There may be a link between headaches and the gut. Nausea and vomiting are often associated with migraine attacks. And research suggests that people with frequent headaches may be more likely to develop gastrointestinal disorders.
In young children, several syndromes that cause gastrointestinal symptoms are also associated with migraines. These syndromes can cause episodes of vomiting (cyclical vomiting), abdominal pain (abdominal migraine) and dizziness (benign paroxysmal vertigo). They're often called childhood periodic syndromes or episodic syndromes that may be associated with migraine.
Although these syndromes usually aren't accompanied by head pain, they're considered a form of migraine. In many cases, childhood periodic syndromes evolve into migraines later in life.
Research has shown that people who regularly experience gastrointestinal symptoms — such as reflux, diarrhea, constipation and nausea — have a higher prevalence of headaches than do those who don't have gastrointestinal symptoms.
These studies suggest that people who get frequent headaches may be predisposed to gastrointestinal problems. Digestive conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome and celiac disease, also may be linked to migraines. Treating these digestive conditions may help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. However, more research is needed to understand these connections.
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, your doctor may recommend an anti-nausea or anti-diarrheal medication or a nonoral pain medication. Keep in mind that some pain medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve), may increase nausea.
Nov. 24, 2020
Get the latest health advice from Mayo Clinic delivered
to your inbox.
Sign up for free, and stay up-to-date on research
advancements, health tips and current health topics,
like COVID-19, plus expert advice on managing your health.
ErrorEmail field is required
ErrorInclude a valid email address
To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information and to understand which
is beneficial, we may combine your e-mail and website usage information with other
information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic Patient,
this could include Protected Health Information (PHI). If we combine this information
with your PHI, we will treat all of that information as PHI,
and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy
practices. You may opt-out of e-mail communications
at any time by clicking on the Unsubscribe link in the e-mail.
Thank you for Subscribing
Our Housecall e-newsletter will keep you up-to-date
on the latest health information.
We’re sorry! Our system isn’t working. Please try again.
Something went wrong on our side, please try again.
See more Expert Answers
- Lee SH, et al. Clinical implications of associations between headache and gastrointestinal disorders: A study using the Hallym smart clinical data warehouse. Frontiers in Neurology. 2017:8;526.
- Gelfand AA. Episodic syndromes that may be associated with migraine: A.K.A. "the childhood periodic syndromes." Headache. 2015;55:1358.
- O'Brien H. Classification of migraine in children. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Oct. 16, 2018.
- Garza I, et al. Chronic migraine. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Oct. 16, 2018.
- Camara-Lemarroy CR, et al. Gastrointestinal disorders associated with migraine: A comprehensive review. World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2016:22;8149.
- Bajwa ZH, et al. Acute treatment of migraine in adults. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Oct. 16, 2018.
- Hindiyeh N, et al. What the gut can teach us about migraine. Current Pain and Headache Reports. 2015:19;33.