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Intestinal Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

By Sharon Takiguchi ; Updated August 14, 2017

Johns Hopkins Medicine defines fibromyalgia syndrome as a chronic illness involving pain in multiple locations on the body. A syndrome entails a set of signs and symptoms that collectively distinguish an abnormal condition. The characteristic features of fibromyalgia include tender points, chronic fatigue, sleep disturbances, intestinal dysfunction, headache, memory difficulty, anxiety, stiffness, aching muscles and exercise intolerance. According to “Human Psychopharmacology” in 2009, women suffer from fibromyalgia seven times more frequently than men do.

Altered Intestinal Permeability

Research findings from the Walton Center in the United Kingdom, published in “Rheumatology” in 2008 report that the small bowel in fibromyalgia sufferers shows overgrowth of abnormal bacteria. The study demonstrated an increased intestinal permeability that produces increased hyperactivity of the intestines. Intestinal permeability means abnormal substances gain access to the body and alter its immune function. Treatment with rifaximin therapy demonstrated an improvement in gastrointestinal symptoms of diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pain.


According to reports in the “Journal of Psychosomatic Research" in 2008, constipation or infrequent stools occur in 30% of individuals with fibromyalgia. Constipation is defined as having a bowel movement less than three times a week. Some individuals complain of abdominal pain and straining to move the bowels in conjunction with the constipation.


“Clinical Nurse Specialist” in 2002 describes diarrhea occurring in up to 90% of fibromyalgia sufferers. Individuals describe a pressing urge to move the bowels as well as passage of unformed stool. Diarrhea occurs along with high levels of anxiety. Reports in 2004 in the “Journal of Nutrition” indicate ingestion of probiotics decreases the symptoms of diarrhea.

Fecal Incontinence

The “Journal of Psychosomatic Research” in 2008 reports 2% to 7% of individuals with fibromyalgia report uncontrolled passage of stool. This fecal incontinence transpires frequently in concurrence with diarrhea and creates major problems in daily life.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

According to the “Journal of Psychosomatic Research," gastroesophageal reflux disease describes the condition where food travels backward from the stomach into the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube connecting the mouth to the stomach. Characteristic symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease include epigastric pain, a sensation of fullness, and heartburn. Gastroesophageal reflux disease and other intestinal problems occur in 50% of fibromyalgia sufferers.

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