr. Shelley-Tremblay. Research, he says, indicates that people with fibromyalgia do not metabolize sugars and other carbohydrates normally, so their cells, including their brain cells, crave energy. “The brain is the most energy-craving part of the body pound for pound, and it wants sugar to run,” Shelley-Tremblay says, referring to the brain’s use of glucose as its primary fuel under normal circumstances.

 It can help you lose weight

The first benefit of a ketogenic diet is that it can help you lose weight. And we know that losing weight can have a huge impact on the severity of the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Being overweight increases the amount of pain you feel and saps your energy. Of course, losing weight when you have fibromyalgia can be difficult since it’s hard to exercise when you’re dealing with symptoms. So a low-impact option like dieting can really help.


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Basic ketogenic diet plan

So, a basic ketogenic diet plan would be something like this:


  • >>A smoothie with kale, almonds, and coconut milk.


  • >>Steak salad.


  • >>Pan-fried cod with garlic.

As you can see, the ketogenic diet tries to incorporate fresh meat and nuts for protein. And it eliminates things like bread, or cereal, which are made from grain and heavy in carbohydrates. There are a lot of benefits to a ketogenic diet. And some of those benefits might be helpful for someone with fibromyalgia.

People with fibromyalgia are in a constant state of deficit

People with fibromyalgia are in a constant state of deficit, say Dr. Shelley-Tremblay and have difficulty meeting the energetic needs of the brain. The result can be exhaustion, pain, poor sleep, and fibro fog, which he describes as “a condition associated with decreased cognitive capacity, specifically decreased short-term or working memory, decreased attention resources, fatigue, and trouble concentrating.”

It’s a vicious triangle, he says. “Poor sleep, which is both caused by and exacerbates pain, leaves you with fewer cognitive resources to dampen down that pain enough to function.” On top of that, he says, are the energetic deficits associated with the metabolic conditions underlying fibromyalgia?

Ketogenic diet can increase the amount of energy you have

In addition, a ketogenic diet can increase the amount of energy you have. When you eat carbohydrates, your body turns it into glucose. Glucose is easily processed by the body, which means that it can give you a temporary energy boost. But it is also burned so quickly that you might experience a sudden loss of energy once the glucose is gone.

Fat is processed more slowly as energy by the body. By following a ketogenic diet, you can force your body to burn fat for energy. And by using fat instead of carbohydrates as fuel, your body has a steadier supply of energy. That helps avoids the natural spikes and dips in energy you feel throughout the day.

High Blood Sugar Leads to Lethargy

Shelley-Tremblay, along with Allen Ernst and John P. Kline, compared the effects consuming carbohydrate had on mood in a small group of women with fibromyalgia with the effects on a similar-size group of women who didn’t have fibromyalgia, in an earlier study published in the Journal of Musculoskeletal Pain.

Many of the women with fibromyalgia acknowledged that they craved carbohydrates and often used them to try to manage their moods and give themselves an energy boost. So when, after having participants fast for 8 to 12 hours, the researchers fed them a big dose of a “super-sugar Kool-Aid mixture,” according to Shelley-Tremblay, the women expected to feel better.

The researchers recorded the women’s blood glucose, assessed their mood using a Profile of Mood States scale, and recorded the electrical activity in certain areas of their brains using electroencephalography (EEG).

Also Read: How to eat keto or low card on budget


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Reference: Can a Ketogenic Diet Help With Fibromyalgia? by Wyatt Redd via Fibromyalgia Treating

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