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Nausea With or Without Vomiting

Migraine sufferers often complain of nausea, an uneasy, queasy feeling or discomfort in the stomach. Some studies show that almost three quarters of those with migraines have nausea. The nausea can be so severe that it causes people to limit activities and is therefore a major cause of migraine disability.

Nausea can occur by itself or it may cause vomiting. About a third of migraine sufferers blame their migraines for causing vomiting. Female migraine sufferers complain of nausea more often than males. Often vomiting makes the migraine pain go away. This was observed centuries ago by Hippocrates, who wrote that vomiting was able to “divert the pain and render it more moderate.”

What causes migraine nausea and vomiting?

Because the underlying cause of migraine is largely unknown, there are no definite reasons why nausea and vomiting are common symptoms. Nausea and vomiting sometimes occur along with vertigo or dizziness, which may be linked to brain and inner ear disturbances.

Nausea and vomiting is also associated with a decrease in quality of life and the inability to participate in regular activities.

Some migraine sufferers, whose symptoms are primarily related to nausea, vomiting and other stomach discomforts, are diagnosed with abdominal migraine.

The impact of migraine nausea and vomiting:

  • Symptoms usually start and end quickly
  • Researchers believe there is a link between migraines and cyclic vomiting syndrome, which causes episodes of severe nausea and vomiting that can last for hours and sometimes days and often has the same triggers as migraines
  • Sufferers typically feel worse with movement
  • Sufferers usually feel better being still or laying down


Abdominal migraine:

More common in children, abdominal migraines cause abdominal pain lasting one hour to three days. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, warm flushes and the sweats. Abdominal migraines often lead to migraines with head pain in adults. In fact, children with abdominal migraines were four time more likely to develop adult migraines. Abdominal migraine is diagnosed more often in Europe than it is in the U.S.

Nausea is a frequent complaint of people who don’t suffer from migraines as well.

Other possible causes of nausea and vomiting:

  • Viral infections
  • Reaction to a medication
  • Pregnancy
  • Motion sickness
  • Reflux, heart burn
  • Gallstones
  • Food poisoning
  • Food allergy


Written by: Otesa Miles | Last review date: November 2010
Prevalence and Burden of Migraine in the U.S., Headache, Lipton 2001