Although it may seem as though diet and hypermobility might not relate to one another, you would be surprised to find that they do, and more so than you would imagine! During the holidays, our hypermobility symptoms can flare up to a degree we are not accustomed to, and often, that can be due to our diet.
The holidays are a hard time for all of us when it comes to diet. Here are a few tips and tricks to manage your diet and your symptoms caused by your diet during the holiday season.
Table of contents
Your Current Diet
When looking at symptoms, especially during a flare-up, the first thing you want to think about is, "what is my current diet?" It's essential to start with a good, basic diet, such as whole foods, vegetables, and protein-rich foods.
If your current diet is currently composed of many highly processed foods, such as Oreos, or Cheetos, you're probably experiencing some diet-related flare-ups already. Somewhat akin to the car/gasoline analogy, what you put into your body, in turn, relates to your output.
If you're not taking in good nutrients, the food that your body really needs, you won't be able to move, function, and perform to the extent that you want to.
So, first and foremost, it's essential to set a healthy baseline for your diet before starting any other diet, such as an anti-inflammatory diet or elimination diet.
Anti-Inflammatory or Elimination Diet
Once you have ruled out any overly processed foods within your diet, the next cause of a hypermobility flare-up could be caused by foods that increase inflammation.
When starting an anti-inflammatory diet, you'll want to eliminate sugars, alcohols (which also is a type of sugar), lactose, dairy, and gluten.
When practicing an anti-inflammatory or elimination diet, keep in mind that just because one of these aspects may cause inflammation, not all do.
For instance, some people may need to eliminate all, and some people may just need to get rid of one or cut back enough to where they don't have as much trouble.
These types of diets can be super beneficial for some or not at all for others. It solely depends upon the person, especially when hypermobility comes into the picture, or hypermobility and secondary conditions.
When secondary conditions are introduced, different diets will apply, so keep in mind that when starting an anti-inflammatory/elimination diet, the parameters of that diet will depend upon each individual.
An example of one of these types of diets is the Whole 30 Diet. With the Whole 30 Diet, or really any elimination diet, if you're not seeing results within six months, then you can eliminate your flare-ups being solely linked to aspects of a diet such as sugars, alcohols, lactose, dairy, and gluten.
The Importance of Hydration
Along with elimination diets, another aspect of diet that people often tend to forget is hydration.
Hydration truly makes a massive impact upon those of us that struggle with hypermobility. Hydration can help with electrolyte issues, blood pressure issues, and more. Thus, it's crucial to make a point to consume six (at minimum) to eight glasses of water a day.
When the body is dehydrated, the connective tissues within the body feel stiffer and don't work as well. So, by hydrating, you are "lubricating" those connective tissues and hopefully minimizing hypermobile flare-ups.
Regular digestion is designed to work where our abdomen is a high-pressure cavity. So, what that means is our bodies need to generate quite a bit of pressure within our stomach area or abdomen to be able to move food through the colon.
If your body can't generate good force, then there's nowhere for that pressure to go. And when that happens, things tend to bog down, making digestion slower, more complicated, and painful.
Often, those struggling with hypermobility struggle with weakness in their core. This can occur due to abnormal muscle firing patterns (which is hugely common).
When these are present, people try to use their diaphragm or their rectus abdominis (aka the ab muscles that go right down the front of their abs) as their core, instead of their transverse abdominal muscles (the ones that wrap all the way around the side).
This ends up forming compression and causing discomfort, and even a flare-up. So, getting those specific muscles to work correctly and work aligned to hold you together is hugely vital for digestion. But don't worry, these abnormal firing patterns are super common with hypermobility,
These abnormal firing patterns come with coordination of the body's firing patterns and pelvic floor control. Although this part of digestion may be somewhat unknown to us, it is important to have all aspects of digestion working together.
Secondary Conditions You Need to Pay Attention To
Now, if you have dysfunction in that category, it's common to end up with secondary conditions, such as Vertical Bowel Syndrome or diverticulitis issues. This is where a specific diet can be helpful.
When our bodies encounter these issues, it is often when digestion within our bodies slows down or doesn't work or move how it's supposed to, which then creates abnormal bacteria levels within the gut.
Although you do need bacteria within your gut, you need the right bacteria and the right amount of bacteria, which helps break down food.
But, if you get the wrong bacteria in the wrong section of your gut, you can end up with secondary conditions like SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth).
With SIBO or some other secondary issues, after carbohydrates or sugar have been consumed, the body will bloat to an extremely uncomfortable extent. In this situation, a FODMAP diet, which eliminates those carbohydrates and sugars that are causing issues, can be extremely helpful.
Now, if you've struggled with diverticulitis pockets, where your body has experienced backup, and now your bowel has stretched, and pockets within your bowel have formed, that calls for a different type of diet. With diverticulitis, your diet will include more of an incorporation of fibers to make digestion easier and smoother for the body.
The Root Issue
When we look at these secondary conditions that our bodies are struggling with, we often forget where these issues stemmed from.
For instance, a past gallbladder surgery could be the root cause of the scar tissue that's keeping your abdominal muscles from getting their strength back, and unfortunately, those are the types of issues that recur.
So, for these symptoms to become manageable, it's important to incorporate a diet to help minimize these symptoms and keep them from exacerbating the issue.
The Role of The Nervous System
Hypermobile people who have mast cell issues can often start to become sensitive to foods that they weren't necessarily sensitive to before, which can be incredibly frustrating.
When this happens, it's important to ensure that you are taking good care of your immune system, engaging in stress management techniques, and working closely with your physician to minimize food sensitivities as much as possible, hopefully.
Paying Attention to Your Diet During The Holidays
Keeping a strict diet during the holidays can be incredibly difficult, but if you find that you're dealing with more flare-ups than usual, and you are also eating food types starting to create or increase hypermobility symptoms, try to incorporate a slight change or eliminate one food type within your diet.
Best of luck and happy holidays!
Do you want to live a hypermobility pain-free life? I'm launching a new Facebook Group, where we'll be sharing tips on managing chronic pain and hypermobility-related complex conditions. We've helped hundreds of clients with their hypermobility issues and hope that we can help you, too!