May 12 is Fibro Awareness Day. At least every year, we like to check in with Dr. Ginevra Liptan, who is one of the nation’s experts on the disease. She became interested in fibromyalgia after she contracted it herself while in medical school. She has written books on the topic and has a practice devoted to treating “fibro” in Portland Oregon.
Her new book is The Fibro Food Formula addressing the importance of diet. We asked her a few questions about it:
National Pain Report: “The more one looks at the chronic pain and fibromyalgia conditions, the eating well, getting enough sleep and exercising recommendations are constant. Why did you write this book?”
Dr. Liptan: “I wrote The Fibro Food Formula because although most of us with fibromyalgia know what we eat matters to how we feel, there are two blocks we tend to run into. The first is not understanding exactly what we need to eat or not eat. “Should I go gluten-free or vegetarian, paleo or….?” And there is no one diet that is right for everyone with fibromyalgia, so I wrote the book to provide a step by step guide to help readers find the diet that is best for them.
“The second, even more challenging barrier is that when you are laid out with pain, fatigue, and fog, sometimes shopping, cooking, and even eating food seems too hard. So, the other focus of the book is to cover ways to make food prep simpler and take the least energy possible. To do this I partnered with a holistic nutritionist who deals with chronic illness herself to get tips and tricks to making it happen in real life. I also share my personal and other patients’ fibro-friendly cooking tips and recipes. Knowing where to focus your limited energy resources is the key to making a healthier diet happen in spite of fibromyalgia symptoms.”
National Pain Report: “If there’s a basic recommendation you give patients regarding their diet–what is it?
Dr. Liptan: “The basic recommendation I give is to eat more of the foods that help you to feel better, and less of those foods that make you feel worse. Foods that tend to help with fibromyalgia are those that are high in protein and densely nutritious fruits and vegetables. Foods that tend to generate inflammations are the ones we need to avoid- these tend to be gluten, dairy, high sugar foods. Although we are all individuals and we have to find which foods generate inflammation in our body, so good detective work must be done to watch how our bodies react to foods.”
National Pain Report: “Often when we talk with you, we neglect to ask how your own battle with fibromyalgia is going?”
Dr. Liptan: “Thanks for asking. This has been a stressful year, and definitely my symptoms flare up with stress. And with stress my self-care habits sometimes get neglected. The process of writing this book has reminded me of how absolutely vital it is that I focus on stress reduction and eating in ways that help me feel better.”
National Pain Report: “Finally, we almost always ask you for you to assess the climate for fibromyalgia patients these days. Are providers better at recognizing it? What needs to be done for further improvement?”
Dr. Liptan: “Absolutely! Providers are getting better at recognizing fibromyalgia and slowly the stigma is lessening. The biggest challenge facing fibromyalgia – and all chronic pain patients- is the paranoia around opiates. While opiates are imperfect tools, for some patients they are the only tool available to them to manage pain, due to insurance not covering the other, alternative treatments that are safer and more effective. In particular, I think myofascial release (MFR), a form of manual therapy done by specialized massage therapists and physical therapists, is the most effective fibromyalgia treatment but it is expensive and often not covered by insurance. My focus is on trying to find ways to fund more fibromyalgia research on things like MFR, so that we CAN convince insurance to cover it, and convince other doctors to recommend it.”