There’s a reason why it only SEEMS that irritable bowel syndrome can actually cause a headache or a migraine.

Certainly, there’s an association between IBS and headaches.

But association doesn’t mean that one problem directly causes the other.

Does IBS Directly Cause Headaches?

“No. IBS does not cause headaches,” says Dr. Brian Lacy, MD, of Dartmouth Hitchcock Med Center, who specializes in functional disorders of the gastrointestinal tract and is author of the book, “Making Sense of IBS.”

Dr. Lacy explains, “However, migraine headaches are more likely to occur in patients with IBS.

“Similarly, fibromyalgia, chronic back pain, TMJ syndrome and chronic pelvic pain are also more likely to occur in IBS patients.

“The concept here is that all of these disorders are disorders of sensation – whether visceral (in the gut; IBS) or somatic (in skeletal muscle – back pain, fibromyalgia).

“But IBS does not cause headaches, although if you survey a large group of IBS patients, they are more likely to have migraine headaches than the general population.”

There is definitely an association between having irritable bowel syndrome and some kind of headache disorder.

But a causal relationship has not been established.

Symptoms Caused by or Strongly Tied to IBS

  • Bloating
  • Constipation (may alternate with diarrhea)
  • Cramping and/or pain in the abdomen
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Gas
  • Insomnia
  • Mucous accumulation in the stools

Headache, like depression and trouble sleeping, may be the result of the mental stress that irritable bowel syndrome causes.

For some patients, IBS is so bad that they won’t even eat while at work all day, fearing that any food intake will cause digestive disruption that will interfere with their work duties.

Additionally, for those suffering from IBS-C/CIC, you may want to try LINZESS® , and for IBS-D, Viberzi®, as these are very effective medications recommended by Dr. Lacy.

As for tension headaches, you may want to try a warm pack across your neck and shoulders.

Dr. Lacy combines his love of science, medicine and people to uncover the causes of symptoms like stomach pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation and regurgitation. 
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  


Top image: ©Lorra Garrick