Migraines and gastrointestinal problems: Is there a link?

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Migraines and gastrointestinal problems: Is there a link?


Is there any link between migraine headaches and gastrointestinal problems?



There can be. Nausea and vomiting are common with migraine attacks. And in younger children, recurrent bouts of vomiting (cyclical vomiting) or abdominal pain (abdominal migraine) — referred to as childhood periodic syndromes — also are associated with migraine headaches. Although childhood periodic syndromes usually aren't accompanied by migraine head pain, they're considered a form of migraine. In many cases, childhood periodic syndromes evolve into more-typical migraine headaches later in life.

A 2007 study from Norway examined the relationship between gastrointestinal symptoms and migraine. The study showed a higher prevalence of headaches among people who regularly experience gastrointestinal symptoms — such as reflux, diarrhea, constipation and nausea — compared with those who do not. Results of this study suggest that people who get frequent headaches may be predisposed to gastrointestinal problems. However, more research is needed to understand the connection.

If you experience nausea, vomiting or diarrhea with your headaches, talk to your doctor about treatment options. Treating the headache usually relieves gastrointestinal symptoms. However, in some cases, an anti-nausea or anti-diarrheal medication may be recommended. Keep in mind that some pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen may increase nausea.

Last Updated: 2010-06-24
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