Is there a link between the autoimmune diseases Coeliac and Fibromyalgia, the amount of people with both, it does make you wonder.
In a previous blog
I talked about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but as my fatigue and pain got a bit worse, my GP and I started to consider Fibromyalgia, leading to this blog post.
I think it is already common knowledge that Coeliac and gluten intolerance have been linked back to many other disorders, whether it is a symptom of something else or a bi-product of another disease. Already linked to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Oesteoporosis and depression to name a few, another illness it could be linked too is Fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia (FMS) is a pain disorder which has many symptoms, there is no test for FMS, the only way to get a diagnosis is to rule out anything else that causes similar symptoms, a long process as illnesses from Multiple Sclerosis to Vitamin B12 deficiency and Anaemia can cause all the same problems.
The main symptoms of FMS are (although the symptoms are in no way restricted to just these):-
- Widespread pain in joints and muscles
- Un-refreshing sleep
- Brain Fog
- Increased menstrual pain in women
- Irritable bowel
- Low immune system
- Light sensitivity
- Mood swings
FMS tends to exist along side other conditions such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (this is also sometimes believed to be the exact same condition as FMS but minus the widespread pain),Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriasis, Anxiety and even Coeliac. FMS is often misdiagmosed as Coeliac, just as Coeliac is misdiagnosed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome as the symptoms are so similar and in some cases gluten free diets have been known to help.
Digestive diseases are a common problem associated with Fibromyalgia, people with FMS tend to have increased symptoms during times of stress and anxiety, it is even believed that stress is one of the main causes of FMS, and the same is also said with Coeliac. Many people diagnosed with Fibromyalgia have experienced severe stress (loss of job, death of a relative etc) which in turn triggers the illness, the same can happen with Coeliacs too, the person will have always carried the gene but stress can trigger it.
The treatment for both conditions are different; for Coeliac a gluten free diet prevents further damage to the villi in the intestines, however the treatment for FMS is pain relief, this varies in everyone from ibruprofen to morphine strength pain killers, in some cases antidepressants or even anti-seizure medication are used to help the condition too, but also according the a Medscape survey avoiding gluten can also help ease fibromyaglia symptoms.
It has also been noted that food sensitivies can be caused by fibromyalgia, the most common being gluten, dairy and sugar. If you have been diagnosed with Coeliac, maybe it would be a good idea to think about any other symptoms you might have but didn't initially think were connected, is it possible you could be misdiagnosed and you actually have Fibromyalgia instead, or like in many causes you have a multitude of autoimmune issues? It has been shown in a good few clinical trials that removing gluten from the diet can help reduce symptoms, so maybe your Coeliac diagnosis was negative but you think it should be positive, maybe you should consider FMS as an alternative to what could be causing your pain.
The question really is gluten intolerance/Coeliac a cause of Fibromyalgia or is Fibromyalgia a cause of gluten intolerance/Coeliac. Either way, there are trials and surveys which do imply that the two are linked and even in my case I can see a connection. I lost my job twice (once redundancy, and then because of ill health, this would be the stressor) and developed what we thought was Coeliac until I tested negative even though removing gluten from my diet helped, after a few months I got other symptoms, some days I can't get out of bed due to fatigue or pain. Is this Fibromyalgia rather than gluten intolerance? That is something I am currently undergoing tests for. Which illness caused the other one? That's something I doubt I will ever figure out.
But please, just think about it, if you are still experiencing unexplained pains and everyone still thinks Coeliac or IBS, maybe it is worth trying to find out if its "something else", and those things are just a symptom.