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Digestive Disorders in Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Food Problems & Resources to Manage Them


Updated December 12, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are often accompanied by food-related problems, both as symptoms and as overlapping conditions. These issues can be difficult to diagnose and manage, but proper treatment can help you feel a lot better.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

A common overlapping condition is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS can cause a host of abdominal symptoms, including:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Alternating bouts of constipation & diarrhea
  • Nausea & vomiting
  • Gas & bloating

We don't know why IBS is common in fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, but they appear to share some common physiology. Learn more about that, plus how it's diagnosed and treated, here:

Food Intolerance

Many people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome find that certain foods bother them. Sometimes, these foods exacerbate their symptoms, while other times, the foods cause a new set of symptoms to occur.

Food intolerance can be a symptom of these conditions, but it's important to discuss these problems with your doctor in case they come from an undiagnosed illness.

Food intolerance isn't the same thing as an allergy: allergies cause a specific type of physiological reaction that's not seen in intolerance. For example, a milk allergy can make someone's throat swell shut, whereas lactose intolerance will give you digestive issues.

You can become intolerant of just about any kind of food, and it's hard to identify which one is the problem. A useful tool for identifying which foods bother you is an elimination diet. Learn more here:

A food that's had a lot of attention in the popular media is gluten. It's easy to find people in chat rooms or blogs talking about how a gluten-free diet made their symptoms disappear, while other people say gluten has no effect on them. See what we know about gluten in these conditions:

Your Diet

For more help identifying ways to manage your illness through your diet, and for eating healthily with these illnesses, see:


Janet M, et al. The Journal of the American Medical Association. 2006;295(8):960. doi:10.1001/jama.295.8.960. Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Riedl A, et al. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. 2008 Jun;64(6):573-82. Somatic comorbidities of irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic analysis.

Wallace DJ, Hallegua DS. Current pain and headache reports. 2004 Oct;8(5):364-8. Fibromyalgia: the gastrointestinal link.

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