ARTICLE | doi:10.20944/preprints202301.0436.v1
Subject: Social Sciences, Psychology Keywords: FIBROMYALGIA; FOOD INTOLERANCE; FOOD SENSITIVITY; AUTISM; HYPERMOBILITY
Online: 25 January 2023 (03:17:18 CET)
Introduction People are presenting with chronic musculoskeletal pain at a younger age, and many fulfil criteria for fibromyalgia. We have recently shown a strong association between fibromyalgia symptoms and autistic traits in a self-selected community population, with the relationship mediated in part by the presence of hypermobility. Many respondents also described food sensitivities and intolerances. This study explores relationships between food issues and fibromyalgia symptoms in this population Methods The study used a nonexperimental, correlational design with data collected from a volunteer sample of 442 adults (aged 18-60) who completed online self-report questionnaires assessing each of fibromyalgia symptoms (ACR criteria), autistic traits (RAADS score) and hypermobility (Beighton’s test). Subjects were also asked to record any food sensitivities, allergies, or intolerances, along with their consequences. Correlation analyses and linear regressions were used to test the relationships between these features and each of fibromyalgia, autistic traits and hypermobility. Data was analysed using parametric and non-parametric techniques to assess the strength and significance of relationships, causes of variance and the potential mediating effect of food-related symptoms in the correlation between fibromyalgia features and autistic traits Results Our self-selected community population had a mean age of 24 years and was 77% female. The prevalence of fibromyalgia, autistic traits and hypermobility was 40%, 65% and 44% respectively. Half of all subjects reported food sensitivity and 31% reported food intolerance. The incidence of food-related symptoms was higher among subjects who met criteria for fibromyalgia than those who reported autistic traits or hypermobility. Food sensitivity and food intolerance were both more significantly associated with fibromyalgia (r=0.24, p>0.001 and r=0.38, p>0.001) than with autistic traits (r=0.15, p>0.01 and r=0.17, p>0.01). Discussion This is the first community study to provide evidence for a direct association between features of fibromyalgia and reported food intolerance and sensitivity. Although self-selected, the findings in our predominantly young population suggest that gluten and lactose consumption may be associated with higher levels of musculoskeletal pain. Avoidance of these foodstuffs was commonly reported to reduce symptoms. Dietary adjustment may merit further investigation as a therapeutic modality for some patients with fibromyalgia.