Fibromyalgia and the IBS connection: A Natural Solution

Is it possible that certain bacteria in the gut may be responsible for Fibromyalgia and IBS? 

There are some amazing studies that point toward a connection and if you suffer from IBS as well as Fibromyalgia we have a simple, natural, solution for you.

Fibromyalgia is one of the least understood disorders in modern medicine.

It's characterized by extreme fatigue, chronic pain and tenderness in certain areas of the body where we are thought to carry stress.

At this point, scientists estimate that....

5 million people suffer with Fibromyalgia
80-90 %
are women

One of the reasons that fibromyalgia is so difficult to understand and diagnose is because it comes with a ton of symptoms.

Symptoms like:

  • Being so stiff in the morning that you decide you can "hold it" for another half hour rather then walk the 5 feet to the bathroom.
  • Constant long term sleeplessness due to pain
  • Migraines and other headaches
  • Extreme menstrual cycles...
  • Pins, needles and numbness in the hands and feet
  • Cognitive impairment or memory problems, sometimes referred to as fibro fog (please visit "Fibro fog, what you need to know to see clearly" for help if you struggle with that as well)
  • Chronic, life changing stomach disorders- also known as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)...oh JOY.

One study shows an absolutely astounding 70% of fibromyalgia sufferers also have IBS.

60% of IBS patients also have Fibromyalgia symptoms. Interestingly, most of these are woman.

They also found that the patients who had both IBS and Fibromyalgia together had the same level of somatic pain.

Somatic pain is basically skin, tissue, and muscle pain.

The participants that suffered from only IBS had much lower "somatic" pain.

There seems to be some sort of link between the two syndromes and it hasn't escaped the notice of medical researchers.

It's been suggested that IBS and Fibromyalgia have a common cause and that something specific may be responsible for the symptoms seen in these two conditions.

So what could the common cause be?

The little known link between fibromyalgia and bacteria

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center had previously determined a link between patients with IBS and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO).

Because of the strong connection between IBS and Fibromyalgia, they wondered if there was also a link between Fibromyalgia and SIBO.

So they performed a double blind study to see the correlation between bacterial overgrowth and fibromyalgia.

What they found was incredible...

They measured the overgrowth of certain types of bacteria in the gut by using a lactulose breath test.

What is a lactulose test? (This is so cool if you’re an information hoarder, like me).

Bacteria produce hydrogen gas or methane as they eat. So, if they are all down there in the small intestine having a party, they overproduce...and you end up with too much bacteria in your gut. This shows up on the test when you breathe.

What they found was that out of the control group (those are the ones with no IBS, or Fibromyalgia) 20% tested abnormally, so not too high.

Out of the IBS group, 84% tested with abnormal levels-very high.

However, when we get to the fibromyalgia group look at this...

24 out of 24 fibromyalgia participants, or 100%, tested abnormal. One... hundred... percent. It also showed that the higher the level of pain they were in, the higher the bacteria levels were

Wait...what??? So 100% of Fibromyalgia subjects had small intestine bacterial overgrowth?

The results of this study stopped me in my tracks. With an estimated 5 million people suffering with Fibromyalgia, how is this information not all over the place?

This begs the question: Is bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine responsible for Fibromyalgia and IBS? Or does Fibromyalgia cause bacterial overgrowth?

I think it needs much, much further study. One thing for certain, you can start to deal with the overgrowth of bacteria today, and you can do it naturally.

Remember the study showed that when the bacteria growth is higher the pain is also higher?

So theoretically if the bacterial overgrowth is lower, then so is the pain. Less pain = happy days.

Treating SIBO with good gut bacteria

One critical study showed that subjects who took probiotics versus antibiotics to treat SIBO for 15 days, had a significantly higher response rate-30% higher.

Additionally researchers concluded patients treated with antibiotics have a very high recurrence rate and that each time the bacterial overgrowth came back, the symptoms were worse

Here's why continuing to deal with SIBO long term is a major problem....

There are always bacteria in normal amounts in the digestive tract of healthy individuals.

The small intestine is the longest part of the digestive tract. It has lower levels of bacteria.

Digestive juices break down foods here, and the nutrients from those are absorbed into the bloodstream.

But what happens when SIBO is present long term?

The specific nutrients that are absolutely essential can't be absorbed because the bacterial overgrowth slows or stops the process.

This is dangerous because long term malabsorption can cause a host of problems commonly seen in IBS and Fibromyalgia sufferers such as:

  • Vitamin B-12 deficiency
  • Anemia
  • Osteoporosis
  • Malnutrition-even when you're eating enough food
  • Poor fat absorption, which you need for fat soluble, essential vitamins, and good fats

So, you can see that even if you're putting it in to your body it isn't necessarily being used by it.

