Fibromyalgia & IBS – What’s the Connection?
Do you have aches & pains in your muscles AND abdominal cramps & bloating?
If you have been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) you are statistically much more likely to suffer from Fibromyalgia.
And vice versa, if you have fibromyalgia there is a good chance you suffer from IBS.
Recent studies have found that 60% of patients with IBS also have fibromyalgia & 70% of patients with fibromyalgia also have IBS.
That is a whopping overlap of fibromyalgia & IBS.
What are Fibromyalgia & IBS?
Fibromyalgia & IBS are both chronic pain conditions that are caused by a hypersensitivity of the nervous system.
In IBS the pain pathways connecting the gut & the mind are overly sensitive.
People suffering from IBS experience a range of digestive distress such as cramps, bloating, constipation or diarrhoea & severe abdominal pain.
In Fibromyalgia the pain signals connecting the skin & muscles to the brain are overly sensitive.
People suffering from fibromyalgia often experience muscle pain & aches, tender points & debilitating fatigue. For more information on the telltale signs of fibromyalgia read this.
Fibromyalgia & IBS have a number of similarities:
- both are functional pain disorders which means your body is not working as it should but doctors cannot find abnormalities in your tissues or body chemicals
- both occur predominantly in women
- most sufferers developed the symptoms (or they got worse) after stressful or traumatic events
- sufferers usually have disturbed sleep & fatigue
- many people find therapy, counselling, or learning psychological techniques effective in relieving symptoms
- certain medications can treat symptoms of both conditions
Pain is the number one symptom that overlaps with the conditions of IBS & fibromyalgia.
If you would like to learn more about the science of pain & how to combat an overly sensitive nervous system join our free mini-course here.
Natural Treatment for Fibromyalgia & IBS
Many people with fibromyalgia & IBS (or both) respond very well to natural therapies.
Stress fuels both fibromyalgia & IBS so reducing the impact of stress in your life is key to reducing your symptoms.
A proven way to reduce stress & relieve the symptoms of fibromyalgia & IBS is to adopt a holistic approach to wellness for body, mind & social well-being:
- Exercise – your body produces natural pain relieving & feel-good chemicals when you exercise. Remember – no amount is too small to start! If you haven’t been active for a while you might like to check out our guides on how to start exercising again & the best free exercise vids to try at home.
*Don’t overdo it! Go easy & pace yourself! Check out this guide on how to avoid injury when exercising here*
- Relaxation – de-stressing is key so do what works for you. Many people find acupuncture, massage or mindfulness/meditation very helpful. For our guide to 3 Minute Mindfulness for Pain click here.
- Psychological strategies – Long gone is the stigma of seeking a little psychological help. It is widely accepted that everyone (no matter how resilient) needs to look after their emotional & mental health. People find strategies such as counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) & Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) enormously helpful.
If you would like to learn more about a pain program to empower you with strategies for body, mind & social well-being click here.
IBS & Fibromyalgia Diet
Diet can be a vital key to combatting the symptoms of fibromyalgia & IBS.
There is a lot of evidence to suggest that food intolerances can cause a flare-up of symptoms.
As with all things health related there is no one size fits all solution & this includes diet.
Foods containing gluten or dairy often get a bad wrap but you might not notice a difference by eliminating them from your diet.
Vice versa gluten or dairy might be the main offenders for you.
One diet that is proven to significantly improve the symptoms of IBS is the FODMAP diet.
Studies suggest that a massive 86% of IBS patients get good results from a FODMAP diet.
Preliminary studies have also found that the FODMAP diet may help to improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
A study found the tummy related symptoms of fibromyalgia improved greatly after the FODMAP diet.
And excitingly 25% of people found an improvement in symptoms such as tenderness, muscle ache & fatigue.
What is the FODMAP Diet?
FODMAPS are sugars that aren’t absorbed by the body properly. The FODMAP diet focuses on excluding or reducing foods high in FODMAPS.
Surprisingly many healthy foods such as cauliflower, apples, onions, pulses & cashew nuts are high in FODMAPS.
The ‘elimination phase’ of the FODMAP diet usually only lasts 6-8 weeks after which time most people notice a real improvement in symptoms.
After the initial elimination phase, your gut should have healed enough to slowly reintroduce FODMAP foods.
When you begin to reintroduce foods you will probably notice that some are much worse offenders than others.
You can avoid these foods to reduce the likelihood of a flare in symptoms.
The FODMAP diet was developed by Monash University in Australia & they have some brilliant resources & a mobile app. You can find more information on their website.
Fibromyalgia & IBS are both chronic pain conditions that share a lot of symptoms.
The number one shared symptom of fibromyalgia & IBS is pain.
If you have fibromyalgia there is a very good chance you have IBS & vice versa.
Although there is no known cure for IBS or fibromyalgia both conditions respond really well to natural treatments.
If you live with fibromyalgia or IBS (or both) you will really benefit from adopting a holistic approach to wellness.
Diets such as FODMAP, exercise, relaxation & psychological techniques are proven to help reduce many of the symptoms.
For more information on self-care strategies for body, mind & social well-being check this out.
What strategies have you found helpful in reducing the symptoms of IBS or fibromyalgia?