By Ed Coghlan
The pain associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can be quite intense. The pain associated with fibromyalgia is also difficult to endure.
About 70% of patients with fibromyalgia also have IBS, which affects over 25 million people in the U.S.
“In general, it is likely that they coexist for years, but they can flare at the same time or at different times,” Lin Chang, MD, co-director of the Oppenheimer Center for Neurobiology of Stress told WebMD.
IBS is characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and nausea. Alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea are common. IBS reflects a digestive system that is operating in fits and starts, like a car with a transmission problem. This is in part due to the excessive activity of the fight or flight nervous system that occurs in fibromyalgia. Efforts to induce a relaxation response and spend more time with the nervous system in rest-and-digest mode, rather than fight-or-flight mode will help reduce its symptoms.
“Another good treatment for IBS is a daily probiotic supplement to restore a healthy balance of bacteria in the intestine” said Dr. Ginevra Liptan, who runs a fibromyalgia practice near Portland, Oregon. “To keep up a diverse balance of intestinal bacteria I recommend changing brands every few months to ones with different species. Avoiding foods that cause food sensitivities can also help reduce IBS. The most common culprits are gluten and dairy. It is worth doing a 6-week gluten free trial, followed by a 6-week dairy free trial to determine the effects this might have on your IBS symptoms.”
Dr. Liptan’s new book on fibromyalgia has been doing well since it was released earlier in May. The Fibro Manual—A Complete Fibromyalgia Treatment Guide for You and Your Doctor addresses questions that both patients and physicians have about fibromyalgia. Dr. Liptan’s story is well known. She developed fibromyalgia when she was in medical school which forced her to leave for a year while she learned more about it and develop treatments for it. She completed medical school and opened the first fibromyalgia practice in the U.S.
If you suffer from fibromyalgia, the National Pain Report would like to get your opinion. We launched a survey on May 12, which is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. We will share the results later in May. If you haven’t yet taken it, you still have time.