In the recent Natural Remedies for Fibromyalgia blog post, I discussed the main symptoms of Fibromyalgia (FM) which are fatigue, aches, pains, brain fog, lethargy, depression, sleep issues and many more. The severity of these symptoms will vary from person to person and the contributing causes have been linked to chemical allergies, viruses, genetics and stress, and gut dysbiosis. Did you know that there are 140+ autoimmune diseases (that we know of) and Fibromyalgia is only one of them.
But What Does Gluten Have to Do With Fibromyalgia?
Let’s start with the ‘gluten basics’. I have previously written about gluten here and here. But just to re-cap, the gluten we eat today is not the same gluten that your grandparents ate. Scientists developed a different kind of wheat in order to be able to create higher wheat yields and fluffier breads, cakes and pastries. They also made it so it would be able to dissolve into liquids and other products that didn’t previously contain gluten, such as cold cut lunch meats and beauty products like shampoo. We’re not only eating a different kind of gluten to what our ancestors ate, we are actually eating and being exposed to an increased volume of it. As a result, our bodies are unable to tolerate this increased amount.
Imagine the lining of your digestive tract is like a net with extremely small holes that only allow specific beneficial substances to pass through it. However, it also works as a barrier to keep out bigger more harmful particles that can cause damage to the system.
The proteins contained within the ‘modern’ wheat are gut irritants. Imagine wheat is like a splinter digging into the lining of your gut and the amount of inflammation and irritation that would cause. This results in the ‘net’ being damaged, creating larger holes which allow undigested food particles, chemicals and toxins to pass into the blood stream. As a result of this damage, symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, digestive issues, food sensitivities and headaches can occur.
However, the more wheat that is consumed, combined with other bad dietary and lifestyle choices can lead to the creation of an immune response and inflammation throughout the body, which results in a variety of diseases such as an autoimmune disease like Fibromyalgia.
What Does the Research Say?
A study from Italian researchers found that FM patients can benefit from specific dietary changes1. This study found that when FM patients eliminated gluten from their diets, they experienced significant improvements in all symptoms. In another study of 40 patients with FM, it was found that 70% of them had a ‘leaky gut’ (intestinal permeability)2.
From a study in 2014 involving 20 patients with FM, it was discovered that the level of widespread chronic pain improved dramatically for all patients when they followed a gluten free diet for 16 months. 15 of the patients were able to return to work or normal life as their fatigue, depression, digestive issues and pain improved so much3.
While these are small studies, the findings are still incredibly intriguing, especially given the number of FM sufferers who indicated that their symptoms improved after simply following a gluten free diet. As with so many other treatments, the only way to know if a gluten-free diet will help you is to investigate it for yourself.
Gluten intolerance doesn’t show up on blood tests. Food intolerances differ from food allergies so antibodies may not show up in blood tests. The best way to determine your sensitivity to gluten is to avoid it completely. By eliminating all gluten sources from your diet for at least 6 weeks, notice when you introduce it back into your diet if the symptoms reoccur. It’s incredibly important to be aware of everything you eat and to always double check the ingredients label, as gluten can be ‘hidden’ and called something else.
Below is a small list of common names that contain gluten:
- Hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP)
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
- Modified food starch (source is either corn or wheat)
- Mustard powder (some contain gluten)
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
- Gelatinised starch
- Natural flavouring, fillers
- Whey protein concentrate
- Whey sodium caseinate
- White vinegar or white grain vinegar
- Rice malt (contains barley or Koji)
- Rice syrup (contains barley enzymes)
- Dextrin, malt, maltodextrin
If you want to do an elimination program, go to the What’s With Wheat? website and read the information on the ‘6 Weeks No Wheat’ Program.
