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Fibromyalgia and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Exploring the possible connection between the two conditions.

Pain Processing continued...

It’s been also found that people with these conditions respond favorably to a certain group of antidepressants, which suggests they share a similar underlying cause.

In fibromyalgia, the central nervous system may be highly sensitive, making someone feel more pain than what someone without fibromyalgia would feel in a similar situation. And the central nervous system is not as able to block or inhibit the pain compared to someone without the condition, Pellegrino says.

In IBS, someone has the urge to pass a bowel movement that is often associated with bowel cramping, and the body fails to curb those pain signals. Similarly, a very mild trigger -- such as certain foods that don't bother most people -- can result in cramping someone with IBS, Halpert says.

Both conditions can drastically hamper daily life. For instance, someone with IBS may have to rush to bathroom after the abdominal pain begins. The symptoms can last a couple of hours to a day at a time, she says.

“We can’t figure out how to shut the pain signals off, whether it’s IBS or fibromyalgia. It’s the continuous and overwhelming signals that can’t be handled,” Pellegrino says.

There are treatments for IBS and fibromyalgia. They can include medications and/or lifestyle changes that address symptoms.

The key, Pellegrino says, is learning how to manage these conditions and how to deal with the stigma that may come with them. Talking with your doctor and finding a support group may help.

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Reviewed on March 11, 2014

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