In addition to severe headaches, migraine episodes can cause stomach pain in some people. This may be due to a link between your brain and your gut. But other causes include pregnancy or medication side effects.
Migraine is a common headache disorder that affects about
But a migraine headache can also cause all sorts of unusual symptoms that you may not think are related to headaches, such as stomach pain. These symptoms could be related to a proposed connection between your brain and gut.
In other cases, you may experience stomach pain that occurs alongside a migraine headache but may be due to a co-occurring condition. In some cases, the gut-brain connection may explain why these conditions frequently occur together.
How you treat stomach pain with migraine will depend on the underlying cause.
Keep reading to learn more about the potential connections between stomach pain and migraine.
Researchers don’t yet know the exact cause of the connection. But there seems to be a close link between your brain and gut. They call this the gut-brain connection (or gut-brain axis).
This link means you might experience uncomfortable and even painful stomach symptoms due to migraine.
- Immune system mediators: Components of your immune system that control inflammation may contribute to both migraine headaches and stomach pain.
- Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP): Release of CGRP can trigger migraine pain and affect acids in your stomach.
- Neurotransmitters: Microbes in your gut can affect the activity of glutamate and serotonin, which play an important role in your central nervous system. Both may be involved in headache pain during migraine.
- Stress hormones: Hormones like cortisol can cause headache pain but can also alter the balance of microbes in your gut.
How to manage
If stomach pain is a common symptom of your migraine episodes, consider talking with a doctor. They may prescribe antiemetics to help reduce symptoms of nausea and vomiting. Options
- eating enough fiber
- limiting your sugar
- taking supplements with vitamin D, omega-3, and probiotics
What is abdominal migraine?
Abdominal migraine is a condition that may occur in children and causes severe stomach pain that can last up to
Similar migraine triggers in adults can lead to abdominal migraine in children. These include:
- exposure to bright light
- certain foods, such as chocolate
Children with abdominal migraine are
Learn more about the symptoms and treatment for abdominal migraine.
People with migraine often take over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications to prevent or reduce their headache symptoms. But these medications may sometimes cause stomach pain as well.
GI symptoms are the most common side effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin or ibuprofen. Possible GI symptoms
- upset stomach
- stomach ulcer
- GI bleeding (rare)
Other common migraine treatments can cause GI symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation. They include:
- ergotamines, such as dihydroergotamine (DHE, Migranal)
- beta-blockers, such as propranolol
- antiepileptics, such as topiramate (Topamax)
- calcium channel blockers, such as verapamil
- antidepressants, such as amitriptyline
Triptans are a common form of migraine treatment. While they don’t typically affect your stomach directly, they may cause other side effects that lead to an upset stomach.
In the above study, triptans were the most common medications among those who had both GERD and migraine.
How to manage
If your migraine medication is causing your stomach pain, you might find relief when you stop taking the medication. But it’s best to talk with a doctor before stopping your medication. If a doctor thinks your medication is causing your stomach pain, they can suggest an alternative.
Several small studies have found up to
But again, the link is unclear. Some studies have found conflicting information. Others have found a link between H. pylori and migraine with aura only.
How to manage
A doctor can determine if an infection is co-occurring with your migraine headache. Doctors typically treat H. pylori infections with three drugs: a proton-pump inhibitor (PPI) to reduce stomach acids and two antibiotics to kill the bacteria.
Common antibiotic choices
Some probiotics and natural remedies may enhance the effect of antibiotics.
Learn more about natural remedies for H. pylori infections.
Can COVID-19 cause migraine and stomach pain?
The Delta and Omicron variants of COVID-19 strains were known to cause headaches as a symptom. Some patients also report a migraine-like headache after they’ve gotten over the most acute COVID-19 symptoms. These headaches can cause pain on one side, along with sensitivity to light, noise, touch, and smell.
Researchers are a still learning a lot about post-COVID symptoms. At this time, there are not many reports of post-COVID migraine occurring with stomach pain.
There may be a link between migraine and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). About
Depending on your type of IBS, it can lead to symptoms such as:
- abdominal pain and cramping
- frequent or infrequent bowel movements
- diarrhea or constipation
Researchers don’t fully understand why people with IBS and migraine experience each at higher rates than the general population. It may be related to serotonin, a hormone that plays a role in both conditions.
How to manage
Consider talking with a doctor if you have symptoms of IBS with migraine. They may want to determine if something else is causing your IBS. In that case, they may recommend certain dietary or lifestyle changes to help reduce symptoms.
Since there’s no cure for IBS, a doctor may suggest OTC or prescription medications to treat specific symptoms.
Gastroparesis is a condition that causes food to stay in your stomach longer than it should. This causes uncomfortable symptoms such as:
- unexplained weight loss
Doctors do not know exactly why this occurs, but they think migraine may activate the sympathetic nervous system. This system causes a “fight-or-flight” response, which works to divert blood away from your stomach to key organs like the brain and heart. As a result, your digestion may slow down, leading to stomach pain.
How to manage
If you have gastroparesis due to migraine, your doctor will first try to find treatments to reduce your number of migraine days. They may also recommend or prescribe medications to help reduce your GI symptoms.
But medications you take by mouth may not be effective if they move through your stomach too slowly for your gut to absorb them quickly enough. A doctor
Gluten is a protein naturally present in many grain-containing foods. Food producers often add it to other foods as a thickener.
People with celiac disease have a significant intolerance to gluten. This can lead to bloating, abdominal discomfort, and headaches that closely resemble migraine.
But researchers are yet to identify a connection between a gluten-free diet and reduced incidence of migraine in those who don’t have celiac disease.
How to manage
If gluten is the source of your stomach pain with migraine, your best bet is to avoid gluten.
Learn more about which foods contain gluten (and which don’t).
Having a history of migraine can increase your risk of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. This risk may be greater due to an increase in the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Other risk factors for nausea during pregnancy include a history of motion sickness.
How to manage
If you’re pregnant and experience significant nausea, consider talking with a doctor about potential treatments. It’s important to use medications and approaches that are safe for both you and your baby.
Migraine can be a severe and debilitating condition that results in decreased quality of life and missed work or school days. A connection between your brain and gut may also explain why migraine can lead to stomach pain and other GI symptoms.
If you experience nausea or other abdominal discomforts with migraine, consider talking with a doctor about treatment options and underlying conditions that could worsen your symptoms. Ideally, you can find a management plan to help reduce both your migraine days and any associated stomach pain.