Diet to Specifically Address Fibromyalgia Symptoms like IBS and Allergies

If you suffer from fibromyalgia, you most likely suffer from other medical symptoms. While there are no known treatments to cure the widespread symptoms of fibromyalgia, a diet to specifically address fibromyalgia symptoms like IBS and allergies can help ease the symptoms suffered by countless patients.

Fibromyalgia is classified in medical fields as an arthritis- related disease. However, it is not a true form of arthritis because it does not result in inflammation or damage to joints, muscles, and body tissue. Yet, if you suffer from fibromyalgia you know that the disease is associated with pain, which can be very intense, and significant fatigue. Plus, it is commonly linked with other health problems.

It May Not End with Fibromyalgia: IBS

If you have fibromyalgia you may suffer from other symptoms in addition to painful muscles, joints, body tissue, and fatigue. In addition to chronic pain, fibromyalgia patients often incur memory problems, sleep problems, headaches, allergies, and irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. For example, you may suffer from the chronic pain of fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome concurrently. One study in patients with IBS noted an increased sensitivity to stretch receptors in the colon. This increased sensitivity can directly lead to the symptoms of IBS: abdominal pain, cramping, and urgent need to deficate. This is similar to the increased sensitivity to pain seen in fibromyalgia patients. Since both conditions are related to an increased sensitivity to stimuli, it is easy to see how the two are connected and often found in the same individual.

In some estimates, as many as sixty to seventy percent of fibromyalgia patents also suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. As with fibromyalgia, the reasons behind irritable bowel syndrome are unknown. Early research does indicate a link to psychological stress. However, anyone with the disease knows the symptoms, which occur quickly and without warning, can happen when you are calm and relaxed or when you are under stress.

Newer research shows that irritable bowel syndrome may be the result of food allergies or even sensitivities to certain foods. If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome you may be more susceptible to the symptoms during periods of stress or during menses. That being said, these are still not factors that lead anyone in the medical field to know how irritable bowel syndrome originally develops and why it is frequently associated with fibromyalgia.

Do You Think You Suffer from IBS?

If you are concerned that you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, and you have fibromyalgia, you will want to discuss your concerns with your doctor. There are several tests that can be performed for IBS and there are now medications, including anti-diarrheal medications and antidepressants that are prescribed for the disease. Anti-inflammatory medications are often suggested for the control of irritable bowel syndrome as well.

Food, Food Allergies, and IBS

One of the latest techniques in treating fibromyalgia patients who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome and food allergies is changing their diet. Doctors and patients are seeing great success in making small changes in diet.

What is the first step? Your doctor may ask you to keep a simple food journal to determine if what you eat, what you are doing when you eat, your mood when you eat, and other factors are having an impact on your bowels. You should plan on keeping this food journal for approximately one month minimum. This will give you a good picture of how your body responds to what you eat and your lifestyle. It may also help you discover a food allergy you did not even know you had.

There is evidence that keeping a food journal works. In one study, 21 patients diagnosed with IBS followed an elimination diet where they ate a strict diet consisting of specific ‘good’ food choices for one week.[1] On this diet, their symptoms disappeared. When symptom producing foods were added back into their diets they began to experience symptoms again.

Learn About Fiber

Fiber is an important part of your diet if you have fibromyalgia and will become even more important if you are experiencing irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.

First, let’s look at soluble fibers. These fibers draw water and basically form a gel like substance in your digestive system. They slow down the digestive process and will keep you feeling full for a longer period of time. Sources of soluble fiber include:

  • Oatmeal
  • Oats
  • Lentils
  • Oat bran
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Pears
  • Flax seeds
  • Strawberries
  • Nuts
  • Dried peas
  • Blueberries
  • Psyllium
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Celery

Insoluble fibers help move food through your gut – they wash out your digestive system. Insoluble fiber does not form a gel when mixed with water and does not dissolve when mixed with water. Instead of slowing down the passage of food through the digestive system, it makes the process go faster. Insoluble fiber has been shown to have a positive effect on IBS sufferers, especialy those with a constipation variant.[2]  Foods considered a good source of insoluble fiber are:

  • Green beans
  • Root veggie skins
  • Fruits
  • Raisins
  • Leafy veggies
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Cabbage
  • Zucchini
  • Bulgar
  • Brown rice
  • Whole wheat
  • Whole grains
  • Bran
  • Barley
  • Couscous

You might wonder why you need all this information on fiber. There is a relationship between a diet high in fiber and successfully controlling irritable bowel syndrome symptoms for fibromyalgia patients. You can add fiber to your diet in relatively simple ways: read product labels when you buy groceries like breads and cereals. Plus, eat a colorful diet. Greens, oranges, reds, and other colorful veggies will add good fiber choices to your diet. This will offer you a great mix of both soluble and insoluble fiber in your diet – the goal of which is to ease IBS pain and other symptoms.

Probiotics

Whether you know it or not, you have bacteria living in your digestive system. These bacteria are friendly and can help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome – if they are there. For many fibromyalgia patients, and others, the good bacteria that line the digestive tract have disappeared or been significantly reduced. This can happen for a variety of reasons.

It is important to get these friendly bacteria back into your system. You can do this by including probiotics in your diet. For patients with fibromyalgia who are experiencing IBS symptoms, restoring probiotics may be a great way to ease IBS pain and symptoms.[3] The following foods are sources of probiotics:

  • Acidophilus milk
  • Yogurt
  • Honey
  • Artichokes
  • Milk (goat)
  • Miso soup
  • Cheese (soft)
  • Sauerkraut
  • Olives (brined)
  • Activia

Triggers

If you have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia for any length of time, you are most likely familiar with trigger foods. These are the foods that make your symptoms worse when you eat them. Interestingly, many of these same foods are also considered trigger foods for IBS. When you digest these foods they upset your digestive tract.

Let’s look at some common IBS trigger foods:

  • High fat foods
  • Fried foods
  • Coconut milk
  • Caffeine

Foods high in fat and fried foods slow down movement through the digestive tract, and not in a good way. While they are moving through the gut, it takes longer for them to break down and they create more gas which leads to diarrhea or constipation, bloating, and other symptoms common with both fibromyalgia and IBS.

Food Allergies and Fibromyalgia

While keeping your food journal you may uncover food allergies that you did not know you had. Another way to determine food allergies for fibromyalgia patients is by undergoing food allergy testing. While further testing may be the last thing you want to do, it can have life changing results.

Food allergies for fibromyalgia patients can cause inflammation and lead to pain, fatigue and other symptoms including IBS symptoms. A simple change in diet can often alleviate these symptoms – once you know you are allergic to certain foods.

Every fibromyalgia patient is different. One patient may be able to tolerate one type of food while it may cause severe problems for another patient. Sometimes, a food allergy test is the only way to know if you are allergic to certain foods.

You can discover a new way to eat for better health. A diet to specifically address fibromyalgia associated symptoms like IBS and allergies is possible. With small changes in your current diet you can find relief from your pain and fatigue.

References

[1]  Gary, A. (2004). Food Intolerance as a Cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients , 34.

[2]  Heizer, W. ,. (2011). The Role of Diet in Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Adults. Journal of the American Dietetic Association , 1204.

[3]  Young, G. (2008). The Bacteria Diet. Nature Reviews Microbiology .

This article was originally published on July 11, 2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/7/2015