Are ‘Abdominal Migraines’ Really a Thing?

abdominal migraine

Your gut is cramping like no other, you’re nauseous, and you’re preparing for something explosive to come out of both ends. 

Is it a stomach bug? Food poisoning from that sketchy street meat you ate? Or could it be a troubling tummy condition known as “abdominal migraine?”

You read that right—your head isn’t the only thing that can fall victim to migraines. You can also get abdominal migraine, which causes brutal stomach pain for up to three days. Abdominal migraine mostly affects kids, but adults can get them too, especially if you’re prone to migraine headaches.

Keep reading to learn what abdominal migraine is, what the common triggers are, and how to conquer your tummy trouble.

What Is an Abdominal Migraine?

Abdominal migraine is a condition that triggers episodes of moderate to severe stomach pain that can last anywhere from 1-72 hours. The most common symptom is a dull ache in the middle of the belly, which starts out of nowhere and ends abruptly.

Researchers believe abdominal migraines are related to migraine headaches because they have similar triggers and respond to similar treatment options. In fact, 24% of people who get abdominal migraines have migraine headaches at some point in their lives, compared to just 10% of the general population, according to Cleveland Clinic.

Abdominal migraines most commonly affect children under 10 years old, and most kids overcome the condition by their teen years. However, a small percentage of patients carry these symptoms into adulthood. Abdominal migraines tend to be more common in women than dudes.

Symptoms of Abdominal Migraines

The most common abdominal migraine is a dull, achy pain in the middle of your stomach, near the belly button. The pain can be moderate or severe and may last between 1-72 hours, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. On average, episodes last 17 hours.

Here are some other symptoms people have reported during abdominal migraine attacks:

Some of the symptoms of abdominal migraines overlap with other gastrointestinal disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s disease, so it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider to determine the root cause of your recurrent abdominal pain.

What Causes Abdominal Migraines?

Researchers aren’t 100% sure about the causes of abdominal migraines, but they’re believed to be caused by issues with the “gut-brain axis”—the communication system between the nervous system and digestive system.

If you have a sensitive nervous system, certain triggers can release excess neurotransmitters (specifically serotonin), which cause stomach pain.

Let’s break down some potential abdominal migraine triggers:

  • Family history of migraines (over 65% of people who experience abdominal migraines have a parent or sibling with migraine headaches)
  • Stress, such as from work or life events
  • Anxiety
  • Hunger, whether from fasting or skipping meals
  • Dehydration
  • Exercise
  • Poor sleep
  • Motion sickness
  • Travel
  • High-amine foods like citrus fruits, chocolate, cheese, salami, and ham
  • Foods with added flavoring, coloring, and monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • High doses of caffeine

How to Treat an Abdominal Migraine

We have good news and bad news here. The bad news is that there’s no official cure for abdominal migraines. The good news is there are plenty of options to ease the pain with lifestyle changes and medications.

Research has shown that the following treatment options can help relieve the symptoms of abdominal migraines.

Lifestyle Changes to Treat Abdominal Migraines

  • Get plenty of rest: Getting into a consistent sleep schedule of 8+ hours every night is essential to help your mind and body recover
  • Manage your stress levels: Stress can jack up your gut-brain axis, so find activities that help you chill out and unwind
  • Avoid trigger foods: Diet plays a big role in your gut-brain axis, so try to find what foods seem to cause your episodes of abdominal pain and swap them with foods that settle your stomach.
  • Avoid overstimulation: Sitting in a dark, quiet room can ease the symptoms of a migraine.

Medications to Treat Abdominal Migraines

Gastroenterologists may recommend prescription or over-the-counter medications to treat your symptoms. Here some common examples:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like aspirin or ibuprofen
  • Anti-nausea medications
  • Triptans (serotonin receptor agonists)
  • Cyproheptadine
  • Pizotifen
  • Propranolol
  • Beta-blockers
  • Flunarizine

That Migraine Might Send You to the Toilet…

It’s rare, but abdominal migraines can trigger diarrhea. When that happens, the last thing you want to be stuck with is a roll of dry sandpaper to clean up the mess. Don’t add insult to injury. Stay strapped with a DUDE Wipe at all times for when shit goes down—literally.

We might not be able to soothe your belly, but we’re pros at soothing your butthole.

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