Why So Many Migraineurs Suffer from Constipation

People with migraines are two times more likely to suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The primary symptoms of this condition are constipation and diarrhea. Most of the time, people will experience one or the other more frequently. In migraine patients, it is often constipation that causes the problem. In this post, I’ll review how migraines and constipation are connected, the mechanics of why constipation often leads to a migraine attack, and some natural measures you can take to reduce episodes.

How Are Migraines Connected to Constipation

It’s hard to know if constipation causes migraines or vice versa; however, medicine is inherently investigative by nature. Solutions are not always known; therefore, we must use sleuth-like creativity to solve the problems we experience, especially when it comes to migraines. For instance, there are a few common culprits, or leading players, in migraines and constipation or IBS, including:

·         Serotonin, or the “happy hormone.” While most people think of the brain with this hormone, 70-80% of serotonin resides in the gut. Constipation leads to a decline in serotonin production, which often leads to migraines.

·         Psychological or mood disorders like depression and anxiety. This is related to serotonin levels, but also to medications. These folks are usually on drugs that name constipation as a primary side effect. 

·         Touch sensitivity is common in both migraines and constipation, as well as anxiety. Tenderness to the touch suggests a heightened nervous system response.

·         Medication use, especially opiates, can make migraines worse and cause constipation.

·         Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that presents as an allergy to gluten. Gluten is a known trigger to migraines, and those with celiac disease often find themselves with secondary diagnoses of chronic migraines.

The Mechanics of Constipation

In 2010, Dr. Vinod Gupta from New Delhi published a case report on constipation-related migraines. In this report, Dr. Gupta noted that the act of straining with eyes open and mouth shut while pushing often leads to pulsating migraine attacks. The pressure from the strain in a Valsalva-like maneuver is the cause of this pulsating pain.  In his report, Dr. Gupta notes that reversing those behaviors, such as keeping the mouth open and intentionally squeezing eyes shut, significantly reduces migraines during constipation episodes. 

Extensive scientific studies may not have proven the Valsalva maneuver causes the pulsating pain, but we can’t deny that it makes sense. Even healthy people who strain with stools find themselves feeling a little dizzy and exhausted from constipation.

Natural Treatments & Prevention for Migraineurs

Everyone experiences constipation, but migraineurs seem to be at higher risk; therefore, it’s imperative to focus on preventive measures and home treatments that will help. 


·         The elimination diet is the best place to start. You are what you eat, and food is a primary trigger for both migraines and constipation. 

·         Add more soluble fiber to your diet. This sounds simple, but it’s not easy when you consider most of our nutrients are leached from the food before they reach our plates. Therefore, you may want to keep a fiber supplement on hand.

·         If constipation is a constant problem, try taking more magnesium and vitamin C daily. These nutrients help loosen the stool, and magnesium is vital for all migraineur’s health, as people with this condition are usually deficient.

Home Remedies

Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how good you are with prevention; constipation comes knocking at the door where migraines reside. To treat this problem quickly, and avoid a painful attack, try these measures:

·         Liquid magnesium citrate. It’s gross, but it helps. It takes a few hours to work, so be sure you have easy access to a bathroom. 

·         Take an extra fiber supplement.

·         Chug some water. Often, constipation is due to dehydration.

·         Take a walk around the block. Moving always helps loosen the stools.

·         Have a cup of coffee if it’s early enough in the day. Caffeine doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for many when constipation becomes an issue.  If caffeine is a trigger, don’t use this measure. Try decaf! That may help as well.

While research is still new linking migraines to constipation, that doesn’t mean there is no connection. We know there is because most of us experience it regularly. The best news is that it’s an easy fix. If you’re struggling to find a safe regimen at home, reach out to me. I help people all around the world conquer their bodies and get their lives back.  


Healthline: Can Constipation Cause a Headache?

Migraine Again: Backed Up and In Pain: Are Migraine and Constipation Linked?

Medical News Today: Constipation and Headaches at the Same Time