Why You May Get A Headache When You're Constipated

Constipation can make bathroom trips quite strenuous. Bowel movements may feel incomplete, uncomfortable, or overall challenging to pass. They are also few and far between for those experiencing constipation, with individuals pooping less than three times on a weekly basis (via Healthline).

Constipation is a relatively common condition. The same is true for headaches. However, the connection between the two isn't entirely clear, as researchers pointed out in a 2015 retrospective study published in the Korean Journal of Pediatrics. The study team looked at Korean children who had visited the hospital for a headache between 2009 and 2013 and had undergone a 100-day follow-up period. Out of 96 children with primary headache, a quarter of them simultaneously experienced constipation. Following treatment, symptoms improved for both conditions in all primary-headache patients.

The researchers presented a number of plausible explanations for this relationship, such as the physical straining involved during a bowel movement as a potential headache trigger. Alternatively, constipation-related risk factors like stress, dehydration, or a lack of appetite could also potentially prompt headaches.

Health conditions related to constipation and headaches

The researchers also drew a potential connection between one's mental health and the dual presence of headache and constipation, as increased prevalence rates of depressive disorders have been reported in people with both conditions (via Korean Journal of Pediatrics). Finally, the study team presented the possibility that the increased release of serotonin may play a role in both constipation and headache, as greater amounts of the chemical have been seen in the mucus lining of the gastrointestinal tract of constipated children.

In other cases, experiencing a headache when you're constipated may be related to a health condition. This can include fibromyalgia, as many people with the disorder are reported to experience migraine (a specific kind of headache) and/or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a signature symptom of which is constipation (per Healthline). Headache and constipation can also be symptoms of celiac disease, in which the body self-attacks in response to gluten ingestion.

Treatment methods for constipation and headaches

Finally, if you experience both headaches and constipation, you may need to look into your medicine cabinet. Certain medications can provoke these side effects, such as opioids (via Healthline). In the short term, those taking opioids may experience constipation, while over time, rebound headaches can also occur due to prolonged use.

If your headaches and constipation are related to a health condition, treating the underlying disorder should provide symptom relief. Be sure to speak with your doctor, particularly if additional symptoms emerge. Otherwise, drinking plenty of water and incorporating fiber into one's diet may be beneficial, along with managing stress levels. Researchers from a 2019 study published in the Journal of Pediatric Neurosciences set out to analyze whether a low dose of the constipation treatment drug lactulose could also provide patients with migraine relief. Individuals who experienced both headache and constipation were included in the study. While additional research is needed, the study findings revealed that lactulose syrup could not only treat constipation, but could also be effective in supporting migraine treatment.