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Living With Fibromyalgia and Celiac Disease

Depositphotos S XThese diseases can be debilitating, and dealing with both at the same time can be doubly hard, as there aren’t always clear treatment solutions. But there are things that women suffering from one or both should know in order to mitigate symptoms and improve quality of life. Below we consider some of these issues.

What are tips for managing the symptoms of these two conditions simultaneously, with the goal of feeling good enough to have energy to keep up with/raise my kids?

For effective management of both conditions, by far the most important therapeutic measures involve improving lifestyle and self-care. While this can take many different forms, it starts with education, whether via your doctor or on your own.

Next, the importance of restful sleep can’t be overstated, because of its connection to stress levels, which correlate to symptom severity. Anything that decreases stress and improves sleep can be utilized, and it’s not uncommon for sufferers to find relief in different forms. Some more commonly used techniques include yoga, meditation, improved diet, exercise and deep breathing or other direct relaxation methods, to name but a few.

Also, because reassurance plays a big role in symptom control, you must assess whether your clinician is right for you. If your doctor does not demonstrate compassion and concern for emotional well-being, he or she may be more a part of the problem than the solution.

The path to improving health and energy levels involves effectively combating both diseases, because untreated, they can affect and permeate your entire being. Dealing with these disorders can be daunting and not always easy. But with some effort it is possible to minimize symptoms and return to a normal, if somewhat different, way of life.

Should the treatment of the two conditions individually be different, knowing I have both conditions?

Sometimes therapies will diverge, while other times the two may be relieved using similar measures. This depends on individual symptoms and levels of disease, as evaluated by you and your doctor.

For celiac disease, the most crucial directive involves avoiding gluten at all costs. It is commonly found in many grains, and you need to know which are safe to consume. Fortunately, this is much easier in today’s market, where gluten-free products are plentiful and clearly marked. In addition, because lactose intolerance can add to the discomfort, dairy should be avoided in those who suspect it.

Such radical shifts in dietary habits require some getting used to, and may be aided by a dietitian. Depending on levels of deficiency, supplements such as iron, folic acid, calcium and multivitamins may also be required to achieve normal levels.

In fibromyalgia (FM), where patients experience chronic pain in connective tissues (fibro) and muscles (myalgia), and the cause is still unknown, treatment focuses mainly on pain reduction. Analgesics are the mainstay for localized problems, while a pain management specialist may be consulted for regional or widespread symptoms. Others have found relief from pain (and sleep disturbances) with other treatments, such as antidepressants and anti-seizure medications. Interestingly, according to Medscape, avoiding gluten may also help with FM symptoms, as there are current theories supporting a connection between the two.

Treatments for either disease depend on the patient’s signs and symptoms, and generally have less to do with which disease is causing them. The goal is mitigating discomfort and improving quality of life. Thus, pain from either disorder should be treated accordingly, while aspects specific to one, such as muscle stiffness or digestive problems, should be addressed separately. Solutions may include prescription or OTC remedies (for bloating, diarrhea, etc.), or various physical and mental approaches. Particulars of these therapies will depend on the individual patient’s needs.

Questions for your doctor:

  • What tests do I need, and what will they tell us?
  • What are the different treatment/management options? What are the benefits/risks for each?
  • Is it possible that a mental/emotional problem besides “stress” is contributing, and if so, what is the best way to deal with it?
  • Could there be more serious physical conditions causing these problems? How can we rule them out?
  • If my symptoms are severe, could steroids be helpful for either or both conditions?

About the Author
Dr. Rothbard is a professional medical writer and consultant based in New York City, specializing in medical education articles targeted at a variety of audiences, from children through clinicians.  After leaving medicine, he worked as a biology and medical science educator for several years, before deciding to pursue writing fulltime.  He may be reached at


This blog post was originally published by, written by Dr. Rothbard, and first published on Mar 18, 2012.

This post contains the opinions of the author. Autoimmune Association is not a medical practice and does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is your responsibility to seek diagnosis, treatment, and advice from qualified providers based on your condition and particular circumstances. Autoimmune Association does not endorse nor recommend any products, practices, treatment methods, tests, physicians, service providers, procedures, clinical trials, opinions or information available on this website. Your use of the website is subject to our Privacy Policy.

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