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Diarrhea and Constipation

Migraine with diarrhea and constipation symptoms : an introduction

Some people experience diarrhea or constipation along with their migraines.

Diarrhea and constipation are often seen in children with migraines. In children, the diarrhea and constipation occur during the actual migraine attack along with the head pain.

Everyone has different symptoms and experiences them at different times during their migraine attacks. However, with diarrhea and constipation, migraine sufferers typically notice they have a pattern with these symptoms and that they occur near the same period of each attack.

Diarrhea and constipation: common side effects

Unfortunately some medications that treat migraines also may cause diarrhea and/or constipation as side effects. For example, drugs for treating nausea and vomiting – called anti-emetics – may cause diarrhea in some patients. Medications in the triptan class may also cause diarrhea as a side effect, while treatments in the calcium channel blocker class may cause constipation. Sometimes it is difficult to determine if a symptom is to be blamed on the migraine attack or on the medications used to treat the migraines. That’s why it’s very important to write down all symptoms, when they occurred and how long they lasted in your migraine journal. This record will help you and your migraine doctor determine which are migraine symptoms.

Why do migraines sometimes cause diarrhea and constipation?

The autonomic nervous system controls the body’s involuntary operations such as the heartbeat, the widening or narrowing of the blood vessels and the air flow in the lungs. This system is thought to be responsible for the head pain associated with migraine as well as other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

A 2007 Norwegian study found that people with digestive or gastrointestinal disorders such as diarrhea, nausea or vomiting are more likely to suffer from migraines.


Definition of diarrhea

Diarrhea occurs when a person has three or more loose or watery stools per day. It is important to drink lots of liquids if you’re experiencing diarrhea in an effort to avoid dehydration, which can cause serious health problems particularly in children and older people.

Diarrhea symptoms

  • Three or more loose stools per day
  • Stomach cramping
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Urgent need to use the bathroom

Seek immediate medical attention if you have stools with blood or pus, black stools, a temperature higher than 102 degrees or dehydration (thirst, less frequent or dark colored urine, dry skin, light headed feeling or fatigue).

Definition of constipation

Someone is considered constipated if their bowels move less than three times per week.

Symptoms of constipation

  • Stools are hard, dry, small
  • Stools are difficult to eliminate
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Bloated stomach
  • Sensation of a full bowel
Written by: Otesa Miles | Last review date: November 2010
Episodic and Chronic Migraine in Children, Mack Seminars in Neurology 2006