I first learned of Dr. Ginevra Liptan, Portland, Ore.-based fibromyalgia specialist, director of The Frida Center for Fibromyalgia and #fibrowarrior herself, the week of my diagnosis in March 2018. My pain doctor in New Orleans prescribed Low-Dose Naltrexone (LDN) during my diagnosing appointment. One of the first links that came up when I Googled the med was Dr. Liptan’s LDN blog post. I soon read her site, full blog, and comprehensive book, The Fibro Manual. Now I watch her YouTube channel and use many of the fibro tools she recommends as well as her Frida Botanicals line of CBD products.
I’m grateful that the fibro community has such an insightful and relatable physician, researcher, author, empathetic patient, and frontline advocate. In the following interview, Dr. Liptan answers questions on subjects she writes about in her new book, The Fibro Food Formula, as well as what’s next on the fibro horizon.
JBC: I’m currently on a “lose the second baby weight (she’s four!) plus pity eating and pain weight” diet as suggested by my GP. When I began my diet, I felt extra fibro-crappy. Then I realized thanks to your book, The Fibro Food Formula, that I needed to diet fibro-smart. What should fibrowarriors focus on most re our daily eating habits?
GL: Remember that dealing with fibromyalgia is hard enough—trying to follow a super strict diet that takes away all our comfort foods is just not fair. That is why I flamed out spectacularly on day 17 of my attempt to do the Whole 30 diet. I wasn’t allowing myself any treats. That experience reminded me that I personally use food as a self-bribery system so I still have to indulge my sweet tooth, but now I try to do it in ways that are less likely to cause a flare. For me, dairy is not my friend. So I have learned it is much kinder to reward myself with a piece of dark chocolate rather than chocolate ice cream. Ice cream for me is a delicious temptress that ALWAYS results in a fibro flare. So my best advice is to try to find ways to feed your cravings or feed your sweet tooth in ways that are easier on your body.
Secondly, if you are trying to lose weight with fibromyalgia, know that a super low carb diet like Keto, Paleo or Whole 30 can be hard to tolerate for the fibro body and result in more fatigue, brain fog and anxiety. For weight loss, it is best to increase protein and decrease carbs, but be gentler on the carbohydrate reduction if you have fibromyalgia so that you don’t feel extra “fibro-crappy.” (I loved that term, I may need to steal that!)
Protein is what fuels our cells the best and keeps our blood sugar at a more stable level. Simply eating more protein each day and eating protein more frequently can improve brain function and reduce fatigue. I suggest aiming for a total of about 80 grams of protein per day, ideally spread out over the day by eating some protein every few hours.
JBC: I often find reading sample food diaries helpful. You list many suggestions of what to eat in your book. Could you give an example of what you eat on a typical day?
GL: Okay, I am going to tell you (in embarrassingly honest detail) what I ate over the last two days. One represents a day when I was spending energy on food prep and being smarter about choosing food, and in the other I was too busy and drained to put in any effort. Both of these types of days happen to all of us!
Day 1- The “Good” Day Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and smoked salmon; Lunch: Leftover chicken and rice and green beans from dinner last night; Snack: Handful of nuts; Dinner: Taco seasoned ground beef, guacamole, lettuce, corn chips
Day 2- The “Not as good” day Breakfast: Clif Builder Bar; Snack: Spoonful of peanut butter; Lunch: Half a donut (with gluten! Why? It wasn’t even that tasty and then my stomach hurt all afternoon); Dinner: Gluten-free frozen pizza and side salad
JBC: You’re very much on top of current research, studies and treatments. What’s next in the fibro treatment world?
GL: Cannabis-based medications, both CBD only and those that also contain THC, are going to be increasingly studied and recommended as legitimate treatments for fibromyalgia. Another treatment to keep your eyes on is hyperbaric oxygen treatments for fibromyalgia. A large study in Israel is finishing soon that was based on success in smaller study showing fibromyalgia symptom reduction AND changes in brain activity indicating more normalized pain response after hyperbaric treatments.
Thank You, Dr. Liptan!