The Surprising Reason Migraines Can Make You Feel Nauseous

On the surface, headaches and migraines don't sound all that different. Your head hurts, you're generally grumpier than you otherwise would be, and you really don't want to be around bright lights or loud noises. But people who deal with migraines will be the first to tell you that the differences between headaches and migraines are as intense as the pain thundering in their heads.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke highlights the biggest difference when laying out the cause of migraines. Though researchers are still trying to nail down the specific causes of migraines, current research points to genetic mutations that cause neurological abnormalities in the brain.

Migraines are also unique in the other symptoms that come along with head pain. Auras, sensitivities to light, sound, or smells, and even brain fog are all common symptoms according to the American Migraine Foundation.

And they're symptoms that make sense. But of all the possible symptoms of a migraine, there is one that leaves even migraine sufferers scratching their heads. And holding their stomachs. Nausea might not seem like a symptom that should go along with a neurological issue, but as with the cause of the condition itself, it all comes back to the brain.

There are a few theories

MedlinePlus – a site run by the National Library of Medicine — confirms that nausea is sometimes associated with migraines, but doesn't explain why. Thankfully Self found answers in Dr. Jack Schim, co-director of the Neurology Center of Southern California.

Schim presented the theory that migraines affect part of the brainstem that controls nausea and vomiting. The nerve endings in this part of the brain become irritated, upsetting the stomach.

Schim didn't stop at just one theory, however. Like much about migraines, experts are still trying to find the specific causes of certain symptoms, and most facets of the condition have many theories. When it comes to nausea, Schim also noted that a neurotransmitter prevalent in the gut, calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), is released during migraines. This interaction could be why the stomach becomes upset.

Research into migraines is ongoing and may not nail down any hard answers soon. Until it does, the condition will continue to affect some 17% of Americans, along with all the strange symptoms that go with it, according to Headache.