4 Healthy Eating Choices You Can Make Now with Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia

Nutrition is important for optimal health. What “healthy eating” means exactly varies from person to person. I have been researching food as a gateway to good health recently and while I haven’t settled on a massive lifestyle change such as paleo or plant-based etc I have formulated the below four key healthy eating choices you can start enacting right now.

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four healthy eating habits you can start right now

Here’s the video about it

I still don’t believe in making food a battleground or making massive changes without a lot of preparation, but these things I have managed while nursing with three children five and under and chronic pain and fatigue.

So here are my eating healthy eating changes you can make right now:

  1. Lots of fruit and vegetables.
    I am aiming for eight servings a day with most from a colourful array of vegetables.
    What are my secret weapons? Soups and smoothies. I have used my Nutribullet to make many types of smoothies with a mix of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and dairy free milk. I also make my dairy free milk using it! You can get your own Nutribullet here, I’m obsessed with mine!

2. Hydration – in the book Quench: Beat Fatigue, Drop Weight, and Heal Your Body Through the New Science of Hydration they suggest many conditions are caused by dehydration. I am aiming for more hydrating drinks and less caffeine.
How? My first drink is water with some lemon. Then I’ll have my coffee with a piece of toast.  At morning tea I have a coffee with fluffy milk and some cinnamon. Then the rest of the day I only drink water.

3. Less grains – there’s a lot of discussion around grain. Having done a gluten-free trial a few years ago I know I am not allergic or intolerant but I am keen to reduce my reliance on grain based carbohydrates. By prioritising vegetables and fruits I have managed to de-prioritize grains. When I have them they are wholegrain and well soaked.

4. Avoid what you are intolerant to
If you suspect something doesn’t agree with you, avoid it for 30 days then add back in. Eliminating lactose has helped me a lot. If you suspect there are many issues in your diet and these four things are not helping then you might consider doing the Whole30 elimination diet or a similar idea. They remove the most common intolerances and then you add them back in one at a time to challenge them. This way you can eat what works for you.

Checking your intolerances

You can also check for intolerances with testing. IntoleranceLab provides Food Sensitivity Testing and is a quick start way to identify your intolerances. You just send them a sample of your hair. I have not used this lab personally because I am in New Zealand, but I have done intolerance testing using my hair and it was surprising what came up. I vaguely knew at the time that dairy was not good for me and that bananas were difficult to tolerate – and my test confirmed it. Simple!

So these are my four tips you can work on right now. I am actually finding subtle benefit from my changes. I am less bloated and uncomfortable and I am noticing that I am experiencing less reactive hypoglycemia (physical reaction to hunger such as dizziness and being hangry.) I am also able to eat slightly less often than I used to, which is a relief as I am over figuring out what to eat all the time!

What would your tips be? What have you worked on and found made a difference?

Want some help with your journey?

Come and join the conversation at Melissa (you) vs Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia Facebook group.

Three Good Things August 17 2015

I’m a member of a Fibromyalgia support and information group on Facebook with an amazing administrator. She introduced me to the concept of Three Good Things.

This concept has really inspired me. On days when I’m past exhausted and in a lot of pain and can’t see beyond that, I force myself to write my Three Good Things in my diary. 97882024561081

This week I want to share Three Good Things as a kind of round up:

1. I’ve settled into the routine of my new job with the baby and conquered the week of my husband’s nightshift. I’ve been exhausted, but I’ve done it!

2. Something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but always found too extravagant, was to have a private yoga session. A very experienced, very excellent yoga teacher helped me to create a modified sun salutation sequence to build my strength and ability back up. I want the stretching, the breathing, the calm and the exercise of the practice. I’m looking forward to fitting it into my week, hopefully three times per week so that I can build up to a whole class. I also got the Yoga Girl book from the library today.

3. Food experiments! I bought a whole free-range chicken on Sunday and roasted it in white wine, salt, pepper, vinegar and paprika. I served that with roast vegetables I cooked with it. On Monday I had a sandwich for lunch with sliced chicken meat. On Monday evening I put the rest of the chicken into the pressure cooker with water, salt, pepper, cumin, tumeric and coriander for an hour. After that I de-boned the chicken and put the meat, stock and vegetables into a saucepan for another hour. I’m feeling very virtuous eating my soup!

I’m mindful of these things to be grateful for (and passionate about). 

Gluten-Free, How I Did It

You’re exhausted, you’re in a lot of pain and you need whatever fuel you can find in your kitchen. So, it seems an insurmountable task, to go gluten-free.

But there are plenty of blogs, books and websites about being gluten-free.

In my Tiny Mission Gluten-Free Part One, I suggested a few links for further reading. In particular, I have found Elisabeth Hasslebeck’s G-Free books to be super helpful. Her first book, The G-Free Diet: A Gluten-Free Survival Guide educated me about the different names for glutenous grains and how to be gluten-free. Her second book, a cookbook Deliciously G-Free: Food So Flavorful They’ll Never Believe It’s Gluten-Free outlines many recipes that I will work my way through.

