When you think of migraines you likely think of headaches. But there is a different form of a migraine that occurs in the belly – the abdominal migraine. This type of migraine is often triggered by the same things that trigger the more conventional migraine headache, but instead of headaches, it appears as belly pain, nausea and sometimes vomiting.
Abdominal Migraines Appear Most Often In Children
Abdominal migraines have a connection with migraine headaches, though one that researchers haven’t worked out yet. Abdominal migraines are more common in children than in adults, but a significant portion of children with this type of migraine grow up to suffer migraine headaches.
Doctors most often see abdominal migraines in children five to eight years old.
Right now, the cause of migraines is not known. However, research suggests nitrites in processed foods are a possible trigger. One theory suggests nitrites cause blood vessels to widen, permitting greater blood flow to the brain. This may also trigger abdominal migraines by opening up blood vessels around the digestive tract.
Foods such as chocolate have been linked to migraines also. There is also the possibility that gut bacteria plays a part in migraines.
Diagnosing Abdominal Migraine
Diagnosing migraines of this type can be difficult. As with migraine headaches, there is no simple test for an abdominal migraine. Rather, it’s an assortment of symptoms that a doctor uses to diagnose migraines.
An abdominal migraine is not simply a stomach ache. An abdominal migraine typically emerges coupled with other symptoms, including:
- Nausea. The victim may feel like throwing up.
- Loss of appetite.
- Abdominal migraines, like their cranial cousins, can strike abruptly, bringing crippling pain. As they are more likely in children than in adults, diagnosis can be difficult, especially when children are unable to articulate what kind of pain they are experiencing.
Discuss treatment options with your doctor. Some migraine sufferers have found certain medications work better than others – in their specific cases. Of course, medications often have side effects, so be sure to ask your doctor what to expect in terms of your reaction to these drugs.
For some, acupuncture can be an effective treatment of recurring migraines. Research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2012 looked at 500 adults divided into two groups. One received traditional Chinese acupuncture, while the control group had acupuncture needles inserted at points on the skin which have absolutely nothing to do with acupuncture treatment.
While both groups saw improvements in their migraines – suggesting the control group experienced the placebo effect – only the group that received proper acupuncture reported effects lasting up to three months.
Research into new treatments continues, though of course, the focus is on migraine headaches rather than abdominal migraines, as migraine headaches are more common. One treatment is the Cefaly, a headband-like device that stimulates nerves in the brain. Patients report that it can prevent a migraine before it begins. The FDA in the United States has approved it for migraine treatment.
Ask your doctor or functional medicine practitioner for migraine treatment recommendations. Research continues, and there may be new treatments you haven’t encountered yet. And remember, just because one treatment doesn’t work for you, that is no reason to give up. We are all unique. The next treatment you attempt may be the perfect one for managing your particular brand of migraine.