Soothing Fibromyalgia Stomach Pain: Effective Relief Strategies

Table of contents

Soothing Fibromyalgia Stomach Pain: Effective Relief Strategies

If you're living with fibromyalgia, you may also be experiencing a type of abdominal discomfort that's common with this condition.

This guide is designed to help you understand the reasons behind stomach pain with fibromyalgia and to provide you with strategies for relief.

What does fibromyalgia stomach pain feel like?

Fibromyalgia stomach pain often feels like a chronic, gnawing discomfort that can range from mild to severe in intensity.

You might experience a persistent dull ache, bloating or an uncomfortable fullness, a tight knot in the stomach, or it could manifest as a sharper, cramp-like pain or muscle spasms that intermittently arise and subside.

This type of pain can be triggered or worsened by certain foods, stress, or during flare-ups of other fibromyalgia symptoms, making it a particularly challenging aspect of the condition to manage.

Fibromyalgia stomach pain: Unraveling the connection

As someone with fibromyalgia, you're likely familiar with not just muscle pain but also a variety of digestive symptoms. Especially if you’re a woman, because it's more common for women with fibromyalgia to experience these gastrointestinal issues. These can include abdominal pain, indigestion, and changes in your bowel habits.

They may be due to a dysregulation of the nervous system, which is responsible for controlling your body's involuntary functions. This can result in both muscle and abdominal discomfort happening at the same time.

Beyond the typical symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – such as bloating and irregular bowel movements – you may also suffer from functional gastric problems. These issues can present as constant nausea, episodes of vomiting, and frequent belching, and are signs of functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGID).

The role of the central nervous system

Your central nervous system, which includes your brain and spinal cord, serves as the command center for your body.

In fibromyalgia, central sensitization takes center stage as the command center overreacts, sending out false alarms that translate normal sensations into pain. This error in signal processing can also impact your digestive system, leading to stomach pains that are very real and certainly not just “in your mind.” It's a consequence of the way your central nervous system is handling stimuli.

Factors that may increase your chances of developing fibro include your genetic makeup, past infections, hormonal shifts, chronic pain from other injuries, physical trauma, or even stress.

Irritable bowel syndrome & fibromyalgia

Research suggests that up to two-thirds of folks with fibromyalgia also have symptoms that closely resemble those of IBS: stomach cramps, constipation, or the opposite – diarrhea – especially after eating1.

But exploring the connection between fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome can be quite complex.

To start, because central sensitization is a product of the central nervous system, it can impact any part of your body, the gut included. This can impact the way that your brain and gut talk to each other, and may result in a sensitivity to what's going on in the gut

From a more biological point of view, we all live with a community of tiny organisms in our intestines, called the gut microbiota. They're usually good guys, but if they get out of balance, it can throw your system off and bring on those IBS issues.

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) & fibromyalgia

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or SIBO for short, is one way that the gut microbiota can be out of whack.

A simple analogy is to think of a garden. We have the things we want to grow – our “good” bacteria – and the weeds. SIBO is akin to a garden where the weeds have taken over the good plants.

Getting a handle on SIBO is about more than just calming down an upset stomach, and is also tied to how much body pain you feel with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia & digestive health: The significance of the gut-brain interaction

Imagine your brain and digestive system engaged in an ongoing dialogue; this is the gut-brain axis at work. This communication impacts not only the digestive processes, but also the musculoskeletal system, and even our mood and mental health!

Any disruption to the usual bacterial harmony in your gut can alter the digestive markers that regulate your system. These changes in gut bacteria can exacerbate your stomach pain and intensify the array of symptoms associated with your condition.

Altered gut microbiota

What transpires in the gut of someone with fibromyalgia? Cutting-edge research has uncovered a strong link between the diversity of gut flora and the intensity of fibromyalgia symptoms. It appears that the specific composition of gut microbiota plays a pivotal role in how fibromyalgia manifests itself3.

In essence, you may notice a disruption in the equilibrium of your gut's bacterial community. This disruption can cause an overgrowth of certain bacteria while diminishing the presence of others. These fluctuations in gut microbiota could be connected to the gastrointestinal distress you endure and may also influence your body's pain perception.

This underscores the significance of maintaining a balanced gut microbiome in the management of the gastrointestinal symptoms commonly linked with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia stomach pain relief

A multifaceted approach is the best treatment for tackling the abdominal discomfort that is often a part of living with fibromyalgia.

This includes your diet, which can play a significant role in how you feel, and also holistic changes, such as stress-reduction, physical therapy, and movement. 

Keep a detailed record of your stomach symptoms so that you can look for patterns and start to identify what helps, as well as what tends to make your symptoms worse. There are numerous food diary apps available.

