Can You Stomach a Migraine?

Abdominal migraines might mimic gastroenteritis.

By Kevin RR Williams

HEALTH Climb under the covers and curl into a fetal position, rocking yourself to sleep until the pain subsides. Diagnosis? Migraine. Sounds bizarre? You betcha. But it’s less farfetched than stomach flu because contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a respiratory infection of the stomach. Gastroenteritis describes inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.

Less common among adults, abdominal migraines occur in 4 percent of the children experiencing all types of migraines. Symptoms include stomach pain or cramping, nausea, and vomiting. It is theorized that imbalances of the naturally occurring chemicals histamine and serotonin play a factor. Psychological triggers like stress may also contribute. Additionally, there can be food triggers such as chocolate, nitrites, cheese, nuts or caffeine.

An even more rare type of migraine is Hemiplegic migraine  affecting 0.03 percent of Americans. Symptoms include temporary paralysis or weakness on one side of the body, disturbances in speech and vision, and other symptoms that often mimic a stroke with can last for several days.

Treatment for abdominal migraines may come from an internist, gastroenterologist or mental health professional such as a psychiatrist. So the next time you are doubled over with the cramps, rest assured it’s not the "stomach flu." As an adult, there is an infinitesimal chance of it being an abdominal migraine. Nevertheless, after ruling out other possibilities (especially the obvious one for women), that pain in your stomach just might not be in your head.

Tags: gastroenterology, psychotherapy, stomach migraine