Gastric Stasis in Migraine

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: October 2020

The term “gastric stasis” means that the stomach empties more slowly than it should. Gastric stasis is common in people with migraine and is thought to cause the nausea and vomiting that happens during an attack. In people with migraine, gastric stasis is common both during and outside the migraine attacks.1

Another term for gastric stasis is gastroparesis.

Gastric stasis can also slow the body’s ability to process medicines taken by mouth. This causes a problem for people who take drugs by mouth to fight their migraine symptoms. That is why research is important to find new migraine drugs that can be delivered through an inhaler, patch, and other methods.2

What causes gastric stasis?

Normally, the stomach works when it receives signals sent by nerves in the brain and spinal cord. These signals cause chemicals to be released that tell the muscles of the stomach and intestines to move. Doctors believe that migraine interferes with these signals and this causes the stomach to empty too slowly, leading to nausea and vomiting.3

How is it diagnosed?

Most of the time, doctors do not run extra tests to confirm gastric stasis in people with migraine unless they want to rule out other health conditions. The tests that may be done to confirm gastric stasis include:

  • Endoscopy
  • CT scan or MRI with barium
  • Gastric emptying scintigraphy
  • Breath test

Treating gastric stasis

There are several options to treat gastric stasis. Anti-nausea drugs and drugs that help the stomach empty more quickly may be prescribed. Some changes in diet may also help the stomach work more effectively, including:

  • Eat 4 to 5 smaller meals each day
  • Eat softer foods that are easier to digest, such as smoothies
  • Cut back on foods high in fat, such as cheese or fried foods
  • Avoid high fiber foods, such as some fruits, vegetables, or beans
  • Avoid fizzy drinks that cause you to feel gassy or bloated
  • Avoid smoke and alcohol

How should you track your symptoms?

Keeping a record of your migraine symptoms may help you figure out patterns and triggers to your attacks. It may be helpful to record such things as:

  • When and where your pain or symptoms start
  • Whether the pain spreads to your entire head or neck
  • How well and how quickly acute treatment helps reduce the pain or other symptoms
  • Whether you experience other symptoms such as vision changes, nausea, vomiting, or light sensitivity
  • How long these symptoms last
  • What treatments bring relief

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