Fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) share a connection with chronic pain. IBS is a gastrointestinal condition that affects eight to 20 percent of the population. Fibromyalgia is a condition categorized by allover chronic pain. Symptoms such as skin rashes, muscle contractions and myalgia are reported in two-thirds of IBS patients. Other research has found an overlap between IBS and fibromyalgia, suggesting that a common cause may be shared between the two conditions.
Fibromyalgia has been seen in up to 60 percent of IBS patients, and 70 percent of fibromyalgia patients are diagnosed with IBS.
Although pain in IBS is generally gastrointestinal and fibromyalgia pain is muscular, they both share common characteristics: they are both pain disorders that cannot be explained through structural or biochemical abnormalities; they both commonly occur in women; patients typically link stressful life events with worsening of symptoms; patients complain of sleep problems; psychotherapy and behavioral therapies seem to improve both conditions; and certain medications can treat both conditions.
Managing IBS and fibromyalgia
Both irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia have much overlap, so if you have both conditions, you should take the necessary steps to help manage both at the same time, which can really simplify your life and can help you feel better. Although common management of IBS and fibromyalgia may involve medications, there are still plenty of non-drug therapies you can utilize for better management, including:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy that helps the patient connect with their feelings, thoughts and behaviors. CBT can be effective in helping IBS and fibromyalgia patients to better handle their stress, which has been shown to worsen symptoms.
- Exercise: In both IBS and fibromyalgia, living a sedentary life can lead to worsened symptoms, so exercising can help reduce and alleviate symptoms. It is important to exercise in moderation, though. Excessive exercise can worsen symptoms.
- Eat a balanced diet: A healthy diet can greatly improve IBS as it is a gastrointestinal disorder, and it can work well for fibromyalgia as well. Certain foods can be triggers, including caffeine, fried foods and high-sodium foods. If you’re unsure about which foods can affect IBS and fibromyalgia, speak with your doctor for guidance.
- Monitor your symptoms: Keeping track of when you experience flare-ups can help you better manage them. When a flare-up occurs, document the scenario, including what you ate, what you were doing and additional details that can help you reduce future flare-ups.
- Sleep well: Sleep, too, can have a large impact on symptoms associated with IBS and fibromyalgia. Poor sleep can worsen pain or make you more sensitive to pain, and as pain continues to get worse you experience less sleep. Improving your sleeping habits can be a beneficial way to improve your symptoms as well.
Treatment of fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome
Treatment for irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia involves targeting the symptoms as there is no cure for either condition. Aside from the lifestyle habits listed above, medications can also be prescribed to help better treat symptoms.
Medications may be prescribed to combat inflammation, damaged tissue and, more specific to IBS medications, to treat constipation and diarrhea.
For proper treatment, speaking with your doctor can help address your concerns surrounding fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome.