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Adrienne Dellwo

Gluten Intolerance in Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

By May 23, 2012

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Food intolerances are one of those things that we know goes along with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome but that really hasn't been researched. The food that seems to come up the most often is gluten, which is found in wheat and several other common grains.

A sensitivity to such a common food, and even the possibility of it, leads to a lot of questions. Will going gluten free will help alleviate their symptoms? What can and can't you eat? Why is a food that's harmless to most people causing problems for you?

To help you find answers, I've turned to my About.com colleague Jane Anderson, Guide to Celiac Disease. You'll find my compilation of her articles that I believe are most relevant to us here:

I find the new research especially interesting - doctors are finally seeing that gluten sensitivity can cause neurological problems. That's something many of us (me included) have learned from experience.

Do you have problems with gluten? Have you been diagnosed with an intolerance? Do you have other food sensitivities? Leave your comments below!

Learn more or join the conversation!


Photo Jodie Coston/Getty Images

May 23, 2012 at 6:49 am
(1) Brett says:

I found DHA to be a Godsend for my memory, concentration, willpower, and so many other areas (though critical to take it with food), and later without my prompting about DHA’s effect on me, a nutritionist, after finding through blood tests (Allermetrix) that I had gluten and other allergies (which when elevate my bed and abstain from these foods (as well as sugary foods) I have no reflux problems whatsoever), said that some intestine inflammation caused by the allergy could be blocking absorption of DHA. This seems to me to be the likely reason for the neurological effects.

May 23, 2012 at 10:32 am
(2) julie says:

Not been tested for celiac, etc, but I have found by eliminating, then, adding back into my diet, that pasta and bread cause tremendous pain surge. Sugar is also another huge cause of high pain. A friend says that our wheat and other foods that are causing so many health issues, are due to the environmental poisons-or, genetically modified, and pesticide toxins. We are getting sick from all the poison.

May 23, 2012 at 1:32 pm
(3) Abi says:

I have been in and out of hospital for the past year with severe chronic stomach pain and problems with my bowels. I was putting on weight (even though eating less), severely depressed, i was being sick, i couldn’t wake up properly, i had what i can only describe as mucous diarrhoea which smelt like nothing i’ve smelt before!
Eventually i was so ill, i used to cry on the toilet, and i had green coming out both ends (which i know now was my stomach lining so inflamed).
I went back to my doctor and told her everything; and i also said i had a strong suspicion that my severe depression and fibro worsening was because of whatever was wrong with my stomach.
She told me to cut all food groups out my diet, and then add them back one at a time.
After a few days i could actually walk without screaming in pain, and after a week my bowels seemed a little more normal.
Dairy – fine, sugar – fine, gluten – BOOM! So i cut gluten back out for another week, and i started to feel mentally and physically better quite quickly considering!
It’s only been about 6 weeks gluten free, and my depression has lifted somewhat, my tummy doesn’t hurt, my fibro is somewhat better, my bowels are pretty much normal, i am even starting to enjoy eating again!
I am loosing weight aswell!
I can’t belive all those times in hospital and blood tests, and NO-ONE had tested me for a gluten allergy!

May 23, 2012 at 2:38 pm
(4) Rachael says:

Something that people may not be aware of regarding gluten is that the peptides from gluten have been shown to bind to opiate receptors in the brain. Many people removing gluten from their diets have uncomfortable physical symptoms likened to withdrawal symptoms experienced by those removing addictive substances eg cocaine.

Source: http://www.livestrong.com/article/246282-gluten-free-diet-and-withdrawal-symptoms/
My theory is that gluten’s effect on opiod receptors can cause dopmaine dysregulation/depletion in some genetically predisposed individuals (a high and a then a low -withdrawal). Any substance that dysregulates/depletes dopmaine can have a stimulatory effect on the immune system causing prolactin levels to rise (prolactin is immunostimulating peptide hormone), which can cause nausea, irritable bowel, pain syndromes, anxiety etc in the susceptible individual. People with autism, autoimmune illnesses, adhd, thyroid disease, migraine and FM and ME/CFS often are allergic, intolerant, or sensitive to gluten.

