If you have symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and migraine but are trying to “tough it out” without a diagnosis or treatment plan, it’s time to reconsider.

“Even though these conditions are benign in the sense that they don’t lead to death, they cause a lot of disability and can negatively impact your quality of life,” says Roderick Spears, MD, a neurologist and headache specialist at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia.

IBS is a common chronic disorder characterized by abdominal pain or discomfort, and diarrhea, constipation, or both. But for some people, other symptoms are connected as well.

“Many IBS patients, especially women, also report symptoms unrelated to digestion, such as fatigue, muscle pain, sleep disturbances, and sexual dysfunction,” says Bethany DeVito, MD, a gastroenterologist at Northwell Health in Great Neck, New York.

Migraine is a neurological disease that usually causes recurrent headaches, but migraine attacks frequently include other symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light, sound, touch, and smell. For many people with migraine, these attacks are debilitating.

The Relationship Between IBS and Migraine

The relationship between IBS and migraine would be described as a correlation, says Dr. Spears. “If you have migraine, it seems you’re more likely to have IBS, and vice versa, but they don’t seem to cause one or the other,” he says.

Numerous studies have found an elevated incidence of migraine or headache among people who have IBS, and an increased incidence of IBS among people with migraine:

 

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