Headache and Constipation

If you’re suffering from both headache and constipation, could they be connected? Yes, but it’s not that simple.

What is Constipation?

Constipation occurs when your colon absorbs too much water from your food, leading to overly dry and hard stools. You might still feel like your bowels are “full” even after you’ve used the bathroom. And you’re having less than three bowel movements in the course of a week.

There are actually a number of things that can contribute to constipation, and we’ll talk about some of those below. But if you’ve never been constipation, or the symptoms don’t go away, or there are other symptoms such as weight loss, blood in your stools, or stomach pain, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.

Note that laxatives can actually lead to worse constipation (yes, you read right) – check with your doctor first!

Constipation and Headache?

Sometimes headache and constipation go together. It may just be that you have both – no connection at all. But there are situations in which there may be a clear connection.

  • Headache Medications: Yes, some headache and migraine medications may actually lead to constipation. These include: opioids (such as codeine), antidepressants (such as amitriptyline), calcium channel blockers (such as verapamil), beta blockers (such as propranolol), and NSAIDs (such as acetylsalicylic acid/aspirin or ibuprofen). That’s not an exhaustive list, so be sure to let your doctor know what medication you’re taking.
  • Diet problems: Problems with your diet can lead to both headache and constipation. For example, not eating enough fruits and vegetables, not getting enough liquids, and even not eating on a regular schedule – a typical migraine trigger.
  • Comorbid diseases: Some conditions that typically go along with migraine are also related to constipation, such as irritable bowel syndrome, hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia, and stroke. This is another reason to see a doctor so that she can rule out some dangerous causes of constipation.
  • Hormone imbalance: Hormonal imbalances may also lead to constipation and headache conditions such as migraine.
  • “Straining” headaches: Not to be too graphic, but there are some headaches specifically triggered by pushing hard! These include cough headaches and headaches from brain abscesses. If straining triggers a headache or makes it worse, see your doctor.

Treating Constipation and Headache

As mentioned before, it may be that both conditions simply need to be treated separately. However, improvement in one may lead to improvement to the other.

First, with any new headache or constipation symptoms, talk to a doctor who knows your medical history and what medication you’re taking.

Second, your body may be telling you that you need to make some simple changes. Go for a walk once a day, drink more water, eat more fruits and vegetables. That alone can help treat both.

When you need to go — go! And take your time.

As a last resort, with your doctor’s supervision, you may want to try a laxative. But be cautious here.

In most cases, especially with an improvement in your diet, constipation will go away on its own. But it is important to take it seriously, because it can be a sign of a serious condition.

For more information, see: Constipation: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments and When to Get Help for Constipation

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