Survey Results Reveal Potential IBS-Migraine Link

Migraine is highly prevalent in people living with IBS.

Patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are more likely to have migraine headaches, and those living with migraine are more likely to have IBS, according to the results of a nationwide survey.

Published in BioMed Research International,1 the study by Saudi Arabian researchers demonstrated that the odds of having IBS in migraineurs were much higher (4.127) than in those without migraine.

There is also a “significant” link between migraine and IBS globally, the researchers wrote. A cohort study that looked at the prevalence of migraine in IBS patients using data from a major United States health plan discovered that those with IBS had a 60% higher risk of migraine than people without IBS.

Another retrospective cohort, based on Taiwan's National Health Insurance Research Database, also observed that IBS incidence was nearly 2 times higher in the migraine cohort than in the comparator cohort.

Migraine affects 11.6% of people globally, the researchers noted, while IBS has a prevalence of 9.2% worldwide.

To find out more details on IBS prevalence and the migraine-IBS link, the researchers conducted a cross-sectional study among the general population between March 2021 and June 2021. Participants filled out an online self-administered survey.

Data collection tools included the Migraine Screen Questionnaire (MS-Q) for migraine symptoms, migraine severity (MIGSEV) scale for severity of migraine, and the IBS module of the Rome IV Diagnostic Questionnaire (R4DQ) for IBS symptoms and their subtype.


Of the 2802 participants, 27.4% had migraine, while 16.4% had IBS.

Women had a considerably higher prevalence of migraine (37.5%) compared with men (18.2%), and women were also significantly more likely to have both migraine and IBS.

“A standard theory for the sex discrepancy in migraine and IBS is hormonal factors, especially sex hormones,” the researchers wrote. "Ultimately, more research is needed to investigate sex-related vulnerability to migraine headaches and IBS, including genetic and biological determinants and other environmental factors influencing migraine and IBS prevalence in females.”

While the cause of the migraine-IBS link is not yet fully understood, one plausible explanation could be defective serotonin, “which has been linked to the pathophysiology of IBS and migraine since it modulates gut motility, secretion, and sensation and is an essential neurotransmitter in the central nervous system,” the researchers wrote.

“This theory is supported by the similar management of both conditions, as 5-HT agonists and antagonists are beneficial in managing chronic hyperalgesic illnesses such as IBS, migraine, and fibromyalgia,” they added.


  1. Bin Abdulrahman KAB, Alenazi NS, Albishri SB, Alsheri FF. Association of migraine and irritable bowel syndrome in Saudi Arabia: A nationwide survey. Biomed Res Int. Published online January 18, 2022. Doi:10.1155/2022/8690562