How Gluten Issues Are Connected to Fibromyalgia

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Fibromyalgia (FM) is a commonly recognized syndrome characterized by pain, sleep disturbance, and fatigue combined with a general increase in medical symptoms, including problems of memory or thinking, and often psychological distress. The pharmacological treatment of FM results in only partial relief.

This condition is frequently associated with depression and irritable bowel syndrome. Fibro can be a living hell of pain and fatigue and everything else. I’ve already given up part of my life because of this horrible condition. You want me to give up donuts and cake and yeast rolls too? Are you kidding me? My sweet treats are one of the only things that make life bearable.

A gluten-free diet is essential for managing signs and symptoms of celiac disease and other medical conditions associated with gluten. A gluten-free diet is, however, popular among people without gluten-related medical conditions. The claimed benefits of the diet are improved health, weight loss and increased energy.

Does gluten cause fibromyalgia? 

Some fibromyalgia sufferers seem to benefit from a gluten-free diet, but there’s not a great amount of data on the benefits of a gluten-free diet in fibromyalgia sufferers who do not have celiac disease. If someone told me they hadn’t heard anything about gluten or its connection to fibromyalgia, I may wonder if they’ve been living in an igloo in the Inuit islands.

It’s in the news everywhere! Packages on the grocery store shelves have labels that shout Gluten-Free or NOW Gluten-Free! What we hear most is that gluten is “bad.” Few of us understand why.

“When patients are helped by a specific dietary measure, it is often because of the presence of a secondary condition that does have a recognized response to diet. And when you take care of that, you do get some relief from all the symptoms. You feel better overall.” – Alex Shikhman, M.D. notes

Shocking affects of two slices of whole wheat bread

Something I learned recently that really shocked me is that two slices of whole wheat bread can spike our blood sugar faster than two tablespoons of table sugar. Wow! Gluten activates our hunger hormones, making us crave carbohydrates. It also can lead to leaky gut syndrome, which is common in those of us with FM.

I can tell you that since I cut out gluten, my IBS symptoms have really quieted down. I went from having two or more painful episodes a week, to only three minor incidents in the few months since I completely cut out gluten. If you haven’t gone gluten-free, it may be worth considering.

 

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Similarity of symptoms

The high number of people with fibromyalgia who also have celiac disease makes sense when you look at the symptoms of both disorders. People with fibromyalgia frequently show similar symptoms to people who have disorders related to gluten.

These symptoms include Low energy levels, Brain fog, chronic pain, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). These overlapping symptoms raise the possibility that some of these patients could be experiencing undiagnosed celiac disease or underlying gluten sensitivity.

What exactly gluten is?

Gluten is totally safe for most people, and it doesn’t affect them at all. But sticking to a gluten-free diet when you don’t have to makes it hard to get some of the nutrients you need. So you’re probably doing yourself more harm than good by sticking to a gluten-free diet. So gluten is a protein that is found in wheat products.

Related Article: Why an Ice Cream is poison for People with Fibromyalgia

And it’s in a lot of different food products because it helps to hold food together. In things like dough, it acts like glue and helps the food hold its shape. People have been eating gluten for thousands of years. And ever since the first wheat crops were domesticated, gluten has been in our diets.

Eliminate Gluten

Gluten intolerance doesn’t show up on blood tests. Food intolerances differ from food allergies so antibodies may not show up in blood tests. The best way to determine your sensitivity to gluten is to avoid it completely. By eliminating all gluten sources from your diet for at least 6 weeks, notice when you introduce it back into your diet if the symptoms reoccur. It’s incredibly important to be aware of everything you eat and to always double check the ingredients label, as gluten can be ‘hidden’ and called something else.

How to gluten allergy

Testing for gluten allergies needs to be done while you’re consuming wheat products. Therefore, have the lab testing done before you begin the 30 day reset diet that we discuss in this post. Don’t begin a gluten-free nutrition plan until all testing is complete. Ensure that you are tested for both celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. If celiac disease is ruled out, I still strongly encourage you to try a gluten-free diet to see if you notice any results.

What to do?

Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to make going gluten-free easier. For instance, you can simply swap out products. Lots of popular brands now offer gluten-free alternatives for your favorite foods. There are a lot of different flours you can use in your own cooking that are great alternatives to wheat. And there are plenty of easy substitutions you can make in your favorite recipes that will cut out the gluten.

In order to avoid gluten, you can get gluten-free oats, quinoa, etc. If you’re not sure if you have sensitivity to gluten, you also could talk it through with your rheumatologist or other health care providers. They may recommend that you eliminate gluten from your diet for several months to see how your body responds to the changes.

The link between fibromyalgia and gluten isn’t completely understood yet. But in the future, research may provide answers and cures. There is little harm in trying a gluten-free diet for a few weeks and seeing if your symptoms improve, though. And if it leads to less pain, it’s definitely worth trying.

 

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