Migraine & Gastroparesis

Migraine & Gastroparesis: Nausea, Vomiting and Diarrhea

Although migraine disease is typically thought of as a pain condition, there are other very distinctive symptoms of migraine, including stomach problems.

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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.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (39)
  • donnaandstephen
    2 years ago

    Hello my son who is 11yrs was admitted to hospital very sick approx 4 weeks ago, they have diagnosed him as having chronic gastroparesis. Hes on so many different tablets and not really improving. However i came across this article and wanted to know if anybody else has a child that has had simular. My son has suffered from very bad migraines since he was a toddler and never picked up gastroparesis even though he would vomit have diarrhea bleed then pass out. He was so sick with migraines that we had to take him out of school and home school as he was off school or would get sick in class and we would have to pick him up. now this has turned into chronic gastroparesis. can this have happened from birth. thank you

  • NeuroMom
    3 years ago

    nana42, have you tried taking probiotics? It might help with some motility in relation to improving gut flora. It may be of only limited value, (but perhaps still beneficial) beings there is quite possibly an underlying autonomic/parasympathetic nervous system role-dysfunction, manifested by the overall improper and exaggerated vasoactivity it seemingly inflicts. Gastroporesis is just one symptom of migraine, not a cause. Best wishes. -L

  • nana42
    3 years ago

    I have both migraines and gastroparesis. It is hard to live with. I am always sick to my stomach and in a lot of pain. I just don’t think my doctors understand how exactly i be feeling, even though I have tried to explain it to them. Zofran doesn’t help and Reglan has given me a bad side effect. I have tried Botox injections for my migraines and I can no longer take Depakote due to not having my levels checked regularly and almost overdosed. I am only 42 and all I want to do is lay around and do nothing. With my other health conditions this is not a good thing for me. I don’t know what to do. People don’t understand when you say you don’t feel good and all you want to do is stay at home. I have lost so much weight because I can’t eat and when I do I eat less than an infant. I am on prescription laxatives for help with my gastroparesis. I feel all alone out here dealing with this by myself.

  • jns192 moderator
    3 years ago

    nana42,
    Thank you for your comment. I am so sorry to hear about your pain. As a fellow migraineur, I understand your frustrations. Whenever you feel alone, know that our migraine.com community is here to listen and support you. We get each other through the bad days and help each other achieve more good days.
    You deserve a doctor who tries to understand how you are feeling and addresses your needs.
    If you’d like, feel free to checkout our directory to find a migraine specialist near you: http://migraine.com/blog/looking-for-a-migraine-specialist/

    Best,
    Jillian (Migraine.com Team)

  • Adela
    3 years ago

    Hi Diana,
    Is it possible that Canada’s climate has brought the migraines?
    8 years ago it happened for the first time, I vomited, my body was shaking and severe headache for one day only, also, when I vomited the headache was over and everything was good. Next time it happened in 6 month (fall and spring). But this fall it continues for 6 days already and doesn’t stop. I am not sure if it is a migraine , have read so many articles and do not know what to do, which pill to take or what doctor to see.
    I appreciate any advice from you or from anyone in that forum.

  • Adela
    3 years ago

    Hi Diana,
    Is it possible that Canada’s climate has brought the migraines?
    8 years ago it happened for the first time, I vomited, my body was shaking and severe headache for one day only, also, when I vomited the headache was over and everything was good. Next time it happened in 6 month (fall and spring). But this fall it continues for 6 days already and doesn’t stop. I am not sure if it is a migraine , have read so many articles and do not know what to do, which pill to take or what doctor to see.
    I appreciate any advice from you or from anyone in that forum.

  • Vera Dora
    4 years ago

    This is also a huge part of my migraine! I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with sharp gas pains. I don’t sleep well because of it, then in the morning a huge pain in my head again!! Tevasumatriptan takes the pain away but the weak, shaky feeling,the stomach and dizziness and bowel problems persist. I am always either constipated or have diarrhea. I am always weak and shaky and nauseous and dizzy. This site has helped me tremendously. Migraine is interfering with my quality of life. I am seriously thinking about going on disability!! I’ve always been proud of my career and a hard worker, but now I realize that life should be about more than just work and being sick!!

  • Dr. Snore
    4 years ago

    Dear Diana,

    Would you try an experiment for me?

    It won’t take long… about five or ten minutes. It could answer all your questions about Migraines.

    What I’d like you to do is sit down in a comfortable chair. OK. Now I want you to clench your teeth together for about five minutes, and let me know what happens. So, go ahead.

    Sincerely yours,

    Dr. Ron Rosenthal

    PS: By the way, the following is a comment I made on this site today.

    How do I say this and not sound like an ass? First, let me say I am a dentist (ret’d). For a number of years I taught at the Univ. of Ky, at the dental school. I was a co-director of the Head, Neck, and Facial Pain clinic. I have heard your story told hundreds of times. What did we do about it? We cured them. I don’t mean using drugs. I mean we eliminated what was causing their head pain. I know, it sounds far-fetched, but Headache and Migraine are NOT Medical Problems. After all, have you ever heard of a physician curing Headache much less Migraine? Of course not. Let’s get one thing straight right now… Headache and Migraine are Dental problems!

