Are Migraines Linked to IBS?

What you need to know

More studies are being done to figure out exactly how the brain-gut axis works and how to treat related digestive issues. Read more below to see how migraines are related to IBS.

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Migraines and IBS: What you need to know

Why is it that stress, anxiety, and even depression are often associated with digestive issues?

The brain-gut connection is real, and the link between IBS and stress was discussed in a previous blog post.

But what about the association between migraines and digestive issues?

Is there a connection?

An article about a preliminary study describes the high possibility that phenotypic and genotypic associations exist between IBS and migraines.

This finding is huge.

Well, not for me because I realized this association some time ago. But the skeptics out there often ask why I specialize in migraines and IBS.

My response is simply that they are related, and the treatment is very similar for both. The majority of people who come to me for treatment of IBS also have migraine headaches.

The root cause must be treated—always!

And the root cause of many conditions begins in the gut.

What is the research saying?

The study discussed by Brooks concluded that “physicians should examine the presence of IBS in migraine and tension-type headaches or vice versa for accurate management of these disorders.” IBS is associated with increased hypothalamic activity, which may be why it gets worse with stress and anxiety. The study’s authors coined IBS a “migraine of the bowels,” which really does describe what happens with IBS: dysregulation of blood flow, muscle spasm, and pain.

These symptoms are very similar to what patients experience with migraines in the head.

Migraine of the bowels

The study examined people with migraines, people with episodic tension-type headache (ETTH), and people with IBS. The researchers found that IBS occurred in 54.5% of patients with migraine and 28.3% of patients with ETTH. They also noted genetic associations between the IBS, migraine, and ETTH patients. A particular variant was found to be higher in people with migraines and IBS but not people in the ETTH group. Further, the head of the study stated that “the association between these genes, pain persistence, and food sensitivities should also be explored.”

Bottom line

More and more studies are being done to figure out exactly how the brain-gut axis works and how to treat related digestive issues. We know there is a clear relationship between emotions and the gut, but to regain health, we need to find all the pieces of the puzzle and target the root cause of the issues.


If you suffer from IBS or chronic migraines and are ready to get to the root of the issue, give Dr. Heintze a call today for a free consultation. (425) 686-4498

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Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist in Bothell, WA at her practice Starting Point Acupuncture. She is a pain specialist, seeing people who suffer from chronic pain, migraines, as well as digestive issues. Offering pain relief injections, acupuncture, facial rejuvenation, and nutrition consults. Most insurances accepted. Dr. Ellie Heintze is also the author of the book, A Starting Point Guide to Going Gluten-Free on Amazon.


Brooks, M. (2016, March 2). Migraine linked to irritable bowel syndrome. Retrieved March 29, 2016, from

Call or Schedule Now! (425) 686-4498

Call or Schedule Now!

(425) 686-4498

Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc

  • Master’s Degree in Acupuncture
    Bastyr University
  • Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine
    Bastyr University
  • Master’s Degree in Chemistry
    Northern Arizona University
Dr. Heintze Acupuncturist and Naturopathic Doctor

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