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Migraines and the gut: why a healthy gut can support a happy head

06 September 2020


The human body is full of connections, a complex system of signals which work together to support our daily functions. Each signal has an important role and, like a cog in a machine, must run smoothly to prevent disruption to the system.

One major connection within the body is known as the gut-brain axis. This is the bidirectional link between the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and the central nervous system – allowing communication between the brain and the gut and vice versa. This link is sustained by neurotransmitters, signalling chemicals within the nervous system, which include serotonin, dopamine, and calcitonin gene-related peptide, CGRP (the gene of which is targeted by migraine drugs such as the new anti-CGRP medications). Any disruptions to this link can lead to its dysfunction, and this is associated with multiple neurological disorders including anxiety disorders, Alzheimer’s, and migraine (1).


How can my gut affect my migraines?

The connections between the gut and the brain mean that when the gut is unhappy, the consequences can be experienced in the form of migraine. This is why GI disorders, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and migraine are often experienced together.

But how does this actually happen? One major mechanism is known as ‘leaky gut’ (2). Our intestines are responsible for the absorption of nutrients from the food we have digested. When the system is put under stress, the permeability of our intestines becomes altered, allowing molecules and toxins to enter the bloodstream and stimulate an immune response. With around 70% of our immune cells located within the gut, it is no wonder their response can cause body-wide inflammation and release signalling chemicals which can stimulate key cranial and facial nerves, and trigger migraine attacks.

The gut-brain axis can be influenced by several factors, including inflammatory mediators (internal chemicals with roles in inflammation), nutritional substances, and the profile of the gut microbiota.

What are gut microbiota?

The human gut contains trillions of healthy bacteria (microbiota), found naturally within the body, which are essential for wellbeing. The species of bacteria can vary from person to person, resulting in a unique range of gut bacteria – known as the gut microbiota profile.

In a healthy gut, there is a high variation in the types of gut microbiota present. However, this system is very sensitive to change, and a loss of variation can signal that the gut is in distress. This can occur when pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria change the conditions in the gut causing the number of gut-friendly bacteria to decrease. This places the