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Expert advice on advanced diagnosis and treatment of painful headaches and migraines from the leading headache clinic in New Jersey.

Reasons You're Feeling Nauseous During a Migraine

Gabriel Santos - Friday, March 25, 2016

Many migraine sufferers experience nausea and even vomiting during their painful headaches. While migraines are often associated with nausea, many people wonder why they experience this side effect and whether or not it can be prevented.

Causes of Nausea during Migraine Headaches

Science has made many advances in the study of migraines, but their exact cause is still not entirely known. There have been many theories which have come and gone, the latest of which was the “vascular theory.” It was believed that migraines occurred due to a shrinking or constriction of blood vessels in the brain followed quickly by the dilation of the same blood vessels.

It is now understood that while this vasodilation may occur as part of a migraine, it is not a requirement of migraine pain. If you are reading material that notes that migraines are caused by vasodilation, that is outdated information. If your primary doctor is telling you the same, you would likely be better served visiting a headache specialist.

We do understand some of the reasons that nausea occurs during a migraine. The sympathetic nervous system controls our body's “fight or flight” response, which can speed up the heart rate, slow our digestion and raise blood pressure.

When the digestion slows down, the SNS closes off the pyloric sphincter muscle, which separates the stomach from the upper part of the intestines, and this causes the stomach to dilate. Any leftover food in the stomach will stay there, and this can cause the nausea and vomiting some of us feel when we get a migraine.

Additionally, this is why some oral migraine medications are not very effective once a migraine becomes intense as the medication isn't being readily absorbed into the bloodstream because of that same “fight or flight” mechanism.

Symptoms of a Migraine

A migraine headache may last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Besides nausea, a migraine's symptoms may include:

  • Sensitivity to light, sounds and/or smells
  • Auras
  • Pulsating pain on one or both sides of the head
  • Abdominal pain or heartburn
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pale, clammy skin
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting

New Jersey Headache Institute

If you experience migraines with nausea, it may help to keep a “trigger” journal. In the journal, write down what you were doing in the hours or days before a headache or migraine hit. This may help your doctor identify particular triggers and help you avoid migraines. Getting plenty of sleep each night can also help reduce headaches and nausea.

For more information on migraine treatments, contact the headache specialists at the New Jersey Headache Institute. We can help you get rid of the pain and help prevent migraines from recurring.     

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