The Link Between Migraines and IBS — Serotonin
Migraines and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) seem to go hand-in-hand for many sufferers. We’ve talked before about the link between migraines, IBS and vitamin D, but a new study just released from the American Academy of Neurology has some compelling information that there may be a stronger link between migraines and IBS than we originally thought. According to the study’s authors, there may be a powerful genetic component to both disorders.
The Link Between Migraines and IBS
In the study, people with migraine were twice as likely to have IBS than people with only tension headache. Of the participants with IBS, 38 had migraine while 24 had tension headache. This connection prompted researchers to take a look at serotonin transporters and receptors and found that healthy participants had a gene that differed from those with IBS and/or migraines headaches. This means that we can clearly see a biological difference between those who suffer from migraines and IBS and those who don’t.
Migraines and Serotonin
This connection could mean a lot for people who suffer from migraines and IBS. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is made in the brain and found in the gastrointestinal tract and nervous system. It’s a chemical that acts on most brain cells and influences mood, sexual desire, appetite, sleep habits, memory, learning, temperature regulation and some social behavior. Serotonin levels can be modified with behavioral interventions, dietary supplements, and antidepressant drugs like SSRIs, SNRIs, TCAs. and MAOIs.
People with low serotonin levels are more likely to suffer from a variety of illnesses including migraine headache, chronic headache, chronic pain, depression and insomnia. It is believed that serotonin may cause the blood vessels in your head to contract, causing the unbearable throbbing pain that comes with migraine. Since serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is involved with human emotion, it makes sense that emotionally arousing experiences like stress, hunger, exercise and fatigue may trigger migraine headache. Intriguingly, these same events also trigger symptoms of IBS, including abdominal pain or cramping, feeling bloated, gas and diarrhea or constipation.
The Future of Migraine Research
This research is a huge step toward understanding both migraine headache and IBS, but more research will need to be conducted to truly understand the genetic connection.