Living with Fibro

Fibro & Abdominal Pain: Could IBS be Causing Your Pain?

Fibromyalgia and Abdominal Pain

Your entire body aches and you notice that you are also experiencing cramping in your abdominal area. Could the abdominal pain be related to the rest?

Chances are yes. If you have either fibromyalgia or irritable bowel syndrome, chances are you have the other as well. They often occur together, but the relationship is not clear.

Both of these conditions fall under a broader category that is referred to as functional disorders. This means that your body is not doing what it should, but physicians can’t pinpoint an exact reason why.

The condition of IBS is inside of your body- in your internal organs. On the other hand, fibro pain is centered in your skin and deep muscle tissues.

Even though the source of the pain differs, physicians do believe that the two are related. After all, with both of these conditions, there is more brain activity in the areas of your brain that process your pain.

The exact reason for these problems is not understood, but it is though that it is due to your nervous system being hyperactive. In addition, your immune system and possibly your genetics play a role.

Stress can also be part of these types of disorders. One study showed that over half of individuals with fibro also had symptoms of PTSD, which affects the brain.

What are IBS Triggers

Before you can avoid your IBS triggers, you must know what they are. However, with some careful planning, you really can avoid the triggers that cause your condition of IBS to flare up.

Speak with your physician about creating an overall treatment plan for preventing IBS flares.

IBS Constipation Triggers

There are some foods that have been proven to increase the constipation related to IBS. These include the following:

  1. refined foods such as cookies and chips
  2. refined cereals/bread
  3. caffeinated drinks
  4. carbonated drinks
  5. alcoholic drinks
  6. high protein
  7. dairy products

Strategies for preventing IBS constipation:

  • If you are trying to prevent the constipation associated with the condition of IBS, should gradually increase your fiber consumption by 2-3 grams each day until you are getting somewhere between 20 to 35 grams.
  • Consume foods that are high in sorbitol such as prune juice and dried plums.
  • Make sure you’re drinking 64 ounces of water each day- plain water.
  • Consider trying ground flaxseed- you can sprinkle it on cooked veggies and salads.
  • IBS Diarrhea Triggers

On the other hand, there are some foods and drinks that can increase your symptom of IBS diarrhea. These include the following:

  1. Too much fiber
  2. Alcohol
  3. Caffeine
  4. Fructose
  5. Sorbitol
  6. Chocolate
  7. Large meals
  8. Fried/fatty foods
  9. Dairy
  10. Wheat

Strategies for preventing IBS diarrhea:

  • Consume moderate amounts of soluble fiber, which will add bulk to your colon and help to prevent any spasms.
  • Don’t consume food that is too hot or too cold at the same time.
  • Avoid foods such as cabbage, onions, and broccoli- these cause gas, which can make diarrhea seem worse.
  • Make sure to eat smaller meals.
  • Drink 64 ounces of water each day- an hour before or an hour after eating, but not while eating.

In some cases, individuals with the condition of irritable bowel syndrome have symptoms that are very similar to those of lactose intolerance.

One way to reduce your symptoms is to try a trial of a lactose-free diet and avoid foods that cause excessive gas to see if your symptoms improve.

IBS Stress/Anxiety Triggers

In addition to dietary triggers, stress and anxiety can increase the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome such as bloating, diarrhea, stomach cramping, and constipation.

Of course, everyone is different and will therefore have different triggers for stress and anxiety. Some of the most common causes of stress include:

  1. Difficulties at home and/or work
  2. Financial difficulties
  3. Long commutes/traffic
  4. Sense of things being out of control

Strategies for preventing stress-related IBS flares:

First of all, if you want to prevent stress, you should start by practicing healthy lifestyle habits. Make sure you’re eating a healthy diet, getting enough rest/sleep, and getting adequate exercise.

Take the time to do things that you enjoy such as taking a walk, reading, shopping, or listening to music.

Learn some behavioral therapy techniques such as hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, biofeedback, and relaxation therapy.

Allow yourself to talk to others about what is going on- they may be able to provide you with the support you need.

In addition, speaking honestly to others can help clear up any potential misunderstandings when you experience a flare-up of symptoms and are unable to meet any commitments made.

Try to plan ahead when you’re going out or participating in activities. If you know that your IBS tends to make you be late for work, get up a bit earlier.

If you are going to be driving somewhere, make sure that you know where you can stop if you need a bathroom quickly.

If you are at a social event, try to sit near an aisle so that you can get to the bathroom.

Finally, know what you can eat before you go out so that you can be sure the food won’t be likely to trigger an attack.

Medication Triggers for IBS

There are some medications that can cause the colon to experience spasms and therefore cause a flare-up of IBS symptoms.

This can lead to diarrhea or constipation. Some of the most common medications that cause IBS symptoms to flare include the following:

  1. antibiotics
  2. medications that contain sorbitol
  3. antidepressants

Strategies for preventing medication-related IBS triggers:

  • Speak with your physician regarding changing over to a medication that will not cause your IBS symptoms to flare- but never stop taking a medication without speaking with your physician first.
  • If you are taking an antidepressant (after all, depression is common with fibro), speak with your physician about changing to something else. Some medications will cause symptoms at first, but these will clear up after being on the medication for a while.

Know that the symptoms of IBS are likely to be increased if you have a condition such as fibro. Speak with your physician about ways that you can combat this.

Sources:

http://www.webmd.com/ibs/features/fibromyalgia-and-irritable-bowel-syndrome

http://www.webmd.com/ibs/guide/ibs-triggers-prevention-strategies

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Living with Fibro

5 Comments

  • It made sense to me that there are commonalities between fibro and IBS, but I never dreamed that PTSD or lactose intolerance could also be factors! This is really good information to have. When you’ve got fibro, it’s so important to balance your mood, activities, diet, and medication to create an optimum lifestyle. Taking care of yourself may be more important with fibro than almost any other condition. And anyone who’s dealing with fibro has my complete and utter respect.

  • I don’t know that much about fibromyalgia but I know a fair bit about IBS and I know how painful and depressing it can be. What’s awful is that eating lots of fruit and vegetables can make it worse but then we are told we should be eating these things. I went through a phase of trying to replace chocolate with dried fruit but my IBS became unbearable and I had to stop. It’s not fair! I think drinking lots of water helps as does regular fresh air and exercise.

  • I have Fibro and suffer chronically with IBS. I have tried so many different diets, and it seems it doesn’t matter what I eat, I can have a curry and not be too bad, have a salad and be really ill. It is so difficult, in the end I am afraid to eat.

  • I suffer from IBS, and it’s depressing when you have to stop what you’re doing constantly to go to the bathroom. I was diagnosed in high school (boy, what a great time! : ), and it became increasingly worse after my father died. I love that you mention talking to others, and asking them for support. Now that I’m older I realize I shouldn’t have internalized all the emotional pain I was going through. IBS made me feel so shameful, and like I was a dirty person. I think a great way to do this is pulling aside someone you trust, and asking them for a few minutes of their time. Explain to them what’s going on, and they will be understanding. Fibromyalgia and IBS are not something you go through alone!

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