    There… I’ve said it!

    I know the MD’s out there are steaming in their boots, but it’s true. During my 47 years as a dentist, I’ve cured hundreds of people just like you. And another problem which frequently goes along with Headache and Migraine… Tinnitus. Yeah, we cured that too. learned all about this from some of the most brilliant dentists out there, shortly after I went into practice, back in 1963.

    Any way, if you’d like to know more, just drop me a line at dr.ronrosenthal@yahoo.com.

    Sincerely yours,

    Dr. Ron Rosenthal

  • Holly
    3 years ago

    So what if your migraines get worse after dental surgery? I had it last Wednesday (8-10-16) and I haven’t been ‘normal’ since. It’s been pretty bad with a headache or migraine almost all the time and feeling like my eyes are screwed up now.

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Holly, I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been having problems since your surgery. There can be a correlation between dental issues and migraine. We’d recommend that you speak with your dentist and your PCP if you haven’t done so already.

    We hope that you’re feeling better soon. Thanks for being part of the community. -All Best, Donna (Migraine.com)

  • Mr FBP
    5 years ago

    Thank you for another informative article.

    I found a couple of years back that when I wake with the headache and nausea of migraine, that if I force my self to eat a slice of toast with butter,the nausea will be much reduced in an hour, though I won’t feel like eating a meal until the headache and nausea are fully gone (about 24 hrs later). If I don’t eat fairly soon after onset (which usually means as soon as I get out of bed) the nausea increases until I start dry retching, and can’t eat or drink anything – pills included.

    I would like to point out that my daughter had gastro issues from age four onwards, and was told repeatedly she had constipation or abdominal migraines. She actually had coeliac disease, but it took four years to get the diagnosis (even though coeliac is present in my immediate family). I feel it’s worth mentioning here, because if we as parents are migraineurs, then we may jump to the wrong conclusion, or accept a wrong diagnosis about a child’s condition, and keep pursuing treatments with them that don’t work.

  • Diana-Lee author
    5 years ago

    You make a great point. It’s all too easy to get focused on one possible explanation to the elimination of others before they’ve been fully vetted.

  • Lyn Bennett Wilson
    7 years ago

    I am convinced my son has abdominal migraine. I wish I could get a doctor to listen to me.

  • Marilee Muller
    7 years ago

    Very good information! I did not know about this, thinking only the medications for migraines were causing my constipation. Now, because of your article, I know it is a condition which comes along with migraines. Thank you so much!

  • Sarah Johnson
    7 years ago

    Twice in the past four months now I have experienced a migraine and diarrhea with nausea/vomiting. Thanks for this article as now I can know all the above mentioned can happen during a migraine. Last week I had a migraine and my stomach was burning so badly and I have GERD and on medication! The diarrhea came with the severe stomach pain. I am sensitive to light but my headache isn’t that strong. I am so thankful I saw this article.

  • JoJo FiftynineCafe Motorbikes
    7 years ago

    Very informative article, thank you. I’m surprised at how few people are educated about this very important component of migraines. I have been wondering for years why I am starving, having blood sugar issues, etc before and during a migaine – all the while stuffing myself full of healty and nutrituous food. I only recently found out about gastric stasis from my doc and this information has been so valuable. Now I just want to understand why our bodies do this and what cen be done proactively to help the stomach’s digestion in between attacks.

  • Damien Woodi
    7 years ago

    I get some pretty bad migraines which always seem to be centrally located in the same spot behind my right eye (although my head, behind my jaw, and neck also get sore).
    By chance I found that taking a 10mg Hydrocodone Vicodin (or two with really bad pain) almost completely removes the pain and allows me to function again.
    I know the addictive risks and that Vicodin doesn’t work for everybody, but after a year of taking Vicodin responsibly only when I have migraines and not getting addicted: for me there’s no question to its ability. I too also recommend drinking lots of water on a daily basis, which has reduced the frequency of my migraines (also reduced illness in general for me).

    Findrxonline.com/talk

  • tucker
    8 years ago

    Wow, I just was looking up abdominal migraines in adults since I’m sick of being “sick” all the time. We discovered in hindsite my son had them before his “head” migraines kicked in last summer.

    While I’m not ruling that out since the symptoms fit, maybe gastroparesis also could be a problem too. 2 trips to the PCP this summer so far -oh the joy of hot summertime migraines and chronic nausea- some days I feel fine, some days 4-6 phenergan just to function (yeah and manage to keep on working I’ve gotten so used to the stuff). The nice nurse practitioner gave me all kinds of advice about oriental medicine diet changes after I told her I also use lots of ginger capsules and ginger tea. But really, I just want to eat normal food and not feel like I’m on the verge of vomiting most days of the week. The brain pain is bad enough!

    This is great info – time for more research! I’ll look into the papaya and talk to the neuro next month at that appt too. Thanks guys!

