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.
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.