IBS and Bowel Health With Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a multi-faceted disease that affects far more than just your muscles. One of the common conditions that Fibromites experience is problems with their bowels. IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be a stand alone disease, but is often found in those with Fibromyalgia.

Symptoms

When you have IBS, you can experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain and cramping that is typically relieved or partially relieved by passing a bowel movement
  • Excess gas
  • Diarrhea or constipation — sometimes alternating between the two and occaisionally having both happen during the same bowel movement
  • Mucus in the stool
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Back Pain (due to cramping)

The GI Society of Canada says the following:

“Symptoms occurring outside of the digestive tract that might be related to IBS include sleep disturbances, chronic pelvic pain, interstitial cystitis, temporomandibular joint disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and migraine headaches. Female patients who have IBS have also reported discomfort during sexual intercourse (dyspareunia). Our survey of 2,961 respondents showed 32% have some form of mood disorder, 27% have gastroesophageal reflux disease, and 27% have anxiety disorder.”

Common IBS Symptoms Graphic

It’s important to seek medical care when you experience bowel issues, to ensure that nothing more serious is going on. Don’t let embarrassment stop you. If you are experiencing any of the following, call and make an appointment:

  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea at night
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Unexplained vomiting
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Persistent pain that isn’t relieved by passing gas or a bowel movement

Seeing The Doctor

When you seek medical care for your IBS symptoms, the following actions may occur:

Medical History: A physician reviews the patient’s medical history, considering bowel function pattern, the nature and onset of symptoms, the presence or absence of other symptoms, and warning signs that might indicate some other diagnosis.

Physical Examination: During a physical evaluation, the bowel may have involuntary jerky muscular contractions (spastic) and seem tender; although the patient’s physical health usually appears normal in other respects.

Investigative Testing: A physician might request tests to rule out other possible diseases. In performing a scope, physicians view the intestinal tract with an instrument that enters the body via the mouth (gastroscopy) or the anus (colonoscopy/sigmoidoscopy). The scope is made of a hollow, flexible tube with a tiny light and video camera.

Doctor Writing NotesThe physician may also request routine blood and stool tests to rule out known organic diseases. Some symptoms of celiac disease overlap those of IBS, so a family history of this disease might be a reason to test for it.

After other conditions have been ruled out, your doctor is likely to use one of these sets of diagnostic criteria for IBS:

  • Rome criteria. These criteria include abdominal pain and discomfort lasting on average at least one day a week in the last three months, associated with at least two of these factors: Pain and discomfort are related to defecation, the frequency of defecation is altered, or stool consistency is altered.
  • Manning criteria. These criteria focus on pain relieved by passing stool and on having incomplete bowel movements, mucus in the stool and changes in stool consistency. The more symptoms you have, the greater the likelihood of IBS.
  • Type of IBS. For the purpose of treatment, IBS can be divided into three types, based on your symptoms: constipation-predominant, diarrhea-predominant or mixed.

Treatment

Treatment of IBS focuses on relieving symptoms so that you can live as normally as possible. These suggestions below come from The Mayo Clinic:

Mild signs and symptoms can often be controlled by managing stress and by making changes in your diet and lifestyle. Try to:

  • Avoid foods that trigger your symptomsTall glass of water
  • Eat high-fiber foods
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get enough sleep

Your doctor might suggest that you eliminate from your diet:

  • High-gas foods. If you experience bloating or gas, you might avoid items such as carbonated and alcoholic beverages, caffeine, raw fruit, and certain vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower.
  • Gluten. Research shows that some people with IBS report improvement in diarrhea symptoms if they stop eating gluten (wheat, barley and rye) even if they don’t have celiac disease.
  • FODMAPs. Some people are sensitive to certain carbohydrates such as fructose, fructans, lactose and others, known as FODMAPs — fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols. FODMAPs are found in certain grains, vegetables, fruits and dairy products. Your IBS symptoms might ease if you follow a strict low-FODMAP diet and then reintroduce foods one at a time.

A dietitian can help you with these diet changes.

If your problems are moderate or severe, your doctor might suggest counseling — especially if you have depression or if stress tends to worsen your symptoms.

In addition, based on your symptoms your doctor might suggest medications such as:

  • Fiber supplements. Taking a supplement such as psyllium (Metamucil) with fluids may help control constipation.
  • Laxatives. If fiber doesn’t help symptoms, your doctor may prescribe magnesium hydroxide oral (Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia) or polyethylene glycol (Miralax).
  • Anti-diarrheal medications. Over-the-counter medications, such as loperamide (Imodium), can help control diarrhea. Your doctor might also prescribe a bile acid binder, such as cholestyramine (Prevalite), colestipol (Colestid) or colesevelam (Welchol). Bile acid binders can cause bloating.
  • Anticholinergic medications. Medications such as dicyclomine (Bentyl) can help relieve painful bowel spasms. They are sometimes prescribed for people who have bouts of diarrhea. These medications are generally safe but can cause constipation, dry mouth and blurred vision.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants. This type of medication can help relieve depression as well as inhibit the activity of neurons that control the intestines to help reduce pain. If you have diarrhea and abdominal pain without depression, your doctor may suggest a lower than normal dose of imipramine (Tofranil), desipramine (Norpramine) or nortriptyline (Pamelor). Side effects — which might be reduced if you take the medication at bedtime — can include drowsiness, blurred vision, dizziness and dry mouth.
  • SSRI antidepressants. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants, such as fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem) or paroxetine (Paxil), may help if you’re depressed and have pain and constipation.
  • Pain medications. Pregabalin (Lyrica) or gabapentin (Neurontin) might ease severe pain or bloating.

