Abdominal Migraines- Because Migraines Are Not Always In Your Head!

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Abdominal migraines are “migraine equivalent” symptoms that don’t include headaches, but rather cause intense stomach pain. For many, that “aha” moment when you realize you’ve been suffering from abdominal migraines all along, albeit without crushing headaches, often occurs later than usual.

Abdominal Migraines- Because Migraines Are Not Always In Your Head!

When we think of migraines most of us think of headaches – pain that centers in the head and which may include sensitivity to light and sound.   In some cases, nausea may accompany a migraine.  But there is a type of migraine not characterized by a headache – but by abdominal pain and nausea, usually followed by cramping and vomiting.

Abdominal Migraines

This type of migraine is called “Abdominal Migraine”.  Sufferers of this type of migraine are typically children.  This type of abdominal pain, upon testing, shows no source in the gastro-intestinal system.  However, it has been noted that children suffering from this type of abdominal pain exhibit changes in the chemicals serotonin and histamine, found in our bodies.  Sufferers of migraines (headaches) also exhibit the same chemical changes. It is this characteristic which leads us to label this type of abdominal distress as “Abdominal Migraines” rather than classify it as a gastro-intestinal disease.

What are the causes of Abdominal Migraines?

Triggers for abdominal migraine have been described as quite similar to triggers for regular migraine (headache). These triggers include chocolate or nitrite-containing foods, stress, and anxiety.

It is also suggested by some researchers to be due to neurologic or endocrinologic changes. Alterations in the levels of serotonin and histamine in the body, as noted above, may also be causative of Abdominal Migraine. Additionally, it is also thought that genetic factors may be causative as this condition is more common in children who have a family history of migraine.

What helps abdominal migraines?

Usually sleep – overnight or a daytime nap – helps with abdominal migraines.  However, there are medicinal routes to treatment.  Some types of medicine that can be used to treat migraines include:

  • Analgesic drugs, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen
  • Sumatriptan (Imitrex, Alsuma), a member of the triptan class of drugs used to treat migraine in adults, has been used to treat some older children with abdominal migraine
  • Tricyclic antidepressants and drugs that block the effects of serotonin have been used in some patients to decrease frequency of attacks.
  • Valproic acid (Depakote), an anti-seizure medication, has been used to treat abdominal migraine.
  • Ergotamine medications, also used for adults with migraine, are used to treat some childhood variants of migraine.
  • Low dose aspirin and low dose beta-blocker medications have been used over the long term in some patients in an attempt to diminish the frequency of future attacks.
  • The antihistamine cyproheptadine has been shown to be effective in some children with migraine variants.

NOTE:  always consult with your medical doctor before engaging in any medicinal treatment of Abdominal Migraines!

Preventative treatments

Preventive measures can also be taken, in the absence of the Abdominal Migraine to prevent one from occurring.  If certain foods trigger an attack, then one should abstain from eating those foods.  Stress-reduction can also help.

There are many ways one can reduce stress:  certain exercises such as Yoga, Tai Chi, or Feldenkrais can help, breathing exercises, meditation, getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet are all good activities to help with stress reduction.

It also helps to maintain a healthy level of vitamins that are essential for promoting good neurological health, especially with migraines.

Supplementing with vitamin B2 (riboflavin), Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), magnesium and even butterbur herbal supplements have been found to be exceptionally helpful for people suffering from migraine disorder, including abdominal migraines.

Please tell us…

Do you suffer from symptoms similar to migraine equivalent, but have not been diagnosed with migraines?

Did you have abdominal migraines as a child, but didn’t make the connection until much later in life?

Do you have any questions or suggestions?  Please leave your comments below.

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