Migraines, Digestive Disorders and Food

Migraines, Digestive Disorders and Food

Migraines and digestive disorders are seemingly very closely related.

A 2014 review article published in Frontiers of Neurology found that ‘People who regularly experience gastrointestinal symptoms have a higher prevalence of headaches, with a stronger association with increasing headache frequency’1.

In other words, there is a relationship between general impairment of the stomach, intestine and even gall bladder, and head pain.

We know that for many people, nervous tension can bring about headaches and migraines. Well, interestingly, in herbal theory, nervous tension is said to aggravate the digestive function - especially the stomach and spleen - and one knock-on effect of this can be tension headaches.

Nervous tension digestive system head pain

Digestive Impairment vs Food Intolerance

On the other side of the same coin is food intolerance. Digestive impairment and food intolerance are however not the same things.

Digestive impairment is a functional issue. Meanwhile, food intolerance may stem from functional issues but also the foods themselves, a factor not necessarily related to digestive issues. Our foods have changed in the past 50 years and we are now eating things that our body is arguably not designed to eat.

Is Modern, Fast-Paced Society Creating New Problems?

Traditional foods as they used to be grown and prepared have never been an issue for most. Those same foods made using modern methods have become an issue for some because of chemicals and other processes used when they are being grown and prepared for sale. These chemicals and processes never existed prior to the the past 50-100 years so it’s interesting to note how this has coincided with a rise in many of our present-day health issues.

If you are looking for natural migraine relief, the foods you eat would be a good place to start.

Migraines and Foods

For some people, simply eating certain types of foods can trigger a migraine.

For some it may be chocolate; for others, rich creamy foods (like dairy products); or foods that are heavy, greasy or hard-to-digest. For others, certain food additives like MSG that interfere with the digestive process may trigger migraines.

The newest culprit being blamed as the cause of headaches and migraines is a naturally occurring micronutrient called tyramine. According to WebMD.com, aged and fermented foods like certain cheeses, smoked or cured meats and fish, and certain varieties of beer may contain high levels of tyramine2.

Meanwhile, for some people who already have an impaired stomach, simply not eating can also bring on a headache or a migraine.

Listen To Your Body

It would seem that the mechanism by which head pain arises from problems arising elsewhere in the body may be less mysterious than some might suspect.

While every person and every migraine is different, by paying attention to what you’re eating and making a note of how you feel/your migraine patterns, you may start to notice certain connections between the foods you eat and your migraine incidence.

Meanwhile, if you have already been diagnosed with some sort of digestive or stomach impairment, then perhaps you are more sensitive to nervous tension or eating foods containing MSG.

Naturopaths and other practitioners like Bowen may be able to offer solutions for nervous tension.


1. “Migraine Associated with Gastrointestinal Disorders: Review of the Literature and Clinical Implications”, Frontiers of Neurology, November 2014

2. “Tyramine and Migraines”, WebMD, online


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