Small steps: The role of diet and nutrition in hypermobility

One piece of advice every person with a chronic illness must be tired of hearing is that they ‘just need a healthier diet’. We all know that eating more fruit and veg is not going to suddenly cure hypermobility and EDS, however much kale we eat! But, paying attention to food and nutrition is an essential ‘small step’ in properly managing the symptoms of hypermobility and EDS. It’s one thing I found really helped my symptoms and energy levels.  There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but nutrition and diet do have a part to play in managing or even alleviating certain symptoms.

So far, there’s been little in the way of research into the relationship between food and hypermobile EDS – this is something the EDS Society is currently looking to research and is campaigning to change.   I cannot wait to hear more about this project.

But this is what we do know: the existing evidence finds no relationship between hypermobility and diet or supplements, but there is a definite correlation between EDS and food allergies, and hypermobility and GI conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).   I suffered from IBS for 20 years without realising it was linked to my hypermobility. I’ve now managed to reduce those symptoms and pain through my diet.

Hypermobility and EDS often mean that the muscles which help the gut work are weakened, which causes digestive issues. Adapting and monitoring your diet has been shown to help with these symptoms. Properly nourishing yourself and eating well will also help you to feel stronger and have more energy. These are all small steps which will help you when dealing with the day-to-day symptoms of hypermobility and EDS as well as the conditions that go hand-in-hand with them.

Of course, everybody is different, and certain foods affect certain people differently. You may even have an idea of what your ‘trigger foods’ are if you deal regularly with hypermobility-related digestive issues. My advice would be to keep a food diary for a couple of weeks which documents what you eat, how you feel, and the severity of your symptoms. This could help you spot which foods or types of foods you react to, so you can work out which ones to cut out or eat less of. It might also be worth trying to avoid foods which are known to be inflammatory for a lot of people, like dairy, wheat or eggs, or trying the FODMAP diet, which has benefited many people with IBS.

Perhaps the most confusing advice is when it comes to supplements. Anecdotal evidence suggests collagen-boosting supplements could be beneficial, but there is no scientific evidence for this. My recommendation would be only to do what makes you feel good. But do remember that foods containing the same nutrients could very likely have the same effect.

Some other suggestions which will help you look after your body, and could lessen symptoms include:

  • Including more probiotics in your diet. You can get prebiotic supplements, but they are found in many different foods, including fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, miso or sauerkraut.
  • Eating plenty of antioxidants and fibre, green vegetables, grains and pulses.
  • Avoiding refined carbohydrates and sugars, as well as alcohol and artificial sweeteners, which are known gut irritants.
  • Sugars and processed foods are also inflammatory products – so an excess of these in the diet an going to cause inflammatory reactions in the body.
  • Eating the right diet for YOU, will also make you feel more energised.  With increased energy, you will feel more inclined to want to move and to exercise – which is essential for strengthening hypermobile bodies.

Food is your fuel, it keeps you and your body going, so it’s important to give your body the best fuel possible. It impacts all areas.  This is true for everyone, whether they have hypermobility or not – but when you are facing flare-ups or pain, it’s more important than ever to avoid inflaming your body further and nourish yourself with food that looks after your hypermobile body.

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