Dietary changes

Adopting a diet that prioritizes whole, unprocessed foods – akin to the Mediterranean diet4 – may prove beneficial for your health. This type of diet typically includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and those abundant in antioxidants, which are celebrated for their ability to decrease inflammation.

At the same time, it's wise to eat less of the foods that can provoke inflammation. This could include reducing your intake of red meats, alcohol, caffeine, gluten, added sugars, and heavily processed items.

Retraining your pain response

To effectively manage the stomach pain associated with fibromyalgia, it's crucial to recognize that pain is multifaceted, involving not just your diet and biology, but also emotional and social elements.

Pinpointing the factors that intensify your pain, be it stress, detrimental thought cycles, or specific behaviors, is a critical step towards mitigating your discomfort. Tackling these triggers can be achieved through dietary adjustments, optimizing sleep patterns, and incorporating more physical activity into your routine.

Additionally, engaging in practices that leverage the brain's capacity for neuroplasticity can help modify the way pain signals are interpreted. With consistent effort, it's possible to recondition your brain to manage pain more effectively, which can lead to reduced pain frequency and intensity.

Effective strategies include the following.

Managing your stress

Stress significantly influences the intensity of pain, particularly for those battling fibromyalgia. 

While stress cannot be completely eradicated, adopting certain strategies can significantly diminish its impact on your physiological wellbeing. Techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness meditation are great, but any relaxation practices that you enjoy are great!

And don’t forget, reach out to friends, therapists, or support groups for emotional and social support.

Movement

Participating in low-impact exercises can be remarkably effective in reducing the symptoms and discomfort associated with fibromyalgia. It also has the added benefits of enhancing your mood and contributing to better sleep quality.

Don’t worry, exercise doesn’t have to involve Lycra and a gym membership! Identify a movement routine that works for you, whether it's a peaceful walk, a swim, or something else active that you enjoy.

Begin with what feels manageable for you and slowly build up the intensity, always paying attention to your body's signals. And practice self-compassion as you progress; each small step you take is a victory in managing your condition day by day.

Sleep hygiene

A good night's rest is super important when you're living with fibromyalgia, and we know it can be very hard to get.. Unfortunately, a sleepless night doesn’t just leave you feeling tired the next day. It can make your symptoms hit harder, and those pesky symptoms can make sleeping the next night a real challenge.

Want to sleep better? Check out these tips:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, aiming for about eight hours of sleep.
  • Keep naps short. Long naps can mess with your nighttime sleep.
  • Be active during the day. It can help you fall asleep faster when you hit the pillow.
  • Power down your screens before bedtime. It helps your brain chill out and get ready for sleep.
  • Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary. Keep it dark and quiet for the best snooze.
  • Watch the caffeine, especially later in the day. It can hang around in your body and keep you awake.
  • Avoid heavy meals and alcohol before bed. They can mess with your sleep quality.

By sticking to these sleep tips, you can give your body the rest it needs to better manage fibromyalgia symptoms.

Medications

While medications aren't a silver bullet for the abdominal pain that comes with fibromyalgia, they form an integral part of an all-encompassing treatment regimen. Common analgesics – pain relievers – available over the counter might provide a measure of relief from the pain.

Doctors may design a medication strategy tailored to address the wide-ranging symptoms of fibromyalgia. This strategy could include the use of antidepressants that affect the workings of the central nervous system, with the potential to lessen pain, alongside medications that are geared towards soothing the gastrointestinal discomfort that is often a part of living with fibromyalgia.

Consulting gastroenterologists & other specialists

Ask the experts for help. Turning to gastroenterologists can make a big difference because these physicians are well-versed in the intricate connection between the gastrointestinal system and fibromyalgia. Speaking with a specialist could get you a customized care plan that focuses on alleviating both the primary condition and its digestive repercussions.

You might also like to speak with a registered dietitian nutritionist for more information about how what you eat could be impacting you.

More information & support

For more information and support, fill out our suitability survey or get in touch. We can help you to work towards reducing pain severity, flare-up frequency, and emotional distress.

  1. Garofalo C, Cristiani CM, Ilari S, Passacatini LC, Malafoglia V, Viglietto G, Maiuolo J, Oppedisano F, Palma E, Tomino C, Raffaeli W, Mollace V, Muscoli C. Fibromyalgia and Irritable Bowel Syndrome Interaction: A Possible Role for Gut Microbiota and Gut-Brain Axis. Biomedicines. 2023 Jun 13;11(6):1701. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines11061701. PMID: 37371796; PMCID: PMC10296515. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10296515/
  2. Pimentel M, Wallace D, Hallegua D, Chow E, Kong Y, Park S, Lin HC. A link between irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia may be related to findings on lactulose breath testing. Ann Rheum Dis. 2004 Apr;63(4):450-2. doi: 10.1136/ard.2003.011502. PMID: 15020342; PMCID: PMC1754959. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1754959/
  3. Erdrich S, Hawrelak JA, Myers SP, Harnett JE. Determining the association between fibromyalgia, the gut microbiome and its biomarkers: A systematic review. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2020 Mar 20;21(1):181. doi: 10.1186/s12891-020-03201-9. PMID: 32192466; PMCID: PMC7083062. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7083062/
  4. Pagliai G, Giangrandi I, Dinu M, Sofi F, Colombini B. Nutritional Interventions in the Management of Fibromyalgia Syndrome. Nutrients. 2020 Aug 20;12(9):2525. doi: 10.3390/nu12092525. PMID: 32825400; PMCID: PMC7551285. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7551285/

