Migraines and diabetes. Is there a connection? Although the two diseases can be comorbid, statistics don’t show that people with Migraine are more likely to have diabetes than people with Migraine; nor do they show that people with diabetes are more likely to have Migraine disease. One study did show that, among Migraineurs, those who have Migraine with aura have diabetes more commonly than those who have Migraine without aura.1 No reason was identified for this.
As with any condition, diabetes can, however impact Migraine attacks, and Migraine attacks can impact diabetes. Our bodies are their own ecosystem. Everything affects everything else.
Many Migraineurs report that missing a meal or needing to fast triggers a Migraine attack. Peroutka makes a quite accurate observation, “The Migraine patient does not react well to change from within or without.”2 He goes on to remark about Migraine triggers that are changes in sleep patterns, hormone levels, weather, and diet to say:
“These seemingly diverse trigger factors are all united in that they all cause physiologic “stress” to the nervous system, and each may activate the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), as evidenced by the release of stress-related neurotransmitters and hormones such as norepinephrine, epinephrine, and cortisol.”2
Some Migraineurs also report that eating sugar or a large amount of carbohydrate also triggers a Migraine.
Both missing a meal or fasting and eating sugar or a large amount of carbohydrates are stressful to the body. Fasting can cause the depletion of glycogen stored in the liver. Eating a large amount of carbohydrates can cause reactive hyperglycemia (increased blood glucose levels).
To avoid these triggers, it’s recommended that Migraineurs eat on a regular schedule. Peroutka proposes that maintaining steady glucose levels can help reduce these triggers and the resulting Migraines.
When it comes to the impact Migraines can have on diabetes, it goes back again to stress on the body. Pain can cause an increase in the blood glucose levels of people with diabetes. Emotional stress can increase blood glucose levels too, so simply being upset about having a Migraine can impact levels in those with diabetes.
Another issue for those with both Migraines and diabetes is being able to take oral diabetes medications on Migraine days. If we’re vomiting or experiencing gastric stasis (slowing of the gastrointestinal tract) during the Migraine, oral diabetes medications may not stay down or, if they do stay down, may not metabolize correctly because of the gastric stasis. This should be discussed with our doctors. Anyone with diabetes should have a “sick day plan” so they know what to do on days when they can’t take their oral medications.
Wrapping it up:
Migraineurs need to maintain a steady blood glucose level to help prevent Migraines from uneven blood glucose levels by not skipping meals, fasting, or eating large amounts of carbohydrates. Obviously, there are times when these triggers are outside of our control. We may need to fast for a medical procedure, and we may not be able to eat during a Migraine or when we’re ill. For some in this latter situation, broths, sports drinks, and other liquids that offer nutrition may help. Talking with our doctors about what we can do during those times can be helpful.
For those with diabetes, treating our Migraines as quickly as possible can help reduce the stress on our bodies and spikes in blood glucose levels.