  • Susan Cleveland
    8 years ago

    When the nausea sets in, I know I’m in for a really bad migraine. I have a prescription of Phenergan that helps immensely, as long as I get it down before everything starts coming up. First line of attack is the Imitrex, and if that fails, then I hit it with the double whammy. Vicodin and Phenergan, not only because of the gastroparesis, but because the opiates make me nauseous as well. I find the Phenergan knocks me out harder than the Vicodin, most times. If I don’t get them down in time and vomit all my meds up, only a trip to the ER will stop the pain, so I’m quick to take them.

  • Sarah Johnson
    7 years ago

    I had nausea and “heart burn” and light headaches before I was hit with the migraine. I go back to my doctor next month I think I need to talk to her about some help (other than Naprosen and Imitrex). I became so dehydrated.

  • Joyce Korte
    8 years ago

    This looks like an interesting site, One can learn more from people that have migraines than by reading all the medical books that are written on the subject.

  • Janene Zielinski
    8 years ago

    Nausea is sometimes part of my prodome. If it’s mild, I’ve found papaya enzyme to help. When I am lucky enough to get the migraine finally under control with triptans, my nausea is the first symptom to subside. Sometimes at the ER they want to give me Phenergan and that has made me very sick for days afterwards (I guess I have a problem with it). Papaya enzyme is natural, inexpensive and easily available so maybe that may help someone…. but I doubt it will help anyone with severe symptoms.

  • Rebecca Atchison
    8 years ago

    I’ve always found it darkly ironic that I already have a whopping case of idiopathic gastroparesis–24/7 violent nausea & plenty of vomiting for the past 12 years or so–so when the migraines hit, I’m so used to dealing with gp that I don’t really notice extra gastric symptoms. It’s already a daily (awful) phenomenon for me. Kind of a backhanded blessing, I guess…

  • Gina Marie Johnson
    8 years ago

    I learn more information on this website than at my Migraine specialist I also suffer Gastroparesis & Chronic migraines along with GERD Been suffering 14+ migraines a month I am taking 3 Amitriptylines & 1 Inderal at bedtime I treat my migraines with Imitrex pill first then after 2 hours if not gone another Imitrex then if that don’t work depending on severity I will either have to do Imitrex injection along with Phenegran suppository or a Percoset These migraines are killing me & my life.

  • Holly
    3 years ago

    I didn’t even realize ppl took amitriptyline for migraines. I used to take it for depression and it made my brain feel foggy. My migraines have actually gotten better since my last laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis 2 yrs ago. Maybe it’s the birth control. I know my hormones play a part in them. Just like that storm last night…

  • Dawn Miller Emde
    8 years ago

    Are you keeping a food diary?

  • Joyce Korte
    8 years ago

    Can you really take Imitrex pill and then use the injections and the pill in that close together. ?? My Dr. warned against using to much of the stuff.
    I’ve been on it 10 + years and average 6 shots a month.

    The injections usually take care of a migraine unless it involves sinuses.

    I am now using 80 mgs of Inderal, and 25 mgs of Amitriptiline before I go to bed and I don’t wake up with a Migraine during the nite.

  • Jessi Newman
    8 years ago

    ive tryed it all fyi never take the spray it makes it worst. i ve tryed every migraine med too i hope u feel better! ive had one for 3 days been puke in since yesterday! have u thought about seeing a pain mang dr. praying for u..

  • Gina Marie Johnson
    8 years ago

    With the blades? lol

  • Herb Glaser
    8 years ago

    Start small, then go big.

  • Gina Marie Johnson
    8 years ago

    To slice my wrist or cut my head off he he he

  • Phil DeMarco
    8 years ago

    sometimes the best cure is a sharp sword…..

  • Andrea Thomas Krohn
    8 years ago

    This is a huge part of my migraines.

  • Georgia Slesinger
    8 years ago

    Gastric problems are the FIRST sign a migraine is on its way for me:( Every single time:(

  • Maureen Baxter Douglas
    8 years ago

    Thank you for this. It is one of the things I noticed with mine but except for the nausea no one else seemed to know what I was talking about. In the middle of day three of a migraine right now. Hoping the medicine kicks in before I start throwing up.

  • Anna Thomas
    8 years ago

    Hope you feel better soon Maureen!

  • Judy Collins
    8 years ago

    neurontin was added to my medication regime, for me constipation incresed proportionally to the dose of med.

  • Lynette J. Plude
    8 years ago

    This is so educational and helpful to me that I can’t even begin to tell you. This has been me my while life and yet here I am reading about this for the very first time. Thank you so much for this info and I am going to discuss this with my Dr. because I find that when I take oral meds for pain or nausea it takes hours for it to help. The suppositories he gives me work better unless I lose them from my bowels emptying out suddenly as discussed in this article and they seem like even when that doesn’t happen they even take a long time to work. I think that is most likely due to the fact that when not having a migraine I am the extrremely the opposite. I am 55yrs now and can remember talking to my Dr.’s about this 40 years ago and they knew no reason for why this would happen back then. Again thank you for this info!

  • Barbara Collins
    8 years ago

    This is a big component of migraines, to me. You feel like you have eaten a huge meal even though you haven’t. Food doesn’t digest and the medications don’t absorb very quickly. The nausea sets in. Then after the days of migraine are over, the results of the gastric mobility take place in varying ways.

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