Migraine Stomach Nausea Explained

Written by Holly Hazen

I have decided to coin a new term “Migraine Stomach.” This is for one of my early warning signals that a migraine is on its way.

I have many warning signals, but either having absolutely no appetite or feeling ravenous has become a more common one.

This happens long before I feel the pain in my eyes or any physical sensations stirring.

But when I notice that even my swallowing is difficult and my food just feels like it's sitting there above my stomach, I know … I know I have migraine stomach and an attack is on its way.

It’s Not Your Imagination

No one ever told me about this, so of course, like everything else around migraine, I thought I might be imagining it all. I definitely lost my appetite more often than not for many many years. The intensity of pain, after the nausea and vomiting, just knocked me out.

It was not until I went to a psychotherapist, who was previously a doctor that she described the stomach’s reaction to migraine. She simply said that the stomach must shut down in order to deal with the migraine.

I have a more detailed description below of what happens to us.

Nausea and Vomiting Explained

Since that conversation I have slowly become much more aware of the subtle shifts that occur in my stomach before a migraine attack occurs. I hope by sharing this, it helps you notice these things too.

I think that this is the best description of why we get nauseous around a migraine attack. It is from the book called The Migraine Solution written by Dr. Paul Rizzoli, et al.:

Migraine Stomach

 “During a migraine headache, arteries in the head dilate.

The widening arteries stimulate nerve fibers that encircle the arteries, causing them to send impulses to the brain.

There, these nerve impulses are interpreted as pain.

They also activate the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which originates in the spinal cord and extends to organs throughout the body, including the stomach and intestines.  The ANS controls the body’s “fight or flight” response, mobilizing the body for action by speeding up the heart rate, raising blood pressure, and slowing digestion.

To slow digestion, the ANS closes the pyloric sphincter (the ring of the smooth muscle that separates the stomach from the upper part of the intestines). As a result, the stomach dilates, and any leftover food stays in the stomach, which can cause the nausea and vomiting that often accompany migraine headaches. (There’s also evidence that activation of vomiting centers of the brain occurs as well).

This phenomenon also explains why migraine medications taken by mouth aren’t effective for everyone – they aren’t always well absorbed into the bloodstream." (Rizzoli, et al., 2011, p. 32).

For more information please read my article on digestion problems. I have been taking stomach enzymes to help with this between migraines for a few years now.

If you decide to take stomach enzymes and supplements to aid in digestion please:

“Look for products labelled “USP Verified” to ensure that what you’re buying has been tested by the U.S. Pharmacopeia for purity and potency.” (Rizzoli, et al., 2011, p. 160). Click here for the migraine supplements I recommend

What You Can Do for Migraine Stomach Nausea

anti-nausea wrist bands for migraine stomach

Some people are not bothered by vomiting - I on the other hand will do pretty much anything NOT to.

So I have tried everything to help with this and the best things I have found are these anti-nausea wrist bands.

I have supplied a link here, but I think you can get them at most pharmacies now for under $10. Check the travel section. Just follow the instructions so you get the meridian point pressure right on your wrist. I often just move them a little to stimulate the point until my stomach calms down. Plus, it is safe to leave them on for hours if you fall asleep.

Ginger tea works if you can catch it all early enough. If you are too close to vomiting, then it is of no use. Smelling peppermint essential oil helps some people. As does ingesting peppermint, if you can keep it down. I just use the wristbands alone now. They work well for me.

Healing Your Migraine Stomach

So now it's quite easy to see that our stomachs are affected directly by our migraines, by the medications we take, by the foods we eat, and even by our emotions. Another thing I'd like to share - my doctor has me on L-Glutamine Powder to help heal my stomach lining. Please click on the link for more details.

It is an amino acid and I consider it essential to helping my body cope with all that I demand of it! It comes with a measuring scoop and I just take one scoop in the morning on an empty stomach in a small glass of water. One pot of powder lasts about three months.

Share Your Experience

Please share your migraine experiences with us at migraine stories. Sharing your story and information about what works helps other readers. Plus you get a chance to speak up about the impact or impacts of chronic pain in your life.

Connect with others who have been there and who understand completely. Share stories and learn at the same time.

Until next time, be well and be pain free,


Reference for Migraine Stomach: Rizzoli, P MD, Loder E., MD and Neporent L. (2011) The Migraine Solution. St. Martins Press: NY.

› Migraine Stomach Nausea Explained

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