Although migraine disease is typically thought of as a pain condition, there are other very distinctive symptoms of migraine, including stomach problems.
Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are very common among people with migraine disease. These symptoms are part of a condition known as gastroparesis.
A common misconception is that people experiencing a migraine attack vomit because they are in so much pain. The truth is that nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are distinct symptoms of migraine disease just like sensitivity to light or sound or one-sided head pain.
Gastroparesis is the medical term for a condition in which the stomach muscles do not properly contract to propel food through the stomach. It causes the stomach to either empty too quickly or to hold the food consumed in the stomach for longer than normal. It is a component of migraine disease, but can also be experienced by people who do not have migraine attacks. Gastroparesis is responsible for the nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and also keeps the stomach from properly processing pills for migraine treatment and getting it into the blood stream in a rapid time frame.
Treatment medications in nasal spray and injection form bypass the stomach, allowing migraineurs to get relief without having to wait for their malfunctioning stomachs to process pills. A patch-like drug called Zelrix that is currently in development will offer another method for getting relief by bypassing the stomach.
While orally melting tablet forms of triptans may seem like a better option than regular pills because you don’t need to wait for them to digest, they actually take longer than regular pills to be processed by the migraine stomach. Needless to say, this is less than ideal.
For patients whose nausea is unrelenting and incapacitating, there are medications called anti-emetics that can help relieve this symptom. Examples include Zofran, Phenergan and Reglan. Natural remedies such as peppermint or ginger tea or candies can be incredibly helpful, too, as can basics like ginger ale or lemon-lime soda.
This video provides a great explanation of gastroparesis. It is discussed in the context of diabetes, but all the information pertains equally to what migraineurs experience: Gastroparesis: What is it?
Do you have questions about gastroparesis? Please ask in the comments.