Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

A new study links migraine to an increased risk of IBD

Prior studies have indicated that migraine may raise an individual's risk for a number of illnesses, including disorders of the gastrointestinal tract.

Over 1 billion people worldwide experience at least one migraine attack year. Earlier research, migraines may make a person more susceptible to many illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, epilepsy, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and depression.

Additionally, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other gastrointestinal disorders have been connected to migraines.

According to new research from Seoul National University College of Medicine in South Korea, migraines may also be associated with a higher chance of developing irritable bowel disease (IBD), a general term that encompasses ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.


A migraine is a type of headache disorder characterized by recurrent, throbbing headaches that typically affect one side of the head. Migraine headaches are often accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, sound, or smells, and in some cases, visual disturbances known as aura.

Aura symptoms can vary widely among individuals but often include visual disturbances such as flashes of light, zigzag lines, blind spots, or temporary loss of vision in one eye. Other sensory disturbances may also occur, such as tingling or numbness in the face or extremities, difficulty speaking, or confusion.

Migraines can vary in severity and duration, lasting anywhere from a few hours to several days. They can significantly impact daily activities and quality of life for those affected. Some individuals may experience warning signs or prodromal symptoms before the onset of a migraine attack, such as changes in mood, appetite, or energy levels.

Triggers for migraine attacks can vary widely among individuals and may include certain foods, stress, hormonal changes, sleep disturbances, sensory stimuli, and environmental factors. Treatment typically involves a combination of lifestyle modifications, preventive medications, and acute treatments to alleviate symptoms during an attack.

Lifestyle changes such as maintaining a regular sleep schedule, managing stress, staying hydrated, and avoiding known triggers can help reduce the frequency and severity of migraine episodes. Medications such as triptans, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and other prescription medications may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms during acute migraine attacks or to prevent them from occurring. In some cases, alternative therapies such as acupuncture, biofeedback, or cognitive-behavioural therapy may also be beneficial in managing migraines.


Irritable bowel disease (IBD) is a chronic inflammatory condition of the digestive tract.

It primarily includes two main disorders: Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis.

  1. Crohn’s Disease: This condition causes inflammation anywhere along the lining of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus. However, it most commonly affects the end of the small intestine (ileum) and the beginning of the colon. Crohn’s disease can affect multiple layers of the bowel wall and may result in abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, and fatigue.
  2. Ulcerative Colitis: Unlike Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis affects only the colon and rectum. It causes inflammation and ulcers (sores) in the innermost lining of the colon, leading to symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, rectal bleeding, urgency to have bowel movements, and fatigue.

Both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are chronic conditions with periods of remission and flare-ups. The exact cause of IBD is not fully understood, but it’s believed to involve a combination of genetic, environmental, and immune factors.

Treatment for IBD typically involves medications to reduce inflammation, manage symptoms, and in some cases, surgery to remove severely affected portions of the digestive tract.

In depth about the study

Researchers examined data from over 10 million South Korean citizens who were enrolled in the country’s healthcare system for the current study. IBD affected about 3% of the study’s participants.

Scientists discovered through the data that persons with migraines had a much higher incidence of IBD than people without migraine.

Additionally, using subgroups of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis occurrences, scientists examined the data. Compared to those without migraine, those with migraine in both subgroups had a greater chance of getting either illness. Researchers discovered that individuals with migraine diagnoses had an increased risk of getting Crohn’s disease, with a statistically significant increase observed after a 5-year follow-up.

Furthermore, researchers found that among the groupings, males were more likely than women to have a migraine’s impact on their likelihood of getting ulcerative colitis. The research team recommends that individuals with migraine be closely watched for the emergence of IBD in light of these findings.

Take away

Finding potential medical conditions that could cause IBD is crucial because, if a doctor is aware of these conditions, they may be able to lessen the symptoms of IBD.

These findings add to a fairly substantial body of data that indicates patients with chronic GI syndromes or disorders have statistically higher rates of chronic pain syndromes.

This is not the first study to examine a potential link between IBD and migraine. Adults with IBD had a greater frequency of migraine or severe headaches than adults without the condition, according to a March 2021 survey of Americans. According to research released in March 2023, individuals with migraines—both with and without aura—are more likely to get IBD.

By Parvathy Sukumaran

Parvathy Sukumaran is a Content Creator and Editor at JustCare Health. She is an Educator and a Language Lecturer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Education and an M.A in English Literature. She is passionate about writing, archaeology, music and cooking.

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