Soothing Fibromyalgia Stomach Pain: Effective Relief Strategies

Table of contents

Soothing Fibromyalgia Stomach Pain: Effective Relief Strategies

If you're living with fibromyalgia, you may also be experiencing a type of abdominal discomfort that's common with this condition.

This guide is designed to help you understand the reasons behind stomach pain with fibromyalgia and to provide you with strategies for relief.

What does fibromyalgia stomach pain feel like?

Fibromyalgia stomach pain often feels like a chronic, gnawing discomfort that can range from mild to severe in intensity.

You might experience a persistent dull ache, bloating or an uncomfortable fullness, a tight knot in the stomach, or it could manifest as a sharper, cramp-like pain or muscle spasms that intermittently arise and subside.

This type of pain can be triggered or worsened by certain foods, stress, or during flare-ups of other fibromyalgia symptoms, making it a particularly challenging aspect of the condition to manage.

Fibromyalgia stomach pain: Unraveling the connection

As someone with fibromyalgia, you're likely familiar with not just muscle pain but also a variety of digestive symptoms. Especially if you’re a woman, because it's more common for women with fibromyalgia to experience these gastrointestinal issues. These can include abdominal pain, indigestion, and changes in your bowel habits.

They may be due to a dysregulation of the nervous system, which is responsible for controlling your body's involuntary functions. This can result in both muscle and abdominal discomfort happening at the same time.

Beyond the typical symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – such as bloating and irregular bowel movements – you may also suffer from functional gastric problems. These issues can present as constant nausea, episodes of vomiting, and frequent belching, and are signs of functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGID).

The role of the central nervous system

Your central nervous system, which includes your brain and spinal cord, serves as the command center for your body.

In fibromyalgia, central sensitization takes center stage as the command center overreacts, sending out false alarms that translate normal sensations into pain. This error in signal processing can also impact your digestive system, leading to stomach pains that are very real and certainly not just “in your mind.” It's a consequence of the way your central nervous system is handling stimuli.

Factors that may increase your chances of developing fibro include your genetic makeup, past infections, hormonal shifts, chronic pain from other injuries, physical trauma, or even stress.

Irritable bowel syndrome & fibromyalgia

Research suggests that up to two-thirds of folks with fibromyalgia also have symptoms that closely resemble those of IBS: stomach cramps, constipation, or the opposite – diarrhea – especially after eating1.

But exploring the connection between fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome can be quite complex.

To start, because central sensitization is a product of the central nervous system, it can impact any part of your body, the gut included. This can impact the way that your brain and gut talk to each other, and may result in a sensitivity to what's going on in the gut

From a more biological point of view, we all live with a community of tiny organisms in our intestines, called the gut microbiota. They're usually good guys, but if they get out of balance, it can throw your system off and bring on those IBS issues.

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) & fibromyalgia

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or SIBO for short, is one way that the gut microbiota can be out of whack.

A simple analogy is to think of a garden. We have the things we want to grow – our “good” bacteria – and the weeds. SIBO is akin to a garden where the weeds have taken over the good plants.

Getting a handle on SIBO is about more than just calming down an upset stomach, and is also tied to how much body pain you feel with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia & digestive health: The significance of the gut-brain interaction

Imagine your brain and digestive system engaged in an ongoing dialogue; this is the gut-brain axis at work. This communication impacts not only the digestive processes, but also the musculoskeletal system, and even our mood and mental health!

Any disruption to the usual bacterial harmony in your gut can alter the digestive markers that regulate your system. These changes in gut bacteria can exacerbate your stomach pain and intensify the array of symptoms associated with your condition.

Altered gut microbiota

What transpires in the gut of someone with fibromyalgia? Cutting-edge research has uncovered a strong link between the diversity of gut flora and the intensity of fibromyalgia symptoms. It appears that the specific composition of gut microbiota plays a pivotal role in how fibromyalgia manifests itself3.