May 23, 2012 at 4:49 pm
(5) Simone says:

I had the opposite reaction. I eliminated gluten from my diet for five weeks during which I got slowly worse. When I reintroduced it I felt immediately better. I decided that I must be gluten _dependent_!

May 23, 2012 at 6:03 pm
(6) Lee Ann says:

I have narcolepsy also, and the new theory is the gluten binds to the receptors for sleep, instead of orexin which helps us sleep at night. And lots of people with Narcolepsy have felt a lot better on a gluten free diet. But it was always so hard to try to do. Nowadays, there are many MANY GF foods.
The theory is also that narcolepsy and fibro are two sides of the same coin, and their co illnesses are fibrocystic breast disease, IBS. Get rid of the gluten, and possibly would sleep better, feel better and be able to go have a BM once a day instead of 20 times one day and then nothing for another week, whereupon it all starts again.

May 24, 2012 at 10:05 pm
(7) Amy says:

Changing to a gluten free diet helped me tremendously. When I mistakenly get gluten I know very quickly, the pain and fogginess start within an hour.

May 25, 2012 at 12:09 am
(8) melody says:

Thank you for this information. I too am gluten intolerant. I had a test done for food intolerances thru ALCAT – of which I had to pursue on my own, no doctor( not even Cleveland Clinics finest ) has ever tested me. The results of following the doctors, dietician & chemists findings & recommendations are remarkable – especially if you follow them to the letter. I’m still struggling with it some but getting better day by day. I give God all the glory for every ounce of wisdom that I’ve received, especially that from His word. It’s all
in there. Eat foods He created, as they were created and according to the wholesome diet He have to His people – the Isrealites. I am not Jewish. But I believe the Bible is exactly what it says it is- the Words of our God & Creator. Medicine has also proven that a diet of clean fruits, veggies, clean meat, whole grains & fats that come from vegetation & nuts. Moderation in all, especially sweet and things considered delicacies(rich in fat, sugar, rare expensive- usually because its brought from far far es

May 25, 2012 at 12:16 am
(9) melody says:

This is continue. I hit a wrong button. Basically just as they now tell us to eat:local foods free of chemicals. And with good fats in moderation, and sugar in moderate
Amounts. It’s all hard. I’m not great at it yet. But I’m pursuing it. A great book by an MD I read years ago
Is. What the Bible says about healthy living. By Dr. Rex Russell M.D.
God bless.

May 25, 2012 at 4:45 pm
(10) MANDI says:

I suffer from fibro and chronic fatigue.I have been following a gluten free diet now for 6 weeks.I have not experienced any change yet.But I will carry on

June 17, 2012 at 7:34 pm
(11) goatherdess says:

I agree with Simone – I actually seem to need the gluten in my diet. Rice, a mainstay of a gluten-free diet, makes me ill very quickly though. I can’t eat anything labeled gluten-free because of the rice in it. Heavy pain followed by about 5 days in the bathroom for just a few bites. Wheat makes me feel better and aids my digestion. Interesting about the gluten-opiate receptors thing.

July 26, 2012 at 9:33 am
(12) Roxy says:

The problem is the GMO’s!!!!

January 1, 2013 at 8:19 pm
(13) Cynthia says:

I have FM and CFS along with several other chronic pain conditions. Was diagnosed with IBS years ago and always had issues with food intolerances. I blow up like a balloon or look about 9 months pregnant when I eat gluten foods. I have been “mostly” gluten free for the past couple of months. (I do tolerate wheat bread, Sara Lee 45 Calories & Delightful Wheat Bread). I no longer swell, have GERD, and no longer have stomach issues. Have lost 10 pounds and feel better. I do believe it has helped my FM as well. But…I look like I’ve lost about 20 pounds since I was constantly bloated. Could lose 5 more, but am satisfied with size now. I am also lactose intolerant. My doctor also gave me a print out and instructed me to stay away from Tyramine so no processed meats such as bologna or hot dogs. While some with FM and/or CFS may have no food sensitivities, I would recommend trying a gluten free diet or Atkins if you have stomach issues.

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