Is your gut causing your headaches?
Headaches and IBS – the connection is real
I’ve often wondered what exactly the connection is between headaches/migraines and IBS symptoms. I know there is one because medicine teaches us that everything is connected and although in modern medicine we tend to reduce everything down to it’s individual pieces, sometimes (especially with functional and multi-faceted conditions like IBS and headaches) it’s more useful to look holistically.
Looking holistically means you take a big step back and look at how your body is working as a whole entity. Everything from bowel motions, mood, cravings, energy, sleep, sex drive, skin condition, lifestyle choices and diet can play a role in shaping how healthfully your body – and mind – are working.
If you’re reading this because you’re hoping there’s a connection so you can find a solution I’ve got some good news for you!l I’ve looked at the current research and combined it with my experience in dealing with these two issues over the last ten years and come up with some suggestions on how you can start to resolve your migraine/headaches and IBS problem.
Many of my patients seem to have both and it’s often a question people email me about in search of natural solutions.
I don’t believe in coincidences. So I’ve been searching to find the connection between these symptoms and there are two scientific connections that seems to have momentum at the moment. These theories are:
- The serotonin connection
There’s some studies that suggest in those who are prone to IBS and migraine headaches, there’s a problem with the way serotonin is produced in the gut and used in the brain. They’ve even identified the gene that may be responsible for this problem.
- The nervous system increased sensitivity theory
There’s some evidence that suggests in some people, their nervous system is hyper-sensitive, leading to what’s called “over-vigilance” – basically if you’re one of these people, your nervous system over-reacts to pain, inflammation and other stimuli leaving you with more headaches, migraines and digestive symptoms than other people.
Can you turn off this hyper-vigilance? How or why did it get like that? Is it genetic or is it just a genetic trait that can be switched on and off depending on what you do/eat/lifestyle choices you make? These are just some of the many questions I have with this theory. Sure, I understand that some people have a sensitive gut and/or nervous system but what actually tips you over into the headache and migraine group?
While I am not have these answers yet, I do know that both these theories are valid and have a role to play in the connection between headaches and IBS. The real question I want to answer for you today is what can you do – at home – to help prevent headaches and IBS flare ups that are caused by headaches and migraines?
Use these natural remedies for relieving headaches and IBS
Everyone gets a headache every now and again. Some of us get them regularly and some of us really suffer with migraines. Whether you get the odd headache, regular cluster headaches, tension headaches or head exploding migraines you can use natural remedies to reduce the severity and frequency of your headaches.
An oldie but a goodie. Dehydration is a frequent cause of headaches and constipation but it’s so simple to avoid! Have a glass of water by your bed in the morning and continuing drinking fluids, particularly water, during the day. This can be especially important if you have a desk job and get regular tension headaches.
Hot tip: have a glass of water every hour, on the hour.
Placing a few drops of chamomile, peppermint or lavender essential oils in a cream or base oil to rub on your neck, shoulders and temples does wonders for relieving headaches and soothing neck and shoulder pains. The essential oils have soothing anti-inflammatory and relaxation properties which make them perfect for eases sore, achy heads.
These same essential oils can be used as herbal teas for relieving digestive complaints like constipation, wind pain, cramping, bloating and diarrhoea.
Did you know many herbal teas have a secret agenda? They may be popular for digestion like peppermint, chamomile, fenugreek, dandelion and chai but they’re leading a secret double life because of them are also ‘nervines’. Herbalists use this term to describe a herb that calms the nervous system and spirit, promoting rest and relaxation.
Adding some chamomile tea to your after meal routine has never sounded so good! Not only does it help warm your stomach and improve digestion, it helps to calm your nervous system and relax you… reducing your risk of developing headaches!
Having a professional remedial massage treatment will relieve a headache or migraine effectively and quickly. You can find qualified practitioners in your local area by searching the AAMT or ANTA websites. Some remedial massage therapists use techniques to release and relax neck and shoulder muscles like trigger point therapy, pressure points and cranial release techniques. Having regular treatments can reduce the severity and frequency of headaches and migraines.
The healing effects of a good stretch should not be underestimated. It is a powerful tool in your fight against headaches and migraines. At your workplace, at home, before and after exercise, when you get up and before you go to bed, stretching out your muscles alleviates tension, improves circulation, relaxes you and relieves headaches. Regular stretching of the shoulder, neck and upper back muscles can help to prevent tension and cluster headaches.
Hot tip: google “yoga for IBS” or “yoga for headaches” and find short youtube videos of stretches and yoga poses to relieve tension and IBS symptoms.
Magnesium supplements are essential for releasing built up tension and relaxing tight muscles where headaches are recurring and debilitating. They are highly effective for relieving the severity and frequency of headaches when taken on a regular basis. Magnesium is also helpful for relieving symptoms of stress and constipation. Food sources of magnesium include almonds, avocado, dark chocolate, cacao, cashews, green leafy vegetables – spinach, rocket, endive and lettuce.
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)
An amazing herbal remedy that has been used for centuries to relieve headaches, arthritis and fevers. It has been used since the 1970s in preventing migraines. Feverfew’s main actions are anti-inflammatory and analgesic – a potent combination for fighting headaches and migraines.
Simple natural home remedies to relieve your headaches and IBS symptoms are available for you to try right now! You’ve got nothing to lose by adjusting your routine a little and seeing what results you get.
I’m a big believer in making a few small changes and getting long term results. There’s no use making big changes that you can’t stick to. Pick one or two of these and incorporate them into your routine and let me know how you go in the Facebook group.
Remember, you deserve a healthy gut.
Image credit: iStock photos