Raw Vegetable Diet

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There is some evidence to suggest that eating vegetarian and vegan diets may help improve the symptoms associated with Fibromyalgia; however, only three studies have been done to evaluate the link between vegetarian diets and Fibromyalgia, and they are limited by small numbers of subjects and flaws in design. Larger, more well-designed studies are needed to fully explore this possible association.

A study[1] published in 2001 looked at the effects of a vegetarian diet on the symptoms and functioning of 30 individuals (28 women, 2 men) with Fibromyalgia, all of whom had a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia confirmed by a rheumatologist. Each subject was supplied with a number of books to educate them on the “Hallelujah diet,” a faith-based diet which emphasizes raw food, the use of several dietary supplements, and exercise. Subjects were also asked to attend a motivational presentation on the basics of the Hallelujah diet to help them reassess how they view food and health. Study subjects were encouraged to eat diets rich in fresh fruit, salads, raw vegetables, carrot juice, nuts, seeds, whole grain products, potatoes, flax seed oil and extra virgin olive oil. They were asked to refrain from substances like alcohol, caffeine, foods containing refined sugar, corn syrup hydrogenated oils, refined flour, dairy, eggs, and all forms of meat. The researchers surveyed each subject at the beginning and end of the study to assess their physical performance. Subjects also completed questionnaires at specific times throughout the study in order to provide information about their Fibromyalgia symptoms, quality of life, and food intake.

When the results were analyzed, the researchers found that roughly half of the subjects showed improvement in physical performance measures such as pain during shoulder movement, flexibility, and pain while walking. In addition, quality of life for subjects also improved over time, increasing as the study continued. By the end of the study, measures of physical function, general health, vitality, social functioning, emotions, and mental health were all improved and not statistically different from the normal measures for women between the ages of 45 and 54. The one exception was the bodily pain measure, which did not show improvement over time. This may be because the diet had no effect, or because the survey used to measure bodily pain was not effective in doing so (Donaldson et al., 2001).

The authors attributed the success of their findings to both physiological (bodily) and psychological (mental) factors, and suggest that the change in diet gave people the motivation to take control over their symptoms and to overcome their inactivity and disability (Donaldson et al., 2001).

An even smaller study conducted by Hostmark et al. also looked at the effects of a vegetarian diet on the symptoms and blood characteristics of ten individuals with Fibromyalgia. They found that the diet improved the overall well-being of the subjects and also improved blood levels of cholesterol, peroxides, and certain blood markers of inflammation (Hostmark et al., 1993).

One other study has investigated the link between diet and Fibromyalgia. Kaartinen et al. looked at the effects of a very strict, low-salt, raw vegan diet on the symptoms of Fibromyalgia in 18 subjects. Vegan diets are exclusive of all animal products and by-products. For comparison, the authors also evaluated 15 additional subjects who continued their normal diets, which included vegetables, meat and animal products. In this particular study, the researchers found that pain, joint stiffness, sleep quality, and health status all improved for those who consumed the vegan diet. A majority of the subjects were also overweight when the study began, and the vegan diet appeared to help those individuals reduce their weight (Kaartinen et al., 2000). The scope of the study did not extend to evaluating whether the improvement in symptoms was directly related to the Vegan diet or to weight loss,  but it is interesting to note that other studies have demonstrated a clear link between the severity of Fibromyalgia symptoms and obesity.

Although these studies show encouraging results, it is important to bear in mind that they are limited in their scope and evaluated small numbers of patients. More research is needed in order to determine if there is true benefit to vegetarian and vegan diets as a means of treating the symptoms associated with Fibromyalgia. While these findings are encouraging, they should be taken with caution.

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[1] It is important to note that the main researcher for this study is employed by the Hallelujah Acres Foundation, which exists for investigations that pertain to the Hallelujah Diet, and that funding for the study was provided by the Hallelujah Acres Foundation.

References

1.        Donaldson MS, Speight N, Loomis S. Fibromyalgia syndrome improved using a mostly raw vegetarian diet: an observational study. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2001;1(7):Epub Sept 26.

2.        Hostmark AT, Lystad E, Vellar OD, Hovi K, Berg JE. Reduced plasma fibrinogen, serum peroxides, lipids, and apolipoproteins after a 3- week vegetarian diet. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 1993;43:55-61.

Kaartinen K, Lammi K, Hypen M, Nenonen M, Hanninen O, Rauma AL. Vegan diet alleviated Fibromyalgia symptoms. Scand J Rheumatol. 2000;29:308-313

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