I have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if you told me that you do as well.
IBS and Fibromyalgia often go together, with some reports indicating that as many as 80% of those with Fibromyalgia also have IBS, and the numbers are just as bad if you have CFS (in fact they may be higher).
I’ve had more tests related to IBS and digestive issues than any of my other chronic illnesses. Yet, it always comes back to “it’s just IBS”, as if IBS is “just anything”. In fact, some studies have indicated that the complaints we have with IBS are as bad (if not worse) as if we actually did have Chron’s disease or Celiac. At least if we had one of those we’d know what we were were dealing with. Instead we just random bouts of diarrhea, constipation, excessive bloating, and gas… and we are likely to even have doctors tell us it’s all in our heads and we just need to find a way to relax and avoid stress.
A 2012 study by Berstad, Undseth, Lind & Valeur found that IBS is not just psychological, nor is it necessarily food allergy related. In fact, it’s possible that IBS and Fibro share a root cause, which would explain why such a high number of IBS patients also have non-GI complaints including pain and fatigue.
Hospital patients who were seen for (self-reported) food sensitivity related GI complaints were asked to fill out four questionnaires: Diagnosis of IBS according to the ROME III criteria, IBS severity scoring, a visual scale of pain severity (the typical 1-10 rating), and a Fatigue Impact scale. The doctor then administered the FibroFatigue scale. Tests were also done to rule out food allergies, celiac, and other functional causes for the patient’s complaints. After excluding those patients with functional causes for their symptoms, 84 patients were included. 68% were women and the average age was 37.
Overall, there was a correlation between IBS symptoms and those symptoms seen in Fibromyalgia and CFS. 71% of the patients expressed symptoms consistent with Fibromyalgia (both muskuloskelatal pain and fatigue). The investigators seem to agree that food definitely plays a role in aggravating all the symptoms. And, that symptoms related to IBS go far beyond the standard GI-related symptoms to include joint pain and fatigue. A high percentage of patients with IBS also showed signs of malabsorption with high levels of fecal fat.Many IBS patients also report symptoms consistent with Fibro and CFS Click To Tweet
The malabsorption findings were interesting given that the patients with malabsorption did not show the usual outward symptom of weight loss (and often they were still overweight). This indicates that malabsorption may be more prevalent than doctors typically think and may be an ignored issue.
The obvious speculation is that these issues are related to one cause, sadly if that is the case we have yet to find that root.
While diet change did little to relieve my IBS symptoms, I did finally find relief by using a very high-powered probiotic from Visbiome.
Source: Berstad, A., Undseth, R., Lind, R., & Valeur, J. (2012). Functional bowel symptoms, fibromyalgia and fatigue: A food-induced triad?. Scandinavian Journal Of Gastroenterology, 47(8/9), 914-919. doi:10.3109/00365521.2012.690045