Gut Walls May Be Leaky in Fibromyalgia

Guest BloggerMicrobiome Environment


Pain has a purpose.

It tells us to pay attention: to remove a hand from fire, rest a sore leg or seek medical attention. But sometimes pain can be fake news. Pain can be the brain misreading signals, as in fibromyalgia. This common disorder is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain along with fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues.

Clues to fibromyalgia

  • Several illnesses may trigger or aggravate fibromyalgia: headaches, temporomandibular joint disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression.
  • Physical or emotional trauma may trigger fibromyalgia.
  • Certain genetic mutations may make some more susceptible.

And there’s this: Women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia than are men. The significance is not clear.

Fibromyalgia and the brain

Fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations. It does this by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals. Neurotransmitters may provoke aberrations in brain pain signalling, according to a new review of the literature titled Clinical Evidence for the Microbiome in Inflammatory Diseases.

The authors write that an increase in serum inflammatory mediator’s levels (IL-6 and IL-8) has been reported in fibromyalgia patients, the concentrations of which were positively correlated to duration of disease.

As evidence attests, microbes have integral roles in inflammatory states. Very little data exist on the role of probiotics in fibromyalgia. However, early research suggests a path.

Fibromyalgia and leaky gut

Altered intestinal permeability in patients with primary fibromyalgia and in patients with complex regional pain syndrome was reported in a 2008 study appearing in Rheumatology Journal. Researchers examined the intestinal permeability in 40 patients with fibromyalgia and in two control groups: healthy volunteers and also 17 patients with an unrelated chronic pain syndrome called complex regional pain syndrome. The intestinal permeability values were significantly increased in the patient groups.

Fibromyalgia and SIBO

Another pertinent observation: small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) has been demonstrated in fibromyalgia. The severity of SIBO correlated with patients’ pain in fibromyalgia but the mechanism is not clear. Indeed, a lactulose breath test to diagnose SIBO revealed abnormal results more commonly in fibromyalgia patients than in controls.

Researchers surmised that SIBO causes increased intestinal permeability which in turn leads to luminal products gaining abnormal access to immune systems. These products may stimulate immune cells to play a role in causing systemic diseases such as fibromyalgia.

Treatment of Fibromyalgia

For those who suffer, medications, exercise, and stress-reduction therapies may alleviate the symptoms. Fortifying intestinal walls may be another.