Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Part of Fibromyalgia?

Medically Reviewed on 11/3/2021

Fibromyalgia is a long-lasting condition that causes pain throughout the body. Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a condition that affects the digestive system and causes symptoms such as cramping, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. There has long been a link between the two. Read more to learn about the relationship between fibromyalgia and IBS.

Is irritable bowel syndrome associated with fibromyalgia?

Yes, they are associated with each other. Fibromyalgia is linked with several different conditions, including IBS. IBS is also linked to other conditions that are not fibromyalgia. Some studies have found that between 35% and 77% of all patients with fibromyalgia also have IBS. Other studies found that up to 65% of people with IBS are also diagnosed by fibromyalgia.

While the science around the link between fibromyalgia and IBS is still emerging, there is evidence that this link is based on the excessive growth of a type of small intestinal bacteria.

Using a lactulose hydrogen breath test, researchers identified this type of bacteria in patients. They also found that the results of this test were relevant in the intensity of the symptoms of fibromyalgia experienced by the patients.

How do you treat both of these conditions?

Both of these conditions are difficult to treat and manage. There is also no one cause for each condition. Neither is there a cure for either IBS or fibromyalgia. However, both conditions are triggered or worsened by stress.

Only around 50% of IBS patients can reduce their symptoms through medications. In combination with fibromyalgia, a condition that can cause incredible full-body pain, this can be even more difficult. Many patients feel overwhelmed and like their body is rebelling against them as they feel the fatigue and pain of fibromyalgia along with the discomfort of IBS.

Additionally, it has been found that the more conditions you have alongside fibromyalgia, the more susceptible you are to IBS. Having fibromyalgia alongside chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, depression, or sleep disorders increases your risk for also developing IBS. By managing your fibromyalgia, you are reducing your chances of having IBS.

Some of the treatments for fibromyalgia:

  • Painkillers. You can take a range of painkillers. Both over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol and prescribed medications such as codeine or tramadol are used in fibromyalgia treatment.
  • Antidepressants. These medications heighten the functioning of neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that help carry messages to and from the brain. Increasing these chemicals has been proven to take away some of the symptomatic pain from fibromyalgia.
  • Sleep medication. The pain from fibromyalgia can make sleep difficult. Treating it through medication can be immensely helpful to you as you attempt to manage your symptoms.
  • Muscle relaxants. Spasms and stiffness in the muscles are symptoms of fibromyalgia. For a temporary fix, you can take muscle relaxants (which can also work as a sleep aid).
  • Anti-seizure medication. Also known as anticonvulsants, these medications have been shown to help reduce pain from fibromyalgia. However, these medications are usually used to treat epilepsy. They can come with significant side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, swelling in your extremities, and weight gain.
  • Anti-psychotics. These medications are often used as a long-term pain management system. There is some evidence suggesting that they can help treat fibromyalgia, but more research needs to be done to confirm this. In addition, some of the side effects of these medications are drowsiness, tremors, and restlessness.

Some treatments for IBS are:

  • Lifestyle changes. Simple changes like eating foods high in fiber, drinking lots of water, exercising, and practicing good sleep hygiene can make a big difference in your IBS. In addition, cut out high-gas food, gluten, and FODMAPs diet.
  • Fiber supplements. To help constipation, you can take fiber supplements as needed.
  • Laxatives. If fiber supplements do not work for you, you may need to take an over-the-counter laxative.
  • Anti-diarrheal medications. If you need help controlling your diarrhea, you should seek help from any number of over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medicines.
  • Anticholinergic medications. These kinds of drugs relieve stomach spasms. They are usually taken if you have severe diarrhea episodes.
  • Tricyclic and SSRI antidepressants. These medicines help with depression. They also are found to affect the gut. As a result, they can reduce stomach pains and also help with diarrhea.
  • Alosetron. This medication is only used to treat IBS and can only be prescribed by doctors who specialize in digestive health. In addition, it is only used for people who have severe IBS. It works by relaxing the colon and slows down the movement of waste in your body.
  • Eluxadoline. Another medication that is only used for IBS treatment, eluxadoline, reduces muscle contractions, fluid secretions, and makes the rectal muscles stronger.
  • Rifaximin. You can take this antibiotic to lessen bacteria and diarrhea.
  • Lubiprostone and linaclotide. These medications help stools move through your intestines by helping your body create more fluids. Lubiprostone is usually only prescribed for women.

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Medically Reviewed on 11/3/2021
References
GI Society: "Further links between Fibromyalgia and Irritable Bowel Syndrome(IBS)."

LondonPainClinic: "Fibromyalgia and Irritable Bowel Syndrome(IBS)."

Mayo Clinic: "Irritable bowel syndrome.

Medicine vol. 96,14: "Risk for Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Fibromyalgia Patients: A National Database Study."

NHS: "Fibromyalgia," "What is IBS?"