New study links plant-based diet to relief of fibromyalgia symptoms

Author: Maria Chiorando

Read Time:   |  29th April 2023

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Fibromyalgia remains difficult to diagnose and treat - researchers wanted to see if diet could provide symptom relief for sufferers


Eating a diet rich in plant-based food may help ease some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia, according to new research.

Fibromyalgia is described by the NHS as ‘a condition that causes widespread pain and extreme tiredness’.

Symptoms of the condition vary between individuals, but the main symptom is pain all over your body. There is no current cure, and no knowledge of what causes it.

In a bid to discover whether diet can help, researchers reviewed 12 studies, comprising a total of 546 participants, looking at diet in conjunction with fibromyalgia.

The studies they looked at included plant-based diets, anti-inflammatory diets, gluten-free diets, and elimination/restrictive diets.

Fibromyalgia and diet

Researchers included three studies that they described as featuring plant-based diets – one vegetarian, raw vegetarian, and raw vegan.

They reported that ‘all of the plant-based diet and anti-inflammatory diet studies found statistically significant improvement in pain measurements’.

However, results for the gluten-free and elimination/restrictive diets were described as ‘inconsistent’.

The study said: “Overall, it is encouraging that the majority of the studies included in this review reported a pain improvement in at least one of the measurements.

“Although we were able to cover a variety of diet types, specific diet types that are effective to alleviate pain symptoms among patients with FMS are not clear.

“In our systematic review, plant-based diets reported the most consistent results, and the only anti-inflammatory diet study also reported significant pain improvement.

“Both diets were similar in terms of high consumption of vegetables, fruits, vegetable/olive oils and nuts, and low consumption of red meats.”

Plant-based diets showed statistically significant improvement in pain measurements. Image © Maksym Yemelyanov via Adobe Stock

Plant-based diets showed statistically significant improvement in pain measurements. Image © Maksym Yemelyanov via Adobe Stock

Potential that diet can help

However, the researchers noted that there were several limitations to the review – notably that particiapant adherence to diet had not been considered, and that the majority of participants were female.

Despite this, they said ‘the results from this systematic literature review suggest that there is potential that diet can be helpful in improving pain symptoms in patients with FMS’.

“From this review, plant-based diets seem to have more consistent and overall success in lessening pain symptoms than elimination/restrictive diets,” they added.

Researchers recommended that further studies should be carried out with regards to all the diet categories in the review, with larger sample sizes and more participants.

They wrote: “Furthermore, using dietary intervention implementation strategies to enhance participants’ adherence to the diet regimen, and including body weight and biomarker measurements to explore potential biological mechanisms are other ways to advance research.

“In terms of clinical application, there is currently very weak to insufficient evidence for any of the four diet categories to change the status of ‘no recommended diet’ for FMS in the clinical practice.”

Looking to make a healthy change? Learn the benefits of a whole food plant based diet

Featured image © fizkes via Adobe Stock

Written by

Maria Chiorando

Maria is an editor and journalist. Her work has been published by the Huffington Post, the Guardian, TechnoBuffalo, Plant Based News, and Kent on Sunday among other national and regional titles.

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