Stomach problems?

When we talk about migraine, we frequently end up talking about the stomach.  Whether a migraine causes abdominal pain, nausea, or other problems, it’s well known that there’s a link, although we’re still learning how that link works.

One problem that is believed to be common in migraine patients is something called gastric stasis, or gastroparesis (which can refer to more serious forms of gastric stasis).  Gastric stasis basically means that things stay in your stomach longer.  This can be a problem when you’re taking pills, because they don’t do much good when they’re sitting in your stomach.  This is one reason why researchers are looking for better ways to get the migraine drugs into your system (and why drug companies using such technologies are funding studies on gastric stasis!).

Though it’s believed that gastric stasis is a problem during a migraine attack, a new study adds a new wrinkle to the theory.  This study was published in Headache and reported in a news release at GlaxoSmithKline last Tuesday.  This small study focused on patients with migraine with aura.  Here’s the bottom line.  The study seems to indicate that indeed migraineurs have problems with gastric stasis – but not just during an attack.  In fact, the problem seems to be worse when they don’t have a migraine attack!

Why is this important?  1) It further demonstrates that migraine is a disease impacting all of life, it’s not just a bad headache  2) It calls for further research into links between migraine and the digestive system, and the neurological connection  3) As Dr Sheena Aurora of the Swedish Headache Center in Seattle, WA USA points out, it "affirms the importance of considering gastric stasis in treating these patients"  4) It’s another reason to consider alternatives to medicine you are now taking, especially if you have symptoms such as bloating, nausea and heartburn.  Why?  Because some drugs can actually cause gastric stasis, including narcotics, tricyclic antidepressants and calcium channel blockers (see WebMD on gastroparesis).

If I’m able I hope to further develop the topic about migraine and stomach issues.  It’s a big topic, and it may hold a lot of keys to relief.  And that’s why we’re here, right?  :)

Gastroparesis is particularly a problem with diabetes patients.  Learn more about gastroparesis at the Mayo Clinic.

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3 comments… add one

  • Dr. Michael Zitney May 12, 2012

    It is fair to say that if you have a problem with migraines, it is very likely you will have a problem with bowel function. The common thread is probably genetically determined abnormalities in serotonin function. It would be interesting to know how many readers have been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel syndrome. What about a survey?

  • Gianni Jul 15, 2012

    Is there any Seattle-area clinic that understands these abdominal & migraine connenctions and can provide guidance on treatment? I’ve been diagnosed with abdominal migraine. I am a 61 year old male and have had this condition since a child (age 5 first memory of attack). Father suffered from acute migraine headaches. Parts of symptoms of CVS, abdominal migraine, IBS and gastric stasis – all apply to my condition. As a prophylactic, since 1990s, use inderal and symax; use Imitrex when attack starts plus an anti nausea medication. These have minimized symtoms and hastened recovery. But they were reached by accident, at best. Looking for knowledeable physicians/clinic on these matters . . .

  • Jean Oct 6, 2014

    I want answers about how to deal with the gastric stasis and the bloat and discomfort it causes. I don’t see this addressed by any articles. This is relatively (3 yrs) new to me a life long migrainer. Almost a yr ago was my last extreme attack but now just have silent migraines with all types of body discomforts but nothing awful like loss of vision, and some of the other scary things. The slow digestion and bloat really has me stumped as how to deal with this. I will continue to persist until something works.

    Was just realizing today that some of my inability to communicate with people when I’m out and about being subjected to all the odors out there. I think in pictures and can’t find all the words to express myself.

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