We know all too well how trying this illness can be, as well as the importance of staying on top of the conditions to reduce flares. It is like a house of cards. Following are a few of the most common conditions associated with fibromyalgia and how I have dealt with them.
Irritable bowel syndrome
I have had IBS-C (irritable bowel syndrome, constipation-predominant) since I was a young child. Coming from a stressful home, I would sometimes go without a bowel movement for more than a week. The onset of cramps, spasms, and pain was intense, and they worsened significantly, as my fibromyalgia did. The spasms and sweating would lead to feeling as if I would faint (one time I actually did). I assume this all is due to the vasovagal response, a reflex from the vagus nerve’s interaction with the nervous system.
I still feel like a child at times when I curl up while sitting on the toilet, rubbing my abdomen and hoping the episode will end soon. Staying away from caffeine as much as possible (aside from green tea), not overwhelming my diet with too much fiber (like uncooked vegetables, nuts, multi-grain bars/cereal), in addition to eating very little red meat, help to deter episodes of colic. My gastroenterologist recommended Colace to aid in movement because standard treatments like Miralax were inconsistent, and others (Dulcolax, Phillips, etc.) caused intense cramping that was as severe as the episodes themselves. On those rare occasions when I have spasms, or my colon is irritated the day after an episode, I have a prescribed anti-spasmodic.
Gastroesophageal reflux disorder
Like the irritable bowel, I’ve had this since I was a teenager. However, it did not cause a large problem until my fibromyalgia was at its worst — when it contributed to the development of two small ulcers. I take my medicine in the morning a half-hour before eating. I also make sure I don’t eat anything four hours before bedtime. Should I develop a mild case of indigestion, I make sure I sleep on my left side. The reason is medically unknown, but a study found that longer times for clearance of stomach acid occurred in persons who were given a high-fat meal followed by a late night snack and laid on their right side (instead of their left). I also find sleeping with multiple slightly elevated pillows helps reduce the occurrence of GERD.
The onset of my menstrual cycle was not simple. A year before I began, I had bouts of fatigue and light-headedness. The number of days was outlandish, anywhere from 26 to 42. As the years went on, the cramps and bleeding worsened. I was one of the women who required the heavy flow, overnight, with wings maxi pad. The idea of using a tampon only made me cramp more.
The fatigue started the day before onset and could last for a day or two. The sleep was restorative, but the exhaustion was debilitating. My mood would plummet suddenly even when I was having a good day and make me vulnerable to sudden anxiety attacks. In my late 30s, I began to experience a pulling sensation on one side of my uterus. Having had adhesions in the past, I was very concerned they had returned. After a thorough discussion with my doctor on the cost and benefits, taking oral contraceptives on a continuous basis has turned out to be the best solution.
I was accustomed to having headaches since I was very young, but nothing of this magnitude until I was in high school. Taking the standard buffered aspirin was useless; I might as well have taken a placebo. My trigger was a result of certain allergens (dust, mold, certain grasses). Many years of allergy tests, shots, and a mixture of corticosteroid medications finally led to the right treatment. It has helped resolve the problem, at least for migraines. If only other types were irradicated, too.
Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.