What is an abdominal migraine?

 abdominal migraine

Abdominal migraines may be to fault if your youngster frequently complains of stomach aches. A gastroenterologist for children explains.

Abdominal migraines may be the cause of your child’s unexplained stomach discomfort and nausea that lasts a few hours to a few days.

A migraine that causes a dull or achy discomfort around the stomach rather than in the head is known as abdominal migraine. The disease affects between 2% and 5% of children and 1% of adults, making it very uncommon. The illness is most common in children aged 2 to 10, and it may be connected to stress and worry.

Most children outgrow abdominal migraines by adolescence, according to Rina M. Sanghavi, M.D., FAAP, Director of Neurogastroenterology and GI motility at Children’s HealthSM and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at UT Southwestern.

Many children with the disease, on the other hand, experience migraine headaches as adults.

What are the symptoms of abdominal migraine?

The most common symptom is stomach pain around the belly button. Other symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Dry heaving
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pale skin

Some youngsters may also develop migraine headaches that are unrelated to their gastrointestinal discomfort.

If your child vomits, make the distinction between abdominal migraine and cyclical vomiting syndrome, a disorder that produces recurrent vomiting that suddenly stops.

Between episodes, children with abdominal migraines are symptom-free. Because the symptoms are similar to those of other common causes of stomach problems, they can be difficult to identify.

“We keep abdominal migraines in the back of our minds as a possible issue to test for since a 2-year-old may not be able to explain what is going on,” says Dr. Sanghavi.

What causes abdominal migraines?

The specific etiology of abdominal migraines is unknown, but doctors and researchers believe that changes in hormones like serotonin, as well as alterations in the neuroendocrine system and the brain-gut link, might trigger attacks.

“In abdominal migraines, the brain-gut link is crucial. Early-life stress may predispose a child to diseases such as abdominal migraine and irritable bowel syndrome “Dr. Sanghavi agrees.

Abdominal migraines can also be caused by the following factors:

  • Changes in intestinal blood flow
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Sleeping patterns that aren’t consistent

The microbiome and abdominal migraines

The microbiome, or good and bad bacteria in our intestines, informs the brain about how healthy or unhealthy the body is. According to Dr. Sanghavi, “Changes in the microbiota play a vital role in gut health and can contribute to abdominal migraines and other diseases including irritable bowel syndrome.”

Probiotics, or living “good” bacteria found in foods like yogurt and cheese, aid in the maintenance of healthy bacteria in the intestines. According to Dr. Sanghavi, the American diet is deficient in essential nutrients, which prevents healthy bacteria from flourishing. Antibiotic use can also upset the gut’s natural equilibrium, allowing hazardous bacteria to thrive.

Food and abdominal migraines

Some of the same items that cause migraine headaches might also produce migraines in the abdomen. They are as follows:

  • Chocolate
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Nitrites (added to meals like cold cuts)

Varied foods have different effects on different children. Patients or parents should keep a meal diary, according to Dr. Sanghavi, to assist identify which foods cause stomach pain.

How is an abdominal migraine diagnosed?

Abdominal migraine is a rare disorder, even though it is more common in youngsters. It’s crucial to see a pediatric gastroenterologist first to rule out other possibilities for abdominal pain, such as:

  • Constipation
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a type of irritable bowel syndrome
  • Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel illness that affects
  • Pancreatitis is a type of ulcer that affects the pancreas.


Because a diagnostic test for abdominal migraine is not available, Dr. Sanghavi notes that clinicians frequently form a diagnosis of exclusion, ruling out other possible causes.

Other options for treatment include:

  • Sleep. Many migraines disappear after a good night’s sleep.
  • Techniques for relaxation include:
  • Yoga
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy
  • Visualization with a guide


“We can’t always manage stress,” Dr. Sanghavi says, “but we can educate a child how to control their body’s response to stress.” “We understand that some children require assistance in unwinding.”

Although most children outgrow stomach migraines, migraine headaches might develop during puberty or maturity. “Managing migraines is a marathon, not a sprint,” Dr. Sanghavi explains. “We assist families in making short-term lifestyle adjustments that will last a lifetime.”

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