Weight Gain & Fibromyalgia, ME/CFS

One of my own personal biggest issues with Fibromyalgia has been the weight gain and my body’s resistance to lose it. When I am having a severe flare of ME/CFS where I am bedridden for weeks or months, I will usually lose about 20 – 25 pounds. But once the flare is over and I start to recover the weight comes back on and then some.

Over the years I have talked with many Fibromyalgia patients who all have the same story. It doesn’t seem to matter how little they eat, what diet they try, what exercises they do the weight refuses to come off. If they are able to lose weight, it is a short-lived process. They may lose a few pounds and then they plateau a lot sooner than they normally would.

Mark Pellegrino, MD who wrote Fibromyalgia: Up Close & Personal, says that it’s not unusual for someone with Fibromyalgia to gain 25 – 30 pounds the first year after becoming ill with Fibromyalgia.

When we first think of weight gain with Fibromyalgia, we automatically assume it is due to exercise and activity levels decreasing due to pain and fatigue. While this is definitely one reason, there are several other factors that can contribute to the weight gain:

Medications. Depending on the type of medication the FM patient is taking, weight gain can be a side effect. Antidepressants are typically prescribed for Fibromyalgia and weight gain is definitely a side effect of these.

Sleep Disorders. Sleep disorders, lack of sleep, & non-restorative sleep are all common in Fibromyalgia. Lack of sleep and the lack of stage 4 sleep seen in FM patients can cause weight gain, as recent research has noted. Lack of sleep also makes the metabolism slower and can increase the appetite.

Neuroendocrine Abnormalities. Research has revealed several hormone deficiencies in Fibromyalgia, such as serotonin, growth hormone, cortisol and thyroid, which can contribute to decreasing the bodys metabolism. There may also be an increased sensitivity to insulin, causing the body to go into a fat-storing mode.

In order to lose weight with Fibromyalgia, Dr. Pellegrinohas developed a food plan to help improve the metabolismand increase calorie burning in FM patients.It’s the pattern and types of foods used together that make the difference. Here’s what Dr. Pellegrino suggests (as reported by Karen Lee Richards on Chronic Pain Connection):

Eat a high-protein/low carbohydrate diet

“Focus on good proteins like lean meats, eggs, dairy products, tofu, soy meat substitutes and legumes. Limit carbohydrate intake to vegetables and fresh fruits. Include good fats, such as plant oils, fish oils, almonds and avocados. If you need a sweetener, use either a natural sweetener like Stevia or Xylitol or one of the artificial sweeteners on the market. Avoid sugar and other sweets, breads and pastas, rice, potatoes, partially hydrogenated oils, carbonated drinks, and alcohol except in moderation.”

Eat your proteins first.

Dr. Pellegrino says to never eat carbohydrates, even the good ones, alone. You should eat carbs with protein and always eat the protein first.

Eat until full.

At meal time, eat until full but do not stuff yourself. Eat slowly and chew your food well. Eat five to six times per day.

It can be three regular meals and two small snacks, three small meals and two larger snacks, or five small meals. Experiment and see what works best for you. If you have irritable bowel syndrome, you may find that you do better eating small portions more frequently.

Take a break on weekends.

Follow the plan strictly Monday through Friday but allow yourself to take a break on the weekend. If you know that you have two days that you can relax and splurge a little, it will be easier to follow the program during the week.

See your doctor first.

You should always consult with your doctor before starting a diet and/or exercise program. There are tests that should be done to rule out other causes of weight gain such as thyroid issues, Candida, hypoglycemia, and hormone deficiencies.

To purchase Mark Pellegrino’s book, Fibromyalgia: Up Close & Personal, click HERE.

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  1. Does anyone have any information and/or experience concerning chronic fatique, fibromyalgia, or IC disease and elevated liver enzymes and high cholesterol? Also, will any of these three EVER show up on an autoimmune blood test? I am in the process of, after more than 20 years, trying to get a diagnosis. I am so afraid that I will, once again, be told I need a psychiatrist…

    But, my liver enzymes are high (I drink wine with dinner, never hard alcohol, a glass of beer maybe once a year), and I’ve been on a low fat diet because of my husband’s cholesterol levels for over a year and my last cholesterol level was 280. Plus, no matter how little I eat, I can’t lose the weight…I’m 4’11” and weigh 136 pounds. 7 years ago, I weighed 90, and it just all piled on within one short year about 4 years ago.

    Is this typical? Are there connections of which I need to be aware? Are there any specific things I should request when it comes to tests? I am scheduled for a rheumatologist and a complete cardio this month, as well.

    Any help will be appreciated.

  2. Hi Janice, I have never heard of anyone with CFS, FM or IC Disease having high liver enzymes. There are currrently no blood tests that diagnose any of them either so they don’t show up on autoimmune blood tests. I’ve had CFS for almost 20 years and I didn’t have high cholesterol until a few years ago. I can relate to not being able to lose weight.

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