Fibromyalgia and Celiac Disease

by | G+ Amy Leger

In recent months I’m finding out more about any possible link between fibromyalgia and celiac disease. The aches, pains, struggles and medications that can come along with fibromyalgia I am sure can be daunting. But after a friend asked me about rumblings that a gluten-free diet could help in this situation I decided to do some research. In some cases, people claim they were misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia for years before an eventual diagnosis of celiac disease.

Fibromyalgia

The National Fibromyalgia Association‘s website calls fibromyalgia a syndrome and describes what it’s like:

“[Fibromyalgia] is characterized by chronic widespread pain, multiple tender points, abnormal pain processing, sleep disturbances, fatigue and often psychological distress. For those with severe symptoms, fibromyalgia can be extremely debilitating and interfere with basic daily activities.”

The possible link to Celiac Disease

Many people complain of fatigue, joint pain and other unexplained aches when they are eventually diagnosed with celiac disease. But from what I’ve read, some people are diagnosed with fibromyalgia sometimes for years before an eventual diagnosis of celiac disease. In which case, the gluten-free diet should rid them of their symptoms.

A study in the April 2003 edition of Digestive Diseases and Sciences, researchers looked into common symptoms adults present with before a celiac diagnosis. Their symptoms proved to be anything but common. The top symptoms doctors most often look for are diarrhea and weight loss, but this study proved that theory wrong in many cases:

“Only 32% of adults were underweight, and only about 50% reported frequent diarrhea and weight loss. A second survey documented that common presenting symptoms were fatigue (82%), abdominal pain (77%), bloating or gas (73%), and anemia (63%). Initial physician diagnoses were often irritable bowel syndrome (37%), psychological disorders (29%), and fibromyalgia (9%).”

These symptoms go along closely to what I found in my unscientific survey last December.  And as you can see in the above quote, fibromyalgia was one of the common initial physician diagnoses.

Several online forums talk about the two health problems often.  Here was one reply I found to a Celiac Disease Forum thread in which a person asked whether anyone else has had the same symptoms as her.

“You asked if any one else has FMS [fibromyalgia] and IBS and celiac. I am now coming to the conclusion that it is all the same. I believe I have been misdianosed and celiac is what I really have. I tested pos. on the blood test, but my biopsy was neg.” — Celiac Disease Forum discussion

Check out the forum for yourself or even just Google “fibromyalgia and celiac disease” I promise there will be a ton of feedback on the issue.

What to do?

If you want to find out more about whether celiac is causing your fibromayalgia (or fibromyalgia-like symptoms), go to your doctor and ask for a complete celiac blood panel.  If he or she won’t do it for you, get a second opinion. The blood test is simple and relatively inexpensive. You are not asking for the world, just a simple test.

Another option, go gluten-free. Don’t go half gluten-free – go all gluten free. No cross contamination in your kitchen either.  If you feel your symptoms going away on a gluten-free diet, you may have celiac.

However, the longer you’re on the gluten-free diet,  the less likely your blood test and any subsequent biopsy (gold-standard test) for celiac will be positive. You will have to reintroduce gluten to your diet in order to be tested for celiac. But maybe the actual testing doesn’t matter to you. If you feel better and you want to continue on the diet without an official diagnosis, that decision is up to you.

Good luck in your quest for a healthier and possibly pain-free life!

*I am not a doctor, this post merely throws out the possibility that a gluten-free diet could help with fibromyalgia. You should consult your doctor or get a second opinion about major health decisions that could affect a diagnosis.

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8 Responses to “Fibromyalgia and Celiac Disease”

  1. i came to your blog instantly and amazed to see that its full of info what i was searching for your post is so good.you discus good points in this post.thanks for this post

  2. Hi i have been a celiac for nearly 19yrs now,i have wide spread pain had it for neary 6yrs my doctor said it could be fibromyalgia,iv got a appointment with a rhuematologist in july,im on a gluten free diet,so i dont believe cutting out certain foods makes a difference,I also have gout,i dont drink.dont smoke,and i keep to my diet but im still in pain.Some days i cant move properly,its very frustating as i cannot do the things i want to do,i just want answers,i get very down,i need help with certain chores,like cleaning the bath toilets etc,

  3. I have just been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and I can’t stop crying I feel my life is over at 44 years old. I have an 11 year old who has spent most of her life at the Doctors office watching her mom get poked and prodded. I have just been referred to a pain clinic. I believe strongly that vitamin deficiancy has a lot to do with nerve pain. I have finally found a doctor who is willing to even consider the possibility that Celaic and Fibromyalgia could be connected. Usually when they hear Fibromyalgia they run. It’s such a blanket and no one is ever willing to look deeper. I too want answers and one thing I find strange is that 3 years ago I had severe pain and was told it was Fibromyalgia and that was it end of story but I decided to go to a spine doctor in Boston who found that i needed a spinal fusion of my c-5 and c-6 disc. he did the surgery and it was like magic the Fibromyalgia went away with the exception of the fatigue. Now same symptoms but this time he says my c-4 disc does not need surgery although it will at some point. My family doctor is perplexed by this and can’t explain how the surgery made the fibro symptoms go away.

  4. I just ran across this site. I too believe there is a link between fibromyalgia and celiac disease. For years I suffered from fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, having so many weird symptoms that waxed and waned. The doctors found my celiac disease by accident while investigating my digestive issues. I underwent a pill camera test that showed the “scalloping” that is characteristic in celiac, then was biopsied and found to have Marsha III stage damage. I have been gluten free for one year now and still have many of the same symptoms. My digestive symptoms improved in severity for a few months but then worsened again. I’m staying gluten free in hopes that in the future my body will heal. Hopefully at some point in the future there will be a medication found to treat celiac disease.

  5. I was diagnosed with Celiac disease 5 years ago. I have been to a pain clinic in the past and they said I have nerve problems, but they never named it. I just was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia the other day. I am very grateful that I have been on a gf diet for 5 years or my pain may have stopped my life.

  6. Anyone diagnosed with firomyalgia should be tested for Celiac. Period.

  7. Diagnosed with Celiac Disease 4 yrs ago and have been gluten free. My pain did improve for awhile. In April this year also diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. You can have both.

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