Digestive problems and fibromyalgia

Digestive problems can affect up to 70% of fibromyalgia sufferers

BSc in Health Studies, Dip.Nut
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An introduction to digestive problems and fibromyalgia

Digestive problems are thought to affect up to 70% of fibromyalgia sufferers, and therefore it is not a symptom which should be overlooked. Digestive conditions seen may include diarrhoea, constipation or bloating, and often fibromyalgia patients will experience a combination of symptoms.

Why does fibromyalgia cause digestive problems?

The link between fibromyalgia and digestive problems has been recognised in medical literature, although it is not yet fully understood. It has been established that only rarely can a physical abnormality in the digestive organs be identified. However, it is thought that fibromyalgia does bring with it increased sensitivity in pain receptors. Thus, while certain foods may cause a mild trigger in most people, in fibromyalgia patients this can cause severe bloating and cramping.

Additionally, certain types of conventional medicine often taken in the treatment of fibromyalgia, such as NSAIDs, can cause side effects including digestive problems. If this is the case, your doctor may be able to suggest an alternative form of treatment.

What home remedies are there for digestive problems?

Home remedies may promote proper digestion of food and healthy bowel movements. For a start, be kind to your digestive system by doing the hard work for it and chewing your food properly. As the Chinese proverb says, ‘the stomach has no teeth,’ so it is important to chew your food properly to ensure that the essential nutrients are absorbed.

Think about your diet too, as certain foods can be harder for your digestive system to cope with and are likely to result in digestive problems. Most notably, caffeine and refined sugar should be avoided as much as possible, as they will also drain you of energy if consumed too frequently. Additionally, some people have a lower tolerance to certain types of foods than others, so trying a diet of elimination with certain food types may help establish the most suitable diet for you.

Pre-biotics help to improve the internal environment of the gut, making you less prone to symptoms of poor digestion. They are found in products such as A.Vogel's Molkosan, an organic, lacto-fermented whey drink.

Are there herbal remedies to help me?

There are certain herbs which have a long traditional use in treating digestive complaints. Stomach bitters such as Yarrow and Centaurium have a bitter taste which stimulates the production of stomach acid for efficient digestion of food.

In easing symptoms of indigestion, bloating and flatulence, a herbal remedy including fresh extract of dandelion, artichoke, peppermint and dandelion, such as A.Vogel’s Digestisan, may be effective.

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Bowel Essence is a Jan de Vries flower essence which may help to settle an upset bowel. It contains fresh extracts of pine, walnut and willow.

If you are suffering from occasional constipation, then Linseed is often an effective remedy.

What about conventional medicines?

If your digestive problems have been a side effect of another medicine you have been prescribed by your doctor for fibromyalgia, then it is important to discuss with your doctor if there is an alternative treatment which may not cause digestive problems.

Your doctor may check for food intolerances or allergies, and suggest a diet in which you avoid such trigger foods. If you have not found herbal remedies for indigestion, bloating or constipation to be effective, your doctor may also suggest conventional varieties. However, you should discuss with him the possible side-effects of these treatments first.

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