1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

Adrienne Dellwo

Holiday Food Sensitivities With Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

By December 16, 2009

Follow me on:

Holiday Blog Classic: Those Tempting Foods!

One of the many aspects of fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS or ME/CFS) is food sensitivities. This time of year, with all the traditional holiday foods, poses a real challenge for those of us who pay consequences for eating the wrong things.

Food sensitivities can cause digestive or intestinal problems, inflammation, fatigue, immune system abnormalities, headaches, depression, muscle pain, coordination problems and cognitive issues. Hmmm ... where have I heard that constellation of symptoms before? Ah yes - FMS, ME/CFS and other conditions linked to central sensitization.

As with so many other things, food sensitivities can make our symptoms worse. For some, it's just a little bit worse. For others, food sensitivities can be debilitating (think irritable bowel syndrome and Celiac disease.) This is my first holiday season after being diagnosed with gluten intolerance, so I've had to find some new Thanksgiving recipes and think long and hard about how to get through Christmas parties.

The first step toward managing your food sensitivities is to identify them, through symptom journaling and/or an elimination diet. After that, it's all about avoidance, and that's especially difficult during the holidays. A few simple tricks can help you resist temptation:

  • When you're going to a party or event, don't arrive hungry! If you're only nibbling on a few things, you're less likely to over-indulge in the things that don't suit you.
  • Plan to take a day or two to recover from holiday parties. (This is a good idea even if you don't have food sensitivities!)
  • Make sure friends and family know about your food issues and work with them on alternatives.
  • Find alternative recipes for your favorite things so you can safely indulge.

What are your food sensitivities and how do you deal with them this time of year? What food-related nightmares have you had? Leave your comments below!

Learn more or join the conversation!


Suggested Reading:

Photo © David Ellis/Getty Images

December 16, 2009 at 10:20 am
(1) Liz says:

I’ve yet to find any individual foods that I’m particularly sensitive, too, despite elimination diets and journaling and all that stuff. However, my husband and I went vegan over a month ago as an experiment and I’ve noticed that my once agonizing IBS has pretty much disappeared. I’ve even been able to stop taking my meds when eating out or on long trips without worry. Plus, I feel a little better in general and – most significantly for me – I don’t have as much problems recovering from exercise or a long day. I can push myself and not worry as much about tomorrow (and the next day). I even had a cold for the first time in years, which may seem like a bad thing but I take it as a sign that my immune system is doing better. And I’m even losing weight again! Hallelujah!

Of course, it’s not a cure, but as you can imagine, that all makes me want to stay on this diet long term. The one time I “cheated” I felt awful like I used to and it was NOT worth it. But with so many family dinners and trips and stuff it has been a bit of hassle. We’ve had to hurry up and learn a lot of new recipes, the kind we can take and share. And I don’t know what I’d do without my husband since he handles a lot of the cooking. But, it’s definitely been worth it.

December 17, 2009 at 10:35 am
(2) Rosalie says:

I’ve been sick on and off for almost 4yrs…. I had severe food allergies 9yrs ago (think wheat, beef, corn, peas, carrots etc…plus b/c of outside allergies I was supposed to stay away from a lot of fruits, peanuts, tree nuts) But mine was more digestive issues (oddly enough- b/c they all showed on the skin test) but I would only swell shut a few times and the allergy shots (which helped) were what caused it- I now carry an Epi Pen. I have Factor V (Blood clot disorder) Weakened immune system….they just diagnosed fibro. 2 weeks ago, which explains the horrible pain for 3yrs (I’m 34, btw). And after having memory issues for a few years (and testing negative on an actual Celiac test) Barne’s Hospital ran a genetic test for Celiac which was positive (imagine that- since I had an allergy to it 9yrs back!). The neurologist put me back on a gluten free diet and within 3weeks I was much better. He said I have gluten sensitivities and it doesn’t show b/c Im not full blown with the disease. The thing that made the HUGEST POSITIVE DIFFERENCE FOR ME??? MRM Vegetable digestive enzymes. I had major issues with what I was eating- all of my allergy testing shows negative now (which we know isn’t true bc I broke out in hives from almonds, which I was allergic too- neurologist said its b/c that only tests the IG-E (I think?) Anways…I have to take 2 30minutes before I eat anything….1 before a snack. The rash I had on my hands for 3yrs that was biopsied 3 times and no one could figure out- is GONE.

If you have problems, upper, lower etc…with foods- the enzymes are awesome. They really made a world of difference!

December 18, 2009 at 10:29 pm
(3) Sita says:

I’m allergic to (ready for the list?): eggs, dairy, sesame seeds, radishes, blueberries, and coffee beans. *phew*

For the sesame seeds, radishes, blueberries, and coffee beans I just avoid them. They are the easiest ones to deal with. With the eggs and dairy allergy, that’s a bit tougher but luckily I enjoy cooking and baking when my body lets me do it so I still get yummy foods. I use soy or almond milk (plain for recipes-usually baking), chicken broth in place of milk in mashed potatoes, soy dairy free spreads in place of butter, and tofutti “better than cream cheese”-which tastes pretty darn good.

