IBS and migraines – are they linked?

IBS and migraines – are they linked?

Despite a continual strive from medical professionals, researchers and scientists around the globe to further our knowledge about this common condition, the exact cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is still largely unknown. IBS has been linked to other health issues too, such as migraines, stress, chronic fatigue syndrome and impotence.

What is IBS?

IBS is a long-term condition relating to the digestive system. It can leave you feeling unwell, uncomfortable and low on energy.

It can subsequently affect your social life, work life and personal relationships, so whilst it is common, it certainly should not be ignored.

Symptoms of IBS include:

  • Stomach cramps and abdominal discomfort
  • Bloating, which often varies throughout the day
  • Stools, which may be loose, hard, or a combination
  • Excessive wind
  • A sudden urge to go to the toilet

Read more about IBS Symptoms

Symptoms do vary from person to person and many IBS sufferers report that their symptoms can come and go in bouts, lasting from a few days to a few months.

IBS is the most commonly digestive disorder diagnosed by a gastroenterologist.

IBS and migraines

Do you also suffer from migraines? Some studies suggest a correlation between IBS and migraines.

Gastroenterologists see a high proportion of cases where there is a clear, strong link between IBS and the brain.

Increased activity in the hypothalamus appears to increase stress responsiveness in the gut. 

The fact that both headaches and IBS are so common, and neither have a proven cause, has encouraged researchers to investigate a possible correlation.

Is there a connection?

One such study was conducted by Dr Uluduz and a team at the University of Istanbul.

“Since headache and irritable bowel syndrome are such common conditions, and causes for both are unknown, discovering a possible link that could shed light on shared genetics of the conditions is encouraging,”

Derya Uluduz, MD, of Istanbul University in Turkey

The study did provide some links when assessing patients with IBS, migraines and tension headaches.

During the study the IBS group were asked questions to determine if they also experience migraines or headaches and the migraine group were asked about possible IBS symptoms. 

  • Of 107 patients with migraines, they discovered 54% also had IBS
  • This compared to 53 patients with tension headaches, of whom just 28% also had IBS
  • Of 107 patients with IBS, 38% had migraines
  • Yet only 24% had tension headaches

Overall, the study concluded that people with migraines were twice as likely to have IBS than regular headache sufferers.

Tests also showed evidence of genetic abnormalities between people suffering from IBS, migraines and tension headaches, linked to the serotonin transporter gene. 

Based on these findings, it does seem that there may be a link between these two common disorders, although more research is clearly required before any further conclusion.

Source: Medical Xpress

IBS Awareness Month

April is IBS Awareness month, so medical professionals, charities and other organisations are doing what they can to raise awareness about IBS, the symptoms, treatments and how to find help if you think you may be suffering.

If symptoms mentioned in this article sound familiar, then take action and speak to your doctor, or a specialist gastroenterologist, who diagnoses conditions like IBS in hundreds of patients per year.

Remember, you are not alone! IBS is estimated to affect 10-20% (*) of the UK population, yet many cases go undiagnosed as people fail to seek the medical advice they need.



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