Fibromyalgia (FM) is a condition characterized by constant, aching pain that affects the whole body. While the cause is currently unknown, it is believed that FM affects the way the brain processes pain, causing it to amplify and overreact to pain signals. Fibromyalgia does tend to run in families, so there may also be a genetic component to this disorder.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia include, but are not limited to:
Fibromyalgia is frequently seen alongside the following conditions:
Fibromyalgia can affect people of all ages, but it’s more common in older adults. It is uncommon in men; some researchers estimate that up to 90% of those with FM are women.
A 2013 study out of Italy found that almost 15% of those with celiac disease met the clinical criteria for a fibromyalgia diagnosis. However, the converse was not true: only about 1% of those with FM qualified for a celiac disease diagnosis, which is around the same percent as the general population. They did not recommend a gluten-free diet for those with FM unless they had celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).
However, a study from the Mayo Clinic in 2019 found celiac disease in 3% of FM patients, and recommended screening for CD in anyone with fibromyalgia.
Another small study from 2013 found that 6.7% of patients with both IBS and FM also had celiac disease, whereas zero patients with only IBS had celiac disease. These results suggest a connection between CD and FM.
Still other researchers have suggested that there may be a higher prevalence of non-celiac gluten sensitivity in those with fibromyalgia, but NCGS overall is understudied, so there is little data beyond case studies and anecdotal evidence to support this theory.
Regardless of ongoing research, if you have celiac disease and are experiencing consistent, widespread pain even while strictly adhering to the gluten-free diet, you may want to speak with your doctor about fibromyalgia.
Currently there is no cure for fibromyalgia, but there are a number of treatments. Medications such as over-the-counter pain relievers may reduce symptoms, as well as meditation, yoga and other stress management skills. Generally healthy habits such as getting enough exercise and sleep can keep symptoms at bay. Anti-inflammatory diets (such as the Mediterranean diet) have been suggested for those with chronic pain disorders, but be sure to talk to your doctor before starting a new diet.
Fibromyalgia is usually managed with the help of a rheumatologist, although some general practitioners familiar with FM may be able to diagnose and treat patients.