A natural remedy

Here's what you can do today... right now in fact, to begin fighting small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and in the process hopefully reduce your fibromyalgia pain, and related IBS symptoms.

Start by taking a daily high quality probiotic supplement, and be sure that it contains certain probiotic strains.

Lactobacillis Casei or L. casei has a host of benefits ranging from:

  • Digestive 
  • Nutrient absorption (remember what happens if overgrowth in the small intestine keeps nutrients that your body needs, from being absorbed)
  • Immunity booster
  • Allergy fighter

Lactobacillus plantarum, or L. Plantarum is a street fighter who doesn't go down easily:

  • Found in many fermented products, as well as saliva
  • Can live your gut and keep pathogenic disease-causing microorganisms from flourishing
  • Studies show that it can survive most anti-biotics
  • It creates a wall of protection around your intestinal lining
  • Can be used to treat IBS
  • Chrone diesease
  • and cholitis

Bifidobacterium Longum, or B. Longum, has been described as one of the most significant and important types of good bacteria in the human body:

  • Anti-inflammatory properties that protect the cells lining your mucous membranes from toxins
  • Help some of your immune cells to mature so they can function properly.
  • Present in breast milk
  • One of the first microbes to colonize the infant gut.

Bifidobacterium Breve or B. Breve:

  • Resides in the human intestine
  • is stomach acid-resistant
  • Protects colon functions
  • Bifidobacterium brevis can inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria in intestines and help digestion.

Lactobacillus Acidophilus or L. Acidophilus, Has been studied for :

  • Diarrhea prevention, caused by travel, antibiotics and chemotherapy
  • Treating IBS
  • Colic in babies
  • Treating issues in children allergic to milk
  • Lung infections in children

Maintain with micro-organisms

The next step in your SIBO maintenance is... FOOD.

You need to be eating fermented and pro-biotic rich foods on a regular basis, so that you can continue to keep your SIBO in check.

Fermented foods.

What are they and why are they good for me?

Fermented foods have been through a process where natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food, creating lactic acid. This preserves the food, and creates different strains of probiotics that are also seen in good gut bacteria.

Top 10 Probiotic Foods that Protect


Of course, you knew that was coming, right? Please do not go out and buy the sugar sweetened kind. That's not what I'm talking about.

Here in the U.S. we love our yogurt, but like many of the "good for you foods," introduced to us from other countries and cultures, we've added a ton of sugar, colors, and additives in order to make it "better" and in doing so we have deleted most of its numerous health benefits.

For instance, did you know that when Yoplait yogurt was created in 1999, it contained 100 percent more sugar per serving than the company's Lucky Charms cereal? Read that sentence again to let it sink in.

We don't need to make it better in the U.S., we need to learn to love it as real food and eat it the way that it's beneficial to our bodies.

Yogurt is quite literally a super food. It has the perfect balance of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals that your body needs.

In other countries and cultures you'll find that yogurt has been revered forever because of it's sour, savory, protein rich, probiotic qualities

We were very lucky to grow up in a household where our mother made our whole milk yogurt (as I do now with our daughter) and served it in smoothies or with raw honey and fresh fruit, but just as often we had it as a side dish to cool our pallet after spicy food, or with cucumbers, lemon, garlic, mint and olive oil as a side dish.

The yogurt on todays shelves may contain several strains of good bacteria, including Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Streptococcus thermophiles, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei and Bifidus. Make sure you reach for the one that says "live active cultures" and you should be good.


Although Yogurt is by far the most well recognized probiotic food in the U.S; Kefir packs a more powerful probiotic punch. I think you can best describe it as "drinkable yogurt", but it's much more than that.

There is a give and take relationship between the microorganisms present in kefir grains. The bacteria and yeast survive and share their bi-products as power sources. This hook up of microorganisms is responsible for lactic and alcoholic fermentation.

Look at this: The microorganisms of kefir grains actually produce lactic acid, antibiotics and bactericides, which inhibit the development of bad guys. REALLY bad guys, like:(Liu et al., 2002).

  • Salmonella
  • Helicobacter pylori ( bacteria the cause ulcers)
  • Shigella
  • Staphylococcus, or staph infection
  • Escherichia coli, or E.coli
  • Enterobacter aerogenes, (responsible for most opportunistic infections
  • Proteus vulgaris, (causes UTI's and wound infections)
  • Listera monocytogenes, or Lysteriosis
  • Shtreptococcus pyogenes, (Lopitz et al., 2006),
  • Streptococcus faecalis KR6
  • Fusarium graminearum CZ1 (Ismaaiel et al., 2011)
  • and the fungus Candida albicans or yeast infections

We should be drinking shots of this daily- hmmm....probiotic shots. That could actually catch on.


