| One-Minute Clinician

Chronic Overlapping Pain Conditions: The Role of Diet

The following chronic overlapping pain conditions either solely or predominantly affect women—vulvodynia, temporomandibular disorders, myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, chronic tension-type and migraine headache, and chronic low back pain. Would a proper diet reduce symptoms?

Diet is difficult to study and difficult to monitor; there haven’t been a lot of adequate studies to really understand the potential role of diet, however...

  • Diet probably doesn’t cause any of these conditions
  • Diet can play an important role in flaring the symptoms in some of these conditions
  • Painful bladder syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome are two conditions that probably have the most consistent dietary flares


  • Many patients recognize things in their diet that cause symptom flare-ups
  • Figuring out what those flares are and eliminating them can be helpful
  • Flares may be triggered by caffeine, alcohol, acidic foods, cigarettes
  • Other triggers may be seemingly healthful food like fruits and vegetables

Warning! There are patients who, desperate for relief, eliminate so much from their diet that they can really suffer, have a hard time enjoying life, and possibly become malnourished.