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What Is a Stomach Migraine and Who’s Affected by Them?

Man having a stomach migraine

Medically Reviewed By:

Mary K. Polinard, BSN, RN, CNOR

There’s a common misconception that migraine pain only occurs in the head, but this type of pain can actually be felt in the abdominal area as well. Although it is uncommon, there is a type of migraine called the abdominal migraine that causes moderate-to-severe pain in the belly button region. Since this type of pain is often confused with common gastrointestinal disorders, it’s important to understand the causes and symptoms of an abdominal migraine, which shares some of the same risk factors and triggers as other migraines.

The purpose of this article is to define and describe the abdominal migraine and explain why certain people are more at risk for this type of pain. It will also address abdominal migraine triggers and possible abdominal migraine treatment options.

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Causes of Abdominal Migraines

Although physicians and researchers aren’t entirely sure what causes abdominal migraines, but findings suggest a connection to how food is digested in the body and how the GI tract is connected to the brain. Since migraines have a hereditary component, individuals with a family history of migraines are more prone to developing abdominal migraines as well.2

Abdominal Migraine Symptoms

Abdominal pain around the belly button is one of the most common abdominal migraine symptoms, but there are other symptoms that are often present as well. For example, it is common for a person to feel nauseous, vomit, and have poor appetite while experiencing an abdominal migraine. Stomach migraine attacks can last an hour, a few hours, or even up to a few days.1,2

Abdominal Migraine Triggers

Certain things in the environment can trigger an abdominal migraine, much like the way that migraines with head pain have triggers. Processed foods that contain artificial ingredients, chemicals, and nitrates are known to be abdominal migraine triggers. People are also more likely to experience one of these migraines due to stress, exhaustion, excessive excitement, and motion sickness.2

Who’s Most at Risk for a Stomach Migraine

Children are most at risk of developing a stomach migraine, most commonly affecting children between ages seven and ten.2 It is also more common for young girls to get stomach migraines than young boys. Research has shown that abdominal migraines in children usually end by their teen years, but are these people are more likely to have migraine attacks later in life. Although they’re more common in children, it is also possible for adults to have abdominal migraines as well.1,2

Abdominal Migraine Treatment Options

Fortunately, many of the treatments that fight head pain migraines are effective in treating abdominal migraines too. Sleeping adequately may help prevent or bring relief during an abdominal migraine attack. Since vomiting is common with this condition, it is important to stay hydrated with fluids and perhaps even administer intravenous fluids following severe vomiting. There are also preventative prescription migraine medications that people who are prone to abdominal migraines can also take, such as propranolol and cyproheptadine. For both children and adults, it is a smart idea to avoid processed foods to prevent triggering an abdominal migraine.2

Vanquish® is indicated for tension headaches. If you have a cluster headache, sinus headache, migraine headache or any other type of headache you may want to consult a doctor.

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References for What Is a Stomach Migraine and Who’s Affected by Them?

1. American Migraine Foundation. Abdominal Migraine. Retrieved on August 28, 2019 from https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/abdominal-migraine/.
2. Healthline. Abdominal Migraine. Retrieved on August 28, 2019 from https://www.healthline.com/health/abdominal-migraine.

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