Medications specifically for IBSPills

Medications approved for certain people with IBS include:

  • Alosetron (Lotronex). Alosetron is designed to relax the colon and slow the movement of waste through the lower bowel. Alosetron can be prescribed only by doctors enrolled in a special program, is intended for severe cases of diarrhea-predominant IBS in women who haven’t responded to other treatments, and isn’t approved for use by men. It has been linked to rare but important side effects, so it should only be considered when other treatments aren’t successful.
  • Eluxadoline (Viberzi). Eluxadoline can ease diarrhea by reducing muscle contractions and fluid secretion in the intestine, and increasing muscle tone in the rectum. Side effects can include nausea, abdominal pain and mild constipation. Eluxadoline has also been associated with pancreatitis, which can be serious and more common in certain individuals.
  • Rifaximin (Xifaxan). This antibiotic can decrease bacterial overgrowth and diarrhea.
  • Lubiprostone (Amitiza). Lubiprostone can increase fluid secretion in your small intestine to help with the passage of stool. It’s approved for women who have IBS with constipation, and is generally prescribed only for women with severe symptoms that haven’t responded to other treatments.
  • Linaclotide (Linzess). Linaclotide also can increase fluid secretion in your small intestine to help you pass stool. Linaclotide can cause diarrhea, but taking the medication 30 to 60 minutes before eating might help.

Potential Future Treatments

Researchers are investigating new treatments for IBS. Serum-derived bovine immunoglobulin/protein isolate (SBI), a nutritional therapy, has shown some promise as a treatment for IBS with diarrhea.

Studies also show that, in people who have IBS with diarrhea, a specially coated tablet that slowly releases peppermint oil in the small intestine (enteric-coated peppermint oil) eases bloating, urgency, abdominal pain and pain while passing stool. It isn’t clear how enteric-coated peppermint oil might affect IBS, so ask your doctor before using it.

Conclusion

Although Bowel related issues can be embarrassing, it’s important to acknowledge and treat your symptoms to give you the best health possible. Make time to reduce stress in your life, follow a proper diet and get a good nights sleep…these three things can make a huge difference in your gut health. If nothing changes, see your doctor. Your good health depends on it.

Resources and Further Reading:

Pamela Jessen lives in Langford, BC Canada. She is a blogger who writes about Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue and Invisible Illness at pamelajessen.com.  She also writes for The Mighty,  PainResource.com and various independent publications. Pamela is also a Patient Advocate with the Patient Voices Network in BC.  She sits on 4 committees and one Provincial working group and has also been involved in advocacy work at the Canadian National level as well. Pamela is married to her amazing husband Ray and they have one cat named Dorie. 


4 thoughts on “IBS and Bowel Health With Fibromyalgia

  1. Thank you again for another amazing writing. GI Doctor number 3 in 4 months thinks my bloating and constipation is IBS since 10 days of Rifaximin should have treated the SIBO that occurred following my colonoscopy. I’m at a loss. I’ve been low FODmapping it for 3 months and am now taking a pancreatic enzyme as well. I feel like I am my favorite Doctor at this point & am fighting so hard and staying upbeat, but having a horrible reaction to most foods and liquids is so defeating. It’s like wow- God must think that that I am as tough as nails. lol
    I thank you again, dearest… for sharing, caring and being so freaking awesome!
    All my love & respect
    D~

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello D! Sorry it took me so long to respond. I wanted to wait until I got time so I could write you a thorough response. I wonder if the doctor might be expecting too much from the rifaximin? Has he done a gastric emptying test? If it’s delayed, you’ll need to work on strategies to treat it. Also, consider if you might still be eating something causing digestive inflammation. You mentioned FODMAP, but not low histamine. Are you on it? It can be hard to root out all offenders, even if you are. Especially since they can change. Look for anything that causes any kind of stomach upset, a runny nose or congestion, any kind of reaction at all and try eliminating it. Any probiotics? MCAS tends to respond best to bifido blends according to studies I’ve read and it works well for me. I also find the guar gum or sun fiber essential. I have a sort of winning combination of things that seem to make everything work pretty well, but as soon as I screw around with what I eat, all bets are off. Maybe there’s still something in the diet and/or you might not be getting enough stabilizers. Sometimes a good cleanse to reset things can really help. If you want to discuss strategy, hit me up on PM. Always happy to help look for possible culprits and solutions. Don’t give up. It takes time to unravel it all and even more time to get the system calmed down. Years often. But you’ll feel better in stages. It’s not all miserable. Gentle hugs my friend. Xx

      Like

  2. The newer treatments you mention, especially that coated tablet with slow release peppermint oil as it sounds a much more natural, gentle approach, are interesting. I hope it opens up more options for people because it can be a lengthy process of trial and error to find something that helps. I was told I had IBS many years ago, but I’m not sure that’s really what it was. It was a mix of chronic constipation and all that came with that, like cramps and severe bloating. My large bowel had actually just died, not that any doctors at the time even believed I was constipated, so it’s important to keep pushing to be heard, tested and treated appropriately as it’s all too easy for doctors & specialists to fob off bowel issues. First port of call is always the things you’ve listed, like good sleep, diet modifications, lower stress, and trying out different supplements (and/or probiotics too) to see what helps. Very thorough post, nicely done! xx

    Like

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