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Research Finds Connection between Migraine and Gastrointestinal Disorders

Evidence has recently supported a complex neurobiologic basis for migraine with origins beyond the brain. This theory involves the gut-brain axis, which suggests an interaction between the brain and the gastrointestinal tract.

The exact mechanisms are unclear; however, a recent study provides a summary of the published research linking migraine and gastrointestinal-related disorders. This investigation found a link between migraine and various gastrointestinal diseases, including irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, Helicobacter pylori infection, and cyclic vomiting syndrome, as well as food allergy and infantile colic.

“In young children, several syndromes that cause gastrointestinal symptoms are associated with migraines,” Philip Rosenthal, MD, professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, told Neurology Advisor. “These syndromes can cause episodes of cyclic vomiting, abdominal pain (abdominal migraine), and dizziness (benign paroxysmal vertigo) and are often referred to as childhood periodic syndromes.”

A population-based study and case-control study of children and adolescents found similarities between migraine and gastrointestinal disorders. Among the children with migraine in the case-control study, 32% were diagnosed with gastrointestinal disorders compared to 18% in the control group.

This recent comprehensive study also found that an improvement of gut microbiota and a reduction in inflammation can have positive effects on strengthening gut and brain function.

There are limitations in the current studies. The various evidence suggests that it is reasonable for clinicians to be aware of the potential relationship between gastrointestinal functional disorders and migraine.



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