“Even though these conditions are benign in the sense that they don’t lead to death, they cause a lot of disability and can negatively impact your quality of life,” says Roderick Spears, MD, a neurologist and headache specialist at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia.
“Many IBS patients, especially women, also report symptoms unrelated to digestion, such as fatigue, muscle pain, sleep disturbances, and sexual dysfunction,” says Bethany DeVito, MD, a gastroenterologist at Northwell Health in Great Neck, New York.
Migraine is a neurological disease that usually causes recurrent headaches, but migraine attacks frequently include other symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light, sound, touch, and smell. For many people with migraine, these attacks are debilitating.
The Relationship Between IBS and Migraine
The relationship between IBS and migraine would be described as a correlation, says Dr. Spears. “If you have migraine, it seems you’re more likely to have IBS, and vice versa, but they don’t seem to cause one or the other,” he says.
Numerous studies have found an elevated incidence of migraine or headache among people who have IBS, and an increased incidence of IBS among people with migraine:
- A study published in the Polish Journal of Neurology and Neurosurgeryfound that 23 to 53 percent of people with IBS experienced frequent headaches, and the authors noted that “Functional gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), are reported in migraine patients in periods between the attacks [of migraine].”
- Another study, published in BMC Gastroenterology, reported that people with IBS were 40 to 80 percent more likely to also have migraine, fibromyalgia, or depression than people without IBS.
- And a study published in the May–June 2017 issue of the Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciencesfound that people with migraine who have a long headache history, recurrent headache attacks, and anxiety were more likely to have IBS.