IBS: “Migraine of the Bowels”
People with migraine are more likely to have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) than those who don't have migraine, which is why migraine and IBS are called comorbid diseases. This connection is further supported by new research that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in April. This study focused on the genetics and characteristics that are alike in IBS and migraine, as well as the ways in which they impact the body similarly.
The brain plays an important role in IBS, including dysfunction in the central nervous system’s processing and an increase in hypothalamic activity. These factors are also linked to stress. For all these reasons, lead researcher Derya Uluduz, MD, calls IBS “migraine of the bowels.”
Study participants included 107 people with migraine, 53 people with episodic tension-type headache, 107 people with IBS, and 53 healthy people.
Researchers used strict diagnostic criteria to determine whether patients had IBS. They found that 54.2% of participants with migraine had IBS. Looking at participants with IBS, researchers found that 35.5% had migraine. They also found that participants with IBS and migraine and/or tension-type headache had at least one gene that was different from healthy participants.
Although the study was not groundbreaking in the migraine world (the connection between IBS and migraine has long been known), the link is a good example of the gut-brain connection, according to headache specialist Teshamae S. Monteith, MD. She also pointed out that the genetic link appears to be connected to the serotonin system.
Patients who have both head pain and abdominal pain often feel like health care providers dismiss their complaints. Dr. Monteith said that the link between IBS and migraine indicates “biological vulnerability to pain,” not that patients are making up their symptoms. She urges doctors to check migraine patients for IBS and vice versa to ensure the best possible treatment.
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