Gluten-Free, Hassle Free: A Simple, Sane, Dietitian-Approved Program for Eating Your Way Back to Health by Marlisa Brown was another useful book.

Long before I considered a gluten-free trial, I fell in love with quinoa and millet. These have been the basis of my cross over.

So here’s a few steps to help you get started:

1 – Fall in love with the non-glutenous grains
Quinoa can replace rice, oats and flour. Millet makes a satisfying porridge. Pay a visit to a bulk foods/organic/health food store and work your way through the options.

2 – Focus on what you can have
Lots of fruit and vegetables, I cram kale, carrot, celery, banana, apple and almond milk into my morning smoothie. There are plenty of recipes out there to replicate those things you just need, like cookies! You are looking for wholefoods. A lot of processed foods have gluten in its various guises snuck in there.

3 – Experiment with recipes of your favourite meal made gluten-free by experienced g-freers
Buy, borrow or print out a book of recipes that you can work through during your experiment.

4 – Clear out your kitchen (removing temptations and putting replacements in)
You may feel terrible with cravings and withdrawals in the first little while, so make sure you have safe treats (like dark chocolate, corn chips etc.).

5 – Jump in.
Don’t beat yourself up if you have a hiccup (I found out, two weeks in, that my chicken stock had a wheat filler!), just carry on. I made up little templates for comparing how I felt before, at two weeks and at conclusion. I also made up a template to log daily food, exercise, rest and symptoms.

Just a little note on my progress: I am four weeks in and feeling pretty good. I don’t tend to crave gluten any longer. I have made some amazing gluten-free meals including a simple batter for chicken tenders that my husband and son enjoyed. After introducing oats for one meal last week and enduring a very upset stomach, I have decided to give it six months (yikes!). Now I am beginning to tighten up what I am eating, I am more prepared with healthy food options (when I was super hungry during the withdrawal phases, I could be found with corn chips and dark chocolate…)!

I’d love to hear your favourite g-free meal ideas and tips?

Healthy Eating Tips

One of the things that I struggled with when the baby was small (and rarely sleeping), was to fuel myself right. It seemed that only unhealthy foods were suitable for one-handed eating.

Here are a few ideas to help get food into the cupboard or fridge when you have a moment:

Pressure cooker – I love my pressure cooker! I use it for beans, meat and grains.

I cook up a pot of quinoa (in around eight minutes) and leave it in the fridge for a few days, I eat it in place of rice as it’s a super load of good nutrients.

I also like to keep a container of beans or lentils in the fridge for quick go meals.

http://fastcooking.ca has a great guide for how long to cook each type of food and many recipes you can try.

Tasty tips: include tumeric, cumin, green herbs, a pinch of cayenne pepper, garlic and/or ginger and you’ll be boosting the goodness in your food!

Cook semolina or oat porridge ahead of time, up to three days in advance and keep it in the fridge. Add some nuts, seeds and fruit at serving to pump up the nutrients.

Keep the fruit bowl topped up.

Keep a container of nuts and raisins in the cupboard.

Make or buy yogurt and store in serving size containers.

For a while there (it’s moving into summer here now) I kept a bowl of soup in the fridge too. I cooked up any vegetables we had in the fridge and added chicken stock, tumeric, cumin, salt and cayenne pepper. This way I managed to get silver beet and other vegetables I tend to struggle to add I to the diet.

I hope some of these are useful, I have really been focusing on nutrition and the effect this has on my body at the moment, being well fuelled certainly makes the difference!

Awesome Website Resource

t’s hard enough to live with pain and fatigue every day of your life. Without people claiming you can be cured of you do the right thing.

The reality is that the spectrum of these illnesses are so different that some things work for others and some don’t. Some swear by chiropractic care, I choose acupuncture provided by a physiotherapist. Some people can work full time and cope, I found that reducing to 30 hours a week dramatically improved my life.

I’ve read about an approach that recommends the eradication of salicylates, which is hard because they seem to be in just about everything.

Another recommends a specific drug. Another detoxification.

But the most recommended approach, the one that I take, is to try to live as healthily as possible. The way we are all supposed to live.

I recently came across a fantastic website resource for a guide to a way of living as healthily as possible – 

This person has fibromyalgia and works with clients who have fibromyalgia, she’s compiled a website with a whole range of useful tools to consider trying.

I knew she was the real deal when I read:
I do not endorse a cure. However, it has brought my severe fibro pain from a 7, 8 or 9 level to a 2, 3, or 4  level.”

She shares a great “protocol” that she follows.

Essentially it is healthy eating, gentle exercise, supplementation of vitamins or minerals you’re short of, meditation and good sleep.

It is worth a squizz as I found it encouraging. She affirms many of my approaches. Including things I’m trying to be firm on after realising they’re so useful -honouring your body clock and resting enough.

While it’s not good to dwell on your symptoms, it is good to research and try positive ways to be well. This is one resource I will go back to again and again.

Five Ways I Cope With Fibromyalgia: AKA Lifestyle Choices to Live Well

We all know the recommended steps for being well- eat healthily, exercise moderately and get plenty of sleep. I believe that people with Fibromyalgia need to adhere to the healthy living guidelines, augmented to their ability level, of course. But what happens if no matter what you do, you are exhausted and sore? There’s no escaping it, you have to do the work.

Here’s the five lifestyle choices I make daily to cope with Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue:

1.       Healthy eating

Food is fuel, right? Everyone should eat healthily with a diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables and rich in whole grains and protein. When you are battling extreme fatigue and travelling muscle aches, what you eat can be of great help.

In my worst flair ups, my food diary used to become a love song to carbohydrates. I subconsciously craved fuel that my body could turn into energy; unfortunately, all those carbohydrates created the opposite effect. My already exhausted system was battling its way through the simple and complex carbohydrates I was throwing at it every few hours – it had no time to create energy. It took a few days of concentrated effort, but once I replaced a few of these servings with other foods, I began to feel the effects.

For me, eating a moderate diet rich in fruit and vegetables is a good start. Some people swear by Paleo, or Keto or gluten free or some such diet – it’s all worth a try.

2.       Exercise

Unless your doctor forbids it due to a medical condition, you should be exercising. A person with Fibromyalgia will work at a lower intensity and for a shorter period, but they should still exercise.

The amount of energy I have fluctuates, depending on many things, but I always go for my walk with my dog. Sometimes it is only around a 15-minute block, other times I will go for a course with a decent hill or will walk for a little longer. I have found 25-30 minutes to be ideal for me. I am always treading the fine line between proper muscle exhaustion and pain. This can be hard to monitor with constantly changing goalposts like fatigue and pain levels, but after two years, I have worked up to my current level.

Pilates is my favourite form of resistance exercise. I have done it faithfully for about ten years. Sometimes I operate at a beginner level and other times I can advance the exercises. When I was starting again after a bout of extreme pain, my physiotherapist created a 20-minute programme for me to follow. With my experience, I was able to advance the exercises as my energy levels allowed.

I have found it very important to keep the strength in my muscles with gentle activation. There is a strong correlation between less exercise and more pain.

lifestyle choices I make daily to live well with fibromyalgia

3.       A compassionate, knowledgeable physical practitioner

My physiotherapist is a valuable component of my healthy life. Someone you trust, who knows about Fibromyalgia and can bring about lasting changes with their treatments is vital to coping with long-term pain and fatigue. Someone who can come alongside you and take the burden of your body, even if only for half an hour is great for physical and emotional health.

My physiotherapist is the only person I can speak candidly to about what I have been coping with for the last 7-14 days (depending on how long I can stretch out the periods between treatment). After trying many of the different types of therapies, I have found acupuncture to be (one of) the least invasive and longest-lasting treatment.

Other posts you might like
Why I’m Treating the Fibromyalgia as Naturally as Possible
My Daily Log, Why I Track Fibromyalgia Symptoms
Free Printables from Melissa vs Fibromyalgia Book

4.       Sleep and rest

Sleep is my hardest battle. A full night’s sleep is the best way to cope with life. I try to go to bed around the same time every night and have a set routine that involves getting ready and reading before I switch off the light. I also try to get up around the same time every day. This helps, but I will not always sleep through the night, I will not always fall asleep straight away and I will often wake up at 4am (or every hour or two) with an incredibly stiff and sore neck. Since I began Low Dose Naltrexone in 2017, I have finally managed to sleep in blocks of more than an hour! I don’t sleep through the night, but I do sleep much better and this has flow on effects.

In order to cope on days when the kids have had me up in the night or the fatigue is just worse, meditation is a go-to. I can’t nap, so meditation is a way to get decent rest when I need it.

5.       A plan for the “hard” days

These are inevitable. Everybody gets sick from time to time. A person with Fibromyalgia will have some harder days. I have found a written list with suggestions for what to do on one of these days to be useful for pulling me out of the downward spiral of panic that accompanies intense pain.

Things like:

  • Specific stretches for my neck (tightness in my neck often causes headaches, nausea, dizziness and extreme fatigue)
  • Things I can do in descending order of ability (a gentle walk, gentle stretches, watch a DVD, read, lie down with an audio book on, lie down and do nothing else)
  • A reminder of the pain relief options I have at my disposal (wheat pack, icepack, heat cream, Ibuprofen, prescribed pain killers) – you would be surprised at how often I forget these things exist in the grips of serious pain.

All of these ways for coping should be underpinned by hope. Hope that your “hard” days will occur less often. And hope that you will be able to compile a life that is heading towards wellness, rather than just away from sickness. This is what I have experienced over the past two years as I have found more to help, particularly the low dose naltrexone, and it is what I hope for you too.