It may seem like a lot of allergies (those aren’t even counting my medication environmental allergies!) but they are fairly mild reactions (I just get a pretty upset tummy but no epi pens) and I always think: at least I’m not allergic to wheat, gluten, corn, or soy!

The main downfall (but also a plus) is that I can’t just have “bad” food (cookies, ect) on a whim since I actually have to make them and I usually don’t have energy for that. This is why it’s a plus too…I don’t eat them as often. :)

December 19, 2009 at 12:18 am
(4) Kathryn says:

Bread and sugar are my two biggies. I’m not allergic to them, just feel awful after eating them. It’s not hard to say no when you know you’ll pay later! Lost some weight too, 25 pounds! Woo-hoo!

December 19, 2009 at 1:16 am
(5) Liz says:


Do you get any other symptoms other than an upset stomache? Wheezing? Hives? Swollen lips? If not then that sounds like food intolerances more than allergies. Still good to avoid, though. FYI, you’d love/hate some of the shops around me. Plenty of vegan treats without dairy or eggs! Ice cream, cupcakes, cookies, marshmallows, you name it!

In related news, I had the worst experience with a waiter the other night who apparently doesn’t know that cheese is dairy and who insisted a dish was egg free twice before I insisted he talk to the chef. Turns out, there wasn’t even anything vegan at the restaurant except some mediocre hummus and some drinks. I hate restaurants like that. Good thing I wasn’t allergic because I had to taste the dish to realize that the waiter was lying. He better be glad I wasn’t since I would have loved to sue his ass.

December 19, 2009 at 3:03 am
(6) AutumnSpencer says:

I have allergies,too. I have gotten the book called, “What TO EAT FOR YOUR BLOOD TYPE’, from Barnes and Nobles. I followed it for 2 months. At thanksgiving, I ate everything that was on the highly avoid list. I swelled, my eyes became red, my IB hurt, my stomach distended like I was pregnant, not to mention Fibrofog. The book is listed for all bloodtypes, and addresses issues with autoimmune diseases, allergies, diabetes,etc. and Fibro. If you eat wheat(I have always eaten wheat because it is good for you),but if your body thinks of it as toxic, you have disfunction and no homeostasis. It is worth looking at esp if yuou have been allergy tested. I have a friend that had excema, and he & his wife followed the program. He does not break out in hives & the excema is gone. His Dr. is like WHY? and what have you been doing? The DR is astonished, mainly because of the improvement,but also nonconventional treatment. It’s hard to avoid foods you love, but if the symptoms go away, you cannot argue with that. I am back to the eating plan. It is not the answer, but it helps . Remember at Barnes and Nobles, yuo can relax and read. I have even taken notes. I love this website and appreciate the hard work Adrenienne puts into it. Merry Christmas, everyone!

December 22, 2009 at 3:46 am
(7) Enibas says:

Soooo true!! (This being a difficult time for people suffering from some of the main food allergies).
I allow my self to sometimes eat dairy products, sugared and all. And while i am allergic to cow’s milk, that allergy is not so bad. However, the gluten sensitivity seems to be much more a very real issue for myself.
(It almost scares me, because I feel so different (worse!)
That is why i allow myself dairy, in this season maybe every 3. day or so, and I am not drinking milk (!) A piece of Pumpkin Cheesecake, some quality icecreams, and the urge for comfort and fun food is satisfied (no, bearable!)
for a few days….I avoid citrus, very allergic, but that’s easier.
Nightmares – well, they are not about food, but the food and theconsequences certainly have an effect on sleep and highter occurence of nightmares, all kinds of nightmares. And while chocolate makes me sleepy, the sleep thereafter is not good!
May I add here a Big Thank You for this very helpful blog!!

Best wishes for the holidays! And a very Merry Christmas!!

December 22, 2009 at 9:50 pm
(8) Liza says:


I haven’t tried it yet, but there is a recipe for non-dairy pumpkin cheesecake in The Uncheese Cookbook. I’m looking forward to trying it! There is also some great vegan non-dairy ice cream out there, too.

December 24, 2009 at 12:22 pm
(9) Liz says:

For those who can’t tolerate egg or dairy, you might like Silk Nog. I just tried some and it is heavenly.

December 13, 2011 at 10:51 am
(10) Susan says:

How about idea’s for baking without eggs in addition to NO soy, gluten, corn and nuts. I’ve tried to use the dry egg replacement and flax seed but nothing comes out that great.

I get severe muscle pain from these and sugars also.

December 13, 2011 at 3:37 pm
(11) Jane says:

I have stoped eating sugar plus other foods (coffee, cheese, most dairy) but sugar is the one that has made such a big diffrence. I was eating alot of sugar foods, and thought I could never do it. but it has made such a good diffrence I continue.

December 13, 2011 at 3:48 pm
(12) jane says:

my treat I alow myself is two squares of 70% lindor choclate every week. Sometimes I save it for a birthday party and eat it when everyone else is eating cake and icecream. It gives me something special and my family then don’t feel bad having their treats in front of me.
Sometimes, usally with pms, I have a piece of choclate with a bannana and peanut butter…thats my big spluge! LOL

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>
  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.