Understanding Where Migraine Nausea Comes From, and How to Stop It


Migraine and Nausea

Migraine and NauseaMigraines are universally associated with pain — whether they suffer from the affliction or not, most people understand that the throbbing headache can be unbearable. But other symptoms, though nearly as prevalent, are sometimes glossed over. Migraine nausea is one of them.

If you’ve felt the throbbing pain and gut-wrenching discomfort at the same time, you know just how debilitating a migraine can become. In fact, the nausea can be harder to handle than the headache itself, and will almost certainly interfere with your ability to do basic daily tasks, like eating, drinking, and taking medication.

You don’t need to simply suffer through the nausea and vomiting that come with an attack. Instead, turn your attention to relieving the nausea with some proven strategies, and take back some much-needed control in your battle against migraine pain.

How Common is Nausea with Migraine?

Unfortunately, migraines tend to be a full-body ailment. Throbbing head pain is the primary symptom, but many people experience pain elsewhere, along with general fatigue and more specific digestive distress. In fact, up to 80% of migraine sufferers report nausea with their migraine, sometimes to the point of vomiting.

Although tension or cluster headaches could cause nausea in susceptible people, an unsettled stomach is far more common with migraine. Experts haven’t been able to explain this relationship completely, but many suspect that it comes down to a few elements:

  • Estrogen. More women than men suffer from migraines (18% and 6% of the American population, respectively), and many women find their migraines increase when their hormones are fluctuating. Doctors have long suspected that estrogen plays a role in migraine pain, and since women are also more likely to experience nausea with their migraine, it’s possible that estrogen influences how the stomach responds, too.
  • Serotonin. Migraine pain is thought to come from enlarged blood vessels on the brain, and these blood vessels swell when serotonin levels drop. Interestingly, low serotonin is also linked to motion sickness and nausea, which means too little of this important neurotransmitter could help to trigger migraines and the nausea that comes with them.
  • Sympathetic nervous system. The nerve impulses that travel from your brain to your stomach can change when the blood vessels in your brain dilate during a migraine. Not only do the nerve impulses cause pain, but they may spark a “fight or flight” response, which closes off the passage between the stomach and intestines to slow digestion. Anything left in your stomach will be trapped, and that will tend to make you feel nauseous.

Next page: the types of migraines that bring on nausea, and some tips to settle your stomach.

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