Since we're still on the fermented milk products, we must look at good old buttermilk. Yes, buttermilk, but you need to drink the real stuff - what's left of the heavy cream after it's churned into butter.

Most of the buttermilk on the store shelves are full of thickeners and additives and then shot with cultures to make it "sour". They probably have probiotic benefit still, however the genuine article is going to taste much better.

Creamy, light, and tart, it's full of lactic acid bacteria bolsters. You may need to find it in a health /whole food store… or if you're really a lucky duck, a working farm near you.


They can be made from cow or goat milk. Their low acidity and high fat, protect the microorganisms while they move through the digestive system. Cheeses that contain probiotics are made from raw un-pasteurized milk, or they've been aged.

When purchasing cheese look for the words "organic," "probiotic," or "made from raw milk" on the label.


My daughter’s favorite food group in the world, (I'm not kidding, when she was a toddler, I would put a jar in front of her, and it would be GONE).

Make sure you buy or make pickles that been fermented in salt and water. Not the ones that have been pasteurized at high heat and have vinegar added.


The fermentation process means that homemade sauerkraut is a good source of live, active cultures. But if it's store-bought, look for sauerkraut that's refrigerated and labeled as containing live cultures. Otherwise, it's probably been highly heated, which again, destroys the live cultures.


I consider kimchi to be Koreas answer to sauerkraut. Stankehhh, spicy, bubbly, it can be really off putting at first (until you lather it over a Korean BBQ sandwich-yummmmmmm)

It's fermented, pickled cabbage, and some other goodies like red pepper flakes, radish, ginger and onion.

The fresh kimchi usually found at Asian markets and restaurants, but also in some specialty stores, is rich in probiotics. On the other hand, just like pickles and sauerkraut, if it's in a jar that has been on the shelf for months it's probably been heat treated, and doesn't contain live active cultures.


Miso is like Thai curries in the fact that each differs in flavor. They range from mild and sweet, to strong and salty. Miso is not spicy at all.

It's made by fermenting cooked soybeans with rice or barley, salt, and a starter culture to form a red, white, or dark colored paste.

I grew up eating Miso soup with seaweed and fermented tofu, as well as having it in dressings, marinades etc. Our daughter likes it when she has a tummy bug.

One of our favorite recipes is a spicy grilled salmon with a miso and Sriracha marinade. I brush it on towards the end so that it doesn't cook for too long and lose it's probiotics. Happy dances have been known to happen while eating it...I'm just sayin'.


Another of the fermented soy foods that pack a probiotic wallop. If you are concerned about soy you should know that there is a huge difference between unfermented soy products and fermented ones.

Fermented soy stops the effect of phytic acid (the cause for concern in unfermented soy) and increases the availability of isoflavones.

The fermentation also creates the probiotics--the "good" bacteria the body is absolutely dependent on, such as lactobacilli-that help digestion and nutrient absorption.

Tempeh is produced by adding a tempeh starter containing the fungus rhizopus oligosporus to partially cooked soybeans and allowing the beans to ferment for about a day or two.

Rhizopus oligosporus produces a type of antibiotic that is effective against certain bacteria, including staphylococcus aureus which can cause pneumonia and sepsis.

The amazing thing about this natural antibiotic is that it is heat resistant and can withstand a wide range of pH levels.

I haven't cooked a lot with Tempeh, and truthfully it's not one of my favorite foods. That's probably because I didn't try to be creative with it.

If I had been smart, I would have looked at how it is cooked and eaten in Indonesia where it originated and is a staple source of protein. I bet they make it sing. Perhaps I need to revisit tempeh soon...if you do it, I'll do it... Eat it! It's got GOOD BUGS!

There is also an actual "SIBO" diet that you do for a certain amount of time, and then begin with the probiotic food maintenance. It's pretty rigorous, but I've heard that it's easy to get used to while you're doing it and it would be worth it in the long run.

Fibromyalgia and IBS are not just one symptom and they need to be treated in a well-rounded manner.

This is one easy, natural option to take on the bacterial overgrowth aspect of them but as always, exercise and a healthy lifestyle help a tremendous amount with Fibromyalgia depression and pain.

So just to recap:

Two simple steps today, to naturally keep SIBO at bay, and possibly lessen the symptoms of your Fibro and IBS as well.

1.Take an advanced probiotic

2. Maintain your progress with probiotic rich, fermented foods

May the probiotic force be with you:)

We would love to hear your comments, and please, if you know someone who suffers with Fibromyalgia and IBS, share this. They may not even be aware of SIBO and its connection.

Sources and References