In essence, you may notice a disruption in the equilibrium of your gut's bacterial community. This disruption can cause an overgrowth of certain bacteria while diminishing the presence of others. These fluctuations in gut microbiota could be connected to the gastrointestinal distress you endure and may also influence your body's pain perception.

This underscores the significance of maintaining a balanced gut microbiome in the management of the gastrointestinal symptoms commonly linked with fibromyalgia.

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Fibromyalgia stomach pain relief

A multifaceted approach is the best treatment for tackling the abdominal discomfort that is often a part of living with fibromyalgia.

This includes your diet, which can play a significant role in how you feel, and also holistic changes, such as stress-reduction, physical therapy, and movement. 

Keep a detailed record of your stomach symptoms so that you can look for patterns and start to identify what helps, as well as what tends to make your symptoms worse. There are numerous food diary apps available.

Dietary changes

Adopting a diet that prioritizes whole, unprocessed foods – akin to the Mediterranean diet4 – may prove beneficial for your health. This type of diet typically includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and those abundant in antioxidants, which are celebrated for their ability to decrease inflammation.

At the same time, it's wise to eat less of the foods that can provoke inflammation. This could include reducing your intake of red meats, alcohol, caffeine, gluten, added sugars, and heavily processed items.

Retraining your pain response

To effectively manage the stomach pain associated with fibromyalgia, it's crucial to recognize that pain is multifaceted, involving not just your diet and biology, but also emotional and social elements.

Pinpointing the factors that intensify your pain, be it stress, detrimental thought cycles, or specific behaviors, is a critical step towards mitigating your discomfort. Tackling these triggers can be achieved through dietary adjustments, optimizing sleep patterns, and incorporating more physical activity into your routine.

Additionally, engaging in practices that leverage the brain's capacity for neuroplasticity can help modify the way pain signals are interpreted. With consistent effort, it's possible to recondition your brain to manage pain more effectively, which can lead to reduced pain frequency and intensity.

Effective strategies include the following.

Managing your stress

Stress significantly influences the intensity of pain, particularly for those battling fibromyalgia. 

While stress cannot be completely eradicated, adopting certain strategies can significantly diminish its impact on your physiological wellbeing. Techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness meditation are great, but any relaxation practices that you enjoy are great!

And don’t forget, reach out to friends, therapists, or support groups for emotional and social support.

Movement

Participating in low-impact exercises can be remarkably effective in reducing the symptoms and discomfort associated with fibromyalgia. It also has the added benefits of enhancing your mood and contributing to better sleep quality.

Don’t worry, exercise doesn’t have to involve Lycra and a gym membership! Identify a movement routine that works for you, whether it's a peaceful walk, a swim, or something else active that you enjoy.

Begin with what feels manageable for you and slowly build up the intensity, always paying attention to your body's signals. And practice self-compassion as you progress; each small step you take is a victory in managing your condition day by day.

Sleep hygiene

A good night's rest is super important when you're living with fibromyalgia, and we know it can be very hard to get.. Unfortunately, a sleepless night doesn’t just leave you feeling tired the next day. It can make your symptoms hit harder, and those pesky symptoms can make sleeping the next night a real challenge.

Want to sleep better? Check out these tips:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, aiming for about eight hours of sleep.
  • Keep naps short. Long naps can mess with your nighttime sleep.
  • Be active during the day. It can help you fall asleep faster when you hit the pillow.
  • Power down your screens before bedtime. It helps your brain chill out and get ready for sleep.
  • Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary. Keep it dark and quiet for the best snooze.
  • Watch the caffeine, especially later in the day. It can hang around in your body and keep you awake.
  • Avoid heavy meals and alcohol before bed. They can mess with your sleep quality.

By sticking to these sleep tips, you can give your body the rest it needs to better manage fibromyalgia symptoms.

Medications

While medications aren't a silver bullet for the abdominal pain that comes with fibromyalgia, they form an integral part of an all-encompassing treatment regimen. Common analgesics – pain relievers – available over the counter might provide a measure of relief from the pain.

Doctors may design a medication strategy tailored to address the wide-ranging symptoms of fibromyalgia. This strategy could include the use of antidepressants that affect the workings of the central nervous system, with the potential to lessen pain, alongside medications that are geared towards soothing the gastrointestinal discomfort that is often a part of living with fibromyalgia.

Consulting gastroenterologists & other specialists

Ask the experts for help. Turning to gastroenterologists can make a big difference because these physicians are well-versed in the intricate connection between the gastrointestinal system and fibromyalgia. Speaking with a specialist could get you a customized care plan that focuses on alleviating both the primary condition and its digestive repercussions.

You might also like to speak with a registered dietitian nutritionist for more information about how what you eat could be impacting you.

More information & support

For more information and support, fill out our suitability survey or get in touch. We can help you to work towards reducing pain severity, flare-up frequency, and emotional distress.