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Is Gluten Sensitivity a Key Cause of Fibromyalgia?

A new study connects fibromyalgia and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.


This t-shirt sums up common feeling of fibromyalgia sufferers. Photo: CC--Forsaken Fotos

Celiac.com 04/10/2017 - Fibromyalgia syndrome is a debilitating condition of unknown cause, and only treatment approaches at present offer only limited relief from symptoms. Some fibromyalgia sufferers seem to benefit from a gluten-free diet, but there's not a great amount of data on the benefits of a gluten-free diet in fibromyalgia sufferers who do not have celiac disease.

A team of researchers recently set out to describe 20 selected patients with fibromyalgia, but without celiac disease, whose symptoms improved when they followed a gluten-free diet. The research team included Carlos Isasi, Isabel Colmenero, Fernando Casco, Eva Tejerina, Natalia Fernandez, José I. Serrano-Vela, Maria J. Castro, and Luis F. Villa.

They are variously associated with the Department of Rheumatology, Hospital Puerta de Hierro, Majadahonda Madrid, Spain; the Department of Pathology, Hospital Infantil Niño Jesús, Madrid, Spain; the Department of Pathology, Hospital Puerta de Hierro, Majadahonda Madrid, Spain; the Department of Gastroenterology, Hospital Puerta de Hierro, Majadahonda Madrid, Spain; the Celiac and Gluten Sensitive patients Association of Madrid, Madrid, Spain; and with the Department of Immunology, Hospital Doce de Octubre, Madrid, Spain.

What researchers now call non-celiac gluten-sensitivity is a daily common, yet treatable condition, with a range of symptoms that dovetail with many symptoms of fibromyalgia, including chronic musculoskeletal pain, asthenia, and irritable bowel syndrome.

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All patients underwent anti-transglutaminase assay, duodenal biopsy, and HLA typing. To rule out celiac disease in their test subjects, the research team used negative anti-transglutaminase assay results, together with the absence of villous atrophy in the duodenal biopsy.

All patients showed signs of intraepithelial lymphocytosis with no villous atrophy. The doctors defined a positive clinical response as the achievement of at least one of the following: remission of fibromyalgia-associated pain, return to work, return to normal life, or the discontinuation of opioids. Doctors followed on the patients from 5 to 31 months, with a follow-up period of 16 months, on average.

The level of widespread chronic pain improved dramatically for all patients; for 15 patients, chronic widespread pain was no longer present, indicating remission of FM. Fifteen patients returned to work or normal life. In three patients who had been previously treated in pain units with opioids, these drugs were discontinued. Fatigue, gastrointestinal symptoms, migraine, and depression also improved together with pain. Patients #2 and #3, both with oral aphthae, went into complete remission for psoriatic arthritis and undifferentiated spondyloarthritis.

These results strengthen the idea that non-celiac gluten sensitivity may play a key role in the development of fibromyalgia syndrome.

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2 Responses:

 
Laura
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said this on
21 Apr 2017 12:27:32 PM PDT
Several years ago, I was in line at the grocers. The man behind me noticed the GF foods on the belt. I told him that I had celiac disease. He then said; "I have a story for you." "My daughter suffered from fibromyalgia for many years. Last year while at her doctors office, he told her to not eat any gluten. She complied. Upon return to the doctor six months later, the doctor said, "I have something to tell you". "You no longer have fibromyalgia."" He father stated that his daughter has remained compliant and is no longer in constant pain.

 
Frank
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said this on
25 Apr 2017 8:21:29 PM PDT
I think you skipped the part where the study explains that a high percentage of the patients were in remission at the end of the study.




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I am very interested in this too. My daughter tested negative for celiac, but has terrible primarily neurological symptoms. Because she tested positive for SIBO at the time and was having some GI symptoms, I was told it was just a Fodmap issue. I knew better and we have been gluten free for 2 years. Fast forward to this February. She had a SIBO recurrence that I treated at home with diet and herbal antibiotics because I couldn't get the insurance referral. She was doing great. Then stupid me brought in gluten containing chick feed for the new baby chicks we got. Feed dust everywhere. Total mess. Really, no GI symptoms (she was SIBO free by then)...but the neurological symptoms! my daughter couldn't walk for three days. Burning down one leg, nerve pain in the foot. Also heaviness of limbs, headache and fatigue. Better after three days. But unfortunately she had a TINY gluten exposure at that three day mark and had another severe reaction: loss of balance, loss of feeling in her back and arms, couldn't see for a few seconds, and three days of hand numbness, fatigue, concentration problems. Well, I actually contacted Dr. Hadjivassilou by email and he confirmed that the symptoms are consistent with gluten ataxia but any testing would require a gluten challenge. Even with these exposures, antibodies would not be high enough. His suggestion was maintain vigilance gluten free. I just saw my daughter's GI at U of C and she really only recognizes celiac disease and neurological complications of that. But my impression is that gluten ataxia is another branch in the autoimmune side of things (with celiac and DH being the other two). At this point, I know a diagnosis is important. But I don't know how to get there. We homeschool right now so I can give her time to heal when she is accidentally glutened, I can keep my home safe for her (ugh, that I didn't think of the chicken feed!) But at some point, she is going to be in college, needing to take exams, and totally incapacitated because of an exposure. And doctors state side that are worth seeing? Who is looking at gluten ataxia in the US?

