Fibromyalgia and Probiotics: How are They Related?

· September 22, 2018

A University of Almería study analyzed the relationship between fibromyalgia and probiotics. Their research showed that patients with fibromyalgia who consume certain bacteria can improve their quality of life significantly.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disease of unknown etiology that’s characterized by generalized and diffused musculoskeletal pain. Thus, in addition to physical ailments, people with fibromyalgia experience psychological and emotional difficulties. It’s estimated that the global prevalence of this disease is 2.7%.

Psychological therapy and practices such as meditation often help people with fibromyalgia manage and cope with the different types of difficulties they experience. However, according to the latest data, it seems that probiotics are also an alternative. In this article, we’ll study their relationship with fibromyalgia.

Probiotics improve complex cognitive functions

Probiotics are live bacteria that benefit our body. These benefits include balancing our intestinal flora, improving our immune system, and helping us have a better digestion. The study carried out by a University of Almería research group managed to isolate the effects caused by four probiotic strains in individuals suffering from this pathology.

After the scientists conducted the clinical trials, they found that these probiotic compounds, supplied in adequate amounts, improved complex cognitive functions. Patients with fibromyalgia usually suffer from an alteration of these functions. This investigation is an excellent complement to other studies related to eating behaviors in people with fibromyalgia.


Probiotics.

Experts worked with the initial hypothesis of assigning these probiotics a series of advantages. Most of them were related to the patient’s mental functions and physical and emotional planes. According to Pablo Román, one of the University of Almería researchers, when they started the study they wanted to check if bacteria contributed to reducing both pain intensity and the anxiety and depression that patients with fibromyalgia suffer from. In addition, they wanted to see if there was any cognitive improvement in the patients.

To do this, researchers used questionnaires and experimental tasks that patients had to complete as a self-evaluation. They collected useful information through indicators such as pain level, life and sleep quality, the incidence and severity of fibromyalgia symptoms, as well as the emotional symptoms and anxiety suffered by those affected by the disease.

The study results

The results indicated that probiotic intake doesn’t affect the area of the brain responsible for motor functions. On the other hand, it does affect the part that’s in charge of controlling the patients’ ability to adapt to a certain task. Moreover, this happens without the patients showing signs of fatigue.

The researchers observed that the group of patients who consumed probiotic compounds acted less impulsively and required less time to make decisions.

The placebo effect in the fibromyalgia and probiotics study

Until they got these conclusions about the relationship between fibromyalgia and probiotics, experts conducted clinical trials with about 60 fibromyalgia patients. The individuals were mainly women since this disease mostly affects women.

First, researchers evaluated each individual prior to treatment. In the evaluation, they registered, by means of different questionnaires and tasks, their cognitive capacity, in addition to other factors related to their physical and emotional states. They measured the pains they suffered for two days. They also measured anxiety or other depressive symptoms.

Woman with back pain from fibromyalgia.

The group was divided into two. The first group took oral probiotics for eight weeks, while the second group of patients ingested a placebo during the same time interval. Researchers provided a dosage of four pills per day. Both the probiotic capsules and the ones containing a harmless substance were identical in appearance, taste, and smell.

After the treatment, the researchers re-interviewed the patients to evaluate and compare the results obtained in the pre and post-treatment stages. The patients who consumed the placebo didn’t record any progress. On the other hand, those who consumed probiotics evidenced in various impulsivity tests that their cognitive flexibility was somewhat greater than the flexibility they demonstrated before the experiment. Therefore, the placebo effect was ruled out in this type of treatment.

After this first stage, and with funding from the University of Almeria, the multidisciplinary team of nurses, physiotherapists, psychologists, and neuroscience experts will continue working on new research with probiotics that can improve other diseases. For now, the positive effects of the relationship between fibromyalgia and probiotics seems to have been demonstrated.