Are Migraines, IBS Genetically Linked?

The findings, presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 68th Annual Meeting in Vancouver, are based on an analysis of 107 migraine sufferers, 53 patients with episodic tension-type headache, and another 107 patients with IBS, according to Medical News Today.

The researchers, from Istanbul University in Turkey, found that migraine sufferers were almost twice as likely to have IBS as those who have tension headaches. But even individuals who suffer from occasional tension headaches are about 28 percent more likely to also have IBS, compared to healthy individuals.

The team also noted genetic differences that may account for the links between IBS and headaches — specifically involving the regulation of the brain chemical serotonin, which has also been linked to depression.

"In IBS patients with constipation, serotonin secretion in plasma is being decreased," the authors explain. "There is defect in serotonin signaling in IBS and decrease in mucosal serotonin and immune-reactivity of serotonin transporter."

Dr. Derya Uluduz, who helped lead the research, said the findings could point the way to new ways to diagnose and treat the conditions.

"Since headache and irritable bowel syndrome are such common conditions, and causes for both are unknown, discovering a possible link that could shed light on shared genetics of the conditions is encouraging,” Uluduz said.

“Further studies are needed to explore this possible link. Discovering shared genes may lead to more future treatment strategies for these chronic conditions."

IBS, a disorder of the digestive system, causes abdominal pain and discomfort and changes in bowel movement patterns. Up to 45 million Americans have IBS.

Are Migraines, IBS Genetically Linked?