Can Gas cause Headache?

5 mn read
Can Gas cause Headaches?
Can Gas cause Headaches?

Can Gas cause headache? Here is a common rather funny query by patients which makes us smile often. There is no logical explanation on how abdominal gas will reach the brain to cause headaches?

And you would be surprised that this is a very common query being searched on Google every day.

Have explored the evidence related to it in this brief blog. Your views and comments are welcome.

If you go through the searches people do on google related to headaches, one very intriguing query that will make you wonder why people have been searching for a correlation between Abdominal Gas and Headaches.

Is there really a correlation or is it just a piece of misinformation prevalent in the community? Or is it being spread by alternative medicine practitioners carried on with traditional teachings without any scientific evidence?

Below are the common related keyword searches and the search volumes in India (Source: Ubersuggest):

  • Does gas cause headache – 320 searches per month
  • can gas cause headache – 590 searches per month
  • can gas cause headaches – 260 searches per month
  • can gas cause headaches and dizziness – 90 searches per month
  • does stomach gas cause headache – 30 searches per month
Other related searches
  • can gas problem cause headache
  • why gas causes headache
  • is gas cause headache
  • will gas cause headache
  • headache due to gas during pregnancy
  • how does stomach gas cause headache
  • does gas in stomach cause headache
  • does acidity and gas cause headache
  • can gas cause a headache
  • do gas cause headaches
  • does gas problems cause headaches
  • headache and vomiting due to gas
  • how does gas cause headache
  • can acidity cause headache and vomiting
  • does gas give you headaches
  • does natural gas cause headaches
  • does gas cause migraines
  • can gas cause head pain
  • gas causing headache remedy

What is the direct answer to this question- Can Gas cause Headache?

The answer to this question is NO, the gas cannot directly cause headaches in a normal individual unless you develop air embolism. This is seen in scuba divers when they do a sudden ascent after a deep dive. It can also be seen after head and neck injuries where air can make way into the blood circulation through a bleeding vessel.
However, due to this prevalent belief, there have been many studies that have found that some headaches do get relieved on the treatment of the associated gastric and intestinal disorders (causing gastric discomfort which is perceived as gas).

Gastrointestinal Disorders associated with Headaches

 Gastric and intestinal disorders which cause gastric discomfort (perceived as Gas) and have also been found to have some association to headaches are (1) :
  • dyspepsia
  • gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • constipation
  • functional abdominal pain
  • inflammatory bowel disorders (IBD)
  • celiac disease
  • helicobacter pylori (H. Pylori) infection.

Autonomic Aura as a Precursor of Migraine

In some studies, it was found that gastric discomfort did not lead to headaches but actually gastric discomfort may mark the start of a migrainous headache and is called an aura. This all happens due to the effect of constriction of brain blood vessels and its effect on the corresponding autonomic area which controls our gastrointestinal system responses.
Different Phases of Migraine and Associated Symptoms
Different Phases of Migraine and Associated Symptoms (Andreou, A.P., Edvinsson, L. Mechanisms of migraine as a chronic evolutive condition. J Headache Pain 20, 117 (2019).

Lifestyle or Dietary Factor Leading to Headaches

There are many stimulants that can be a reason for the start of migrainous headaches along with separately causing gastrointestinal symptoms. These include:
  • Stress
  • Not eating on time leading to hypoglycemia
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of sleep
  • Having foods that are known to stimulate an attack of migraines: Dark Chocolate, Cheese, Chinese food, Canned meat, and Alcohol.

Pathways for Headaches in GI disorders

While in another set of studies, for example, treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease by giving proton pump inhibitors led to the resolution of headaches. In this set of studies, some of the hypotheses which have been proposed for this association are (1):
  • central sensitization and parasympathetic referred pain
  • serotonin pathways
  • autonomic nervous system dysfunction
  • systemic vasculopathy
  • food allergy.
However, still we don’t have an exact answer to how gastric and intestinal disorders can have an effect on the brain. It is an area still open to research to suggest a causal mechanism. But one thing is for sure that human body systems are closely knit together and are likely to have a bigger interplay between them than what we yet understand.

Check out These Top selling Books on Headaches

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1. T Noghani, Majid et al. “Gastrointestinal Headache; a Narrative Review.” Emergency (Tehran, Iran) vol. 4,4 (2016): 171-183.
2. Egilius L.H. Spierings (2002). Headache of Gastrointestinal Origin: Case Studies. , 42(3), 217–219. doi:10.1046/j.1526-4610.2002.02054.x
3. Andreou, A.P., Edvinsson, L. Mechanisms of migraine as a chronic evolutive condition. J Headache Pain 20, 117 (2019). 

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