- ‘Why You Need to Eliminate Gluten Completely If You Have an Autoimmune Disease’ blog post
- A video by Dr Rutherford and Dr Gates explaining the connection between gluten and fibromyalgia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDKQqshXgPA
Nutritionist & GAPS Practitioner
Thank you! I am going gluten free today! I suffer from FM and also have another autoimmune disease as well, called Primary Biliary cirrohsis/congelitus. My bile ducts do not work, therfore my liver doesn’t produce bile. I take Ursodiol twice daily for this auto immune disease of the liver. I suffer from digestive problems that have caused lots of problems for me. I can’t wait to see the results of going gluten free. Thank you for the excellent article. I will put it to use ASAP!
I had my gallbladder removed probably 10 years ago. I was suffering from terrible bile acid reflux that wasn’t diagnosed for a while. Which seems silly because if you have acid reflux and no gallbladder your doctor would have the common sense to know that you would have bile acid reflux. But my doctor decided to get money from me by having me do an upper GI before the diagnosis. Anyway I was given Ursidiol and realizing it was just a form of synthetic bile bile, I switched to an ox bile supplement that I take 30 minutes before a fatty meal is best or after a fatty meal.
I was a Fibromyalgia sufferer still have a ways to go but getting there. I had total Adrenal breakdown and numerous other things going wrong I was at rock bottom. I was advised to go and see a Chiropractor who also uses Kinesiology and Oh Boy what a difference in just 3 short months.
I was advised to give up gluten, sugars (refined), dairy, I had a leaky gut, I had bacteria and funguses. My leaky gut is fixed the bacteria and funguses are just about fixed I have also lost almost 10 kilos in that short amount of time. I am starting to feel like a normal person now. If I do eat something with gluten in it I know it the next day I start to ache I get bloated, and just feel really lethargic.
I have also started to follow The Paelo Way of Eating by Pete Evans (Top Cheff), and eating as much organic foods as possible is a little bit expensive and time consuming when reading labels but if I had of known about this 20years ago when first diagnosed with FM, that would have been 20 years extra I would have had. So I am going to make up for that now.
I have had FM for years & some days are worse than others. I do know when I don’t consume gluten I feel so much better. I have been slack so therefore very tired, foggy, headaches, sore bloated tummy & I gain weight very easily. I decided to pull my head in and to be gluten and dairy free. That was only 4 days ago & I already feel so much better. I have much more energy, headaches are subsiding along with my sore bloated tummy. I’m just starting to think more clearly too. I have gut issues also. After reading this article I feel motivated to stick to it & can’t wait for a full recovery.
I have FM and have been on auto-immune protocol for over a year. I seem to have a problem with salt. If I eat any salt other than my himalayan sea salt, my hands swell, mouth gets so dry, and sometimes my hands and feet get blotchy and red. I also have issues with low blood pressure, low blood volume, and dizziness.
Does anyone have any experience with anything similar?
My suggestion to you would be that you only consume Himalayan salt, especially if you’re reacting that badly to refined or other salts. I know Cyndi always has a small container of the Changing Habits Seaweed salt in her handbag, so if she eats out at restaurants or cafes she can use a quality salt on her meals. I would recommend consulting your chosen health care practitioner so you can discuss your low blood pressure, blood volume and dizziness symptoms, there are many different things to consider in regards to those (medication, stress, food, environment etc).
I think I’ve had fibromyalgia for many years but was diagnosed approximately 10 years ago. I was working at Walmart and was just exhausted. Not the tiredness that sleep helps. I mean totally exhausted, with muscle pain. My primary doctor diagnosed fibromyalgia. I couldn’t move my right arm with out getting a lot of pain. I was taking Lyrica, it helps but I still have to be careful not to over do things. I was trying to have a child-don’t know if I’ll be able to do it! I lost touch with reality.I started on Health Herbal Clinic Fibromyalgia Disease Herbal formula treatment in September 2016, i read alot of positive reviews on their success rate treating Fibromyalgia disease through their Fibromyalgia Herbal formula and i immediately started on the treatment. Just 7 weeks into the Herbal formula treatment I had great improvements, my right hand pain seized and the stiffed, rigid muscle had succumbed. I am unbelievably back on my feet, this is a breakthrough for all Fibromyalgia sufferers, visit Health Herbal Clinic official website www. healthherbalclinic. net