Fibromyalgia and Weight Gain
People who are diagnosed with fibromyalgia often experience weight gain. But what is the nature of the relationship between fibromyalgia and weight gain – and how can it be prevented?
Why FMS Causes Weight Gain
Fibromyalgia often causes weight gain in individuals due to a number of factors that are both directly and indirectly related to the disease itself.
Fibromyalgia leads to hormonal imbalances, affecting levels of cortisol, thyroid, serotonin and insulin, as well as the production of growth hormones. Because of this hormonal imbalance, metabolism slows down and weight gain often follows.
Fatigue associated with fibromyalgia also leads to increased weight. Because fibromyalgia initiates an arousal disturbance in the brain wave pattern during sleep, the individual can’t get enough quality sleep; the individual can also suffer from sleep apnea (pauses during night time breathing and snoring) and restless legs (tingling in the legs), which increase tiredness.
A new study found that a lack of sleep also leads to higher hypocretin production, which is important in sleep and appetite levels. When hypocretin neuron levels are high (due to environmental and mental stressors), they lead to an increased state of arousal, leading not only to fatigue, but also to overeating.
In addition to fatigue, many fibromyalgia patients experience chronic pain, which can also inhibit their ability to exercise.
Drugs taken to treat fibromyalgia-related depression can also cause the individual to gain weight. Antidepressants like Prozac and Zoloft increase appetite, fluid retention, and can affect hormone levels and therefore metabolism.
It’s imperative to maintain a healthy, balanced diet in order to minimize fibromyalgia weight gain.
Here are some helpful diet tips:
- avoid eating animal fats, such as red meat. Instead, eat leaner meats like skinless chicken, turkey and fish, which are also excellent sources of protein
- increase your intake of foods that are rich in fiber and low in sugar, such as vegetables
- eating plenty of fresh fruits, like raspberries and strawberries is also helpful. Avoid dried fruits, as they contain preservatives
- Omega-3 fatty acids are also important in maintaining a healthy diet and can be found in cold-water fish. Other good sources of fat include almonds, avocadoes, fish oils, as well as olive and corn oil
- eat three meals a day and try to have one to two nutritious snacks daily
Avoid fried foods, junk foods, white flour and sugar, and alcoholic and carbonated beverages.
Although fibromyalgia can lead to intense pain and fatigue, it’s important to keep fit as best as you can in order to avoid unhealthy weight gain.
Beginning your own fibromyalgia exercise program is a great way to achieve this goal.
Start off with simple exercises, like stretching, walking or biking.
Begin your walking routine with a five-minute walk the first day; then add 1-2 minutes daily, gradually moving upwards to a target of 60 minutes (or whatever amount you feel comfortable and able to maintain). Once you’ve reached your target amount, make sure you walk for this amount of time three to four days a week.
Bicycling is another great workout option. An exercise (stationary) bike lets you work out year-round whatever the weather; plus, you can keep track of your mileage easily and this can help you reach your workout goals more efficiently.
Keep in mind that some muscle soreness is common when you first start exercising, but that sharp pain could mean you’ve overworked your muscles.