The effects of hidden food additives on Fibromyalgia symptoms

Fibromyalgia stole several years of my life. In 2002, I came down with what I thought was the flu – but it just wouldn’t go away, and doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. Nothing they did for me seemed to help. After more than 15 different prescription medications, countless appointments with various specialists and more than a handful of diagnostic procedures; I was eventually diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. For years, I lived in pure misery, suffering from a debilitating “invisible” illness for which doctors told me there was no treatment, no cure and no known cause.

Fortunately, in 2007, I stumbled upon some information that changed my life forever. I learned that there are ingredients in processed foods (e.g., high-fructose corn syrup, MSG, artificial colors/sweeteners) that are making people sick, tired and overweight. Immediately upon reading this information, my husband and I inspected the ingredients label on everything we were eating; and we came to the harsh realization that what we had been putting into our bodies wasn’t really even food. Every ingredient label in our kitchen was filled with mysterious words and chemical names!

Without hesitation, we completely purged our kitchen of processed foods and mysterious chemical ingredients – we threw food away, gave food away, and even sold some of it at our garage sale! We said good-bye forever to things like Lean Cuisine meals, Slim Fast bars, soda, chewing gum, ice cream and fast food. We began making all of our food at home…from scratch. We scrutinized the ingredients label on everything we purchased from that point on; and if it contained even one word that we didn’t fully recognize as having come from nature, we didn’t put it in our grocery cart. We also began to seek out local farmers and purchase as much food as we could directly from them – we wanted to fill our bodies with foods from the earth, not chemicals from a lab.

Within just a few months of these dietary changes, I realized that I was no longer in any pain and my fatigue and all of my other symptoms had completely dissipated, as well. No longer were my arms so weak that I could barely drive. No longer was I too fatigued to get out of bed. No longer was I in so much pain that I couldn’t bear to accept a hug from my loved ones. Actually, I couldn’t remember the last time I had suffered an episode of the abdominal cramping, insomnia, chest pains or racing heart beat that had plagued me for the last 5 years, either. In fact, it seemed that I felt better and had more energy than most people I knew (and 5 years later this is still the case for both of us – as long as we eat a completely additive-free diet)! So I kept reading every book I could get my hands on, and I still haven’t stopped educating myself about avoiding food additives and preparing natural, wholesome foods. The more I have learned about food additives, the more shocked and disgusted I’ve become. And when I read about the array of health problems (headaches/migraines, Fibromyalgia, digestive problems, cancer, chronic pain and fatigue, anxiety, depression, etc.) that are associated with these chemicals, it made me very angry!

One of the food additives that upset me the most is Monosodium Glutamate (“MSG”). Perhaps you are aware of the health effects associated with the MSG that is commonly used in Chinese food. However, many consumers are not aware that this very same MSG is added to all sorts of foods at restaurants and grocery stores, as well. Soups, potato chips, frozen dinners…and even foods that you would assume are just one ingredient (e.g., peanuts or sour cream) often contain MSG. MSG is a highly- processed food additive that is added to foods as a flavor enhancer. By over-stimulating our taste buds, MSG tricks our brains into thinking that a food item tastes good.

Unfortunately, according to experts like neurosurgeon Dr. Russell Blaylock, M.D., MSG also over-stimulates and disrupts our nervous systems which causes and exacerbates an array of health conditions (Fibromyalgia, headaches/migraines, vision problems, digestive distress, heart attacks, hyperactivity, obesity, infertility, etc.). For this reason, Dr. Blaylock refers to MSG (and artificial sweeteners, such as Aspartame) as an “excitotoxin.” Physiological responses to these excitotoxins are not allergic reactions – MSG and Aspartame are toxins, so everyone is sensitive to their effects to some degree.

Of course, it is best for all consumers to limit ingestion of MSG. Unfortunately, labeling laws have made this task difficult. By hiding MSG on ingredients labels under innocent-sounding names, such as “natural flavor” or “yeast extract,” food companies can legally add this toxin to food while preventing consumers from realizing it’s in there. With the many dozens of hidden names for MSG on food labels, avoiding this toxin can be challenging. One way to limit your exposure to MSG is to prepare all of your foods at home…from scratch. Even then, you must be certain to check the ingredients label of every item you use in your recipes because hidden MSG is often lurking in places you’d never suspect, such as some brands of canned tomato paste and canned tuna!

Of course, food additives are not the only factor to consider when treating Fibromyalgia. There are a variety of natural approaches that provide relief for those who are suffering. I am not a doctor, and I am certainly not advising anyone to abort their current treatment plan. However, “we are what we eat,” so I do encourage everyone to scrutinize their diets and to eat as many additive-free foods as possible. I am thankful everyday that I have found a solution that has worked for me and so many others.

Research about the effects of food additives on Fibromyalgia has been limited, but promising results were published many years ago in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy. I hope to see more studies conducted in the future. Until then, I will continue educating consumers about the health-depleting effects of food additives, sharing my personal return-to-health story, and teaching people how to shop for and prepare natural, additive-free foods.

I know that these changes seem overwhelming and there are a million “reasons” why you “can’t” make these changes. Believe me, I felt the same way! Just five years ago, I was eating fast food, candy, diet pop and frozen dinners. I had no idea how to cook, and I was also battling a chronic illness and suffering from extreme fatigue, weakness and pain. So, if I can make these changes, anyone can!! It’s just a decision that each of us must make to take an active role in maximizing our own health and wellness and to make conscious decisions about what we put into our bodies. I truly hope that you will consider the information that I have presented here and start doing your own research to begin making changes in your own life.

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