Caro..............monitoring only the TSH to gauge thyroid function is what endo's do who don' t do a good job of managing thyroid disease. They should do the full panel and check the actual thyroid hormone numbers.........T3 and T4. The importance of the TSH comes second to hormone levels. In order to track how severely the thyroid is under attack, you need to track antibody levels.......not the TSH. I did not stay with endocrinologists because I found they did not do a very good job and found much greater help and results with a functional medicine MD. You should not have a goiter if your thyroid is functioning well and your TSH is "normal". Maybe they should do a full panel? Going gluten free can have a profound affect for the better on thyroid function and that is something that is becoming more and more accepted today. Ask most people with Celiac and thyroid disease and they will tell you that. My thyroid never functioned well or was under control under after I discovered I had Celiac and went gluten free. It was the only way I got my antibody numbers back down close to normal and they were around 1200 when it was diagnosed with Celiac. I was diagnosed with Hashi's long before the Celiac diagnosis. I am not sure Vitamin D has anything to do with thyroid antibodies but who knows? Maybe it does have an affect for the better. It is really hard to get Vitmain D levels up, depending on where you live. Mine are going up, slowly, even after 12 years gluten-free but I live in the Northeast in the US and we don't have sun levels like they do in the South. I take 5,000 IU daily and that is a safe level to take, believe it or not. I get no sun on my job so the large dose it is! Having Celiac Disease should not stop you from being able to travel, especially S. America. I travel, although I do agree that some countries might be very difficult to be gluten free in. You can be a foodie and travel with Celiac so no worries on that front. You may not be able to sample from someone else's plate, unless they are eating gluten-free too but I have had awesome experiences with food when traveling so you can too!

I don't know what you drank or where.... so here are a few thoughts. - sure, a dive bar might have dirty glasses and serve a cocktail in a beer glass? But a nice reminder place, with a dishwasher, should be fine. If it's a sketchy place, Stick to wine, then it's served in wine glasses that aren't used for beer or bottled ciders in the bottle. - ciders on tap might, just a slight chance, have an issue. Because of beer on tap, mixed up lines, etc. - you may have a problem with alcohol - you may have issues with The high sugar content of the drink. I know I have similar issues if I drink serveral ciders of extra sugary brands - are you positive it was a gluten-free drink? Not this " redds Apple" pretending to be a cider - it's beer with apple flavor. Or one of those " gluten removed " beers?

Hi Stephanie, I'm also from the UK, I've found this site more helpful than anything we have! As already mentioned above, in my experience it could depend on what and where you were drinking. Gluten free food and drink isn't always (not usually) 100% gluten free as you may know, maybe you have become more sensitive to even a trace of gluten that is probably in gluten free food/drink. Is it possible you have a problem with corn, particularly high fructose corn syrup that is in a lot of alcoholic drinks? This was a big problem for me and the only alcoholic drinks I can tolerate are William Chase vodka and gin. I contacted the company last year and all their drinks are 100% gluten and corn free, made the old fashioned way with no additives, so maybe try their products if you like the occasional drink and see how you get on. If you drink out, not many pubs sell their products but I know Wetherspoons do and smaller wine bars may too. l was never a spirit drinker but I must say their products are absolutely lovely! Very easy on a compromised gut too considering it's alcohol. I second the suggestion on seeing a natural health practitioner. I've recently started seeing a medical herbalist, as I've got nowhere with my now many food intolerances since going gluten free last year and I've noticed a difference in my health already.

Sorry for the very late reply and thanks for the replies, I didn't get a notification of any. In case anyone else comes across this and has been wondering the same as I was, I did try a vegetable broth and I did react to it in the same way as if I'd eaten the vegetables. As for the candida, I've been using coconut oil and am seeing a medical herbalist for this and leaky gut. It's only been a few weeks but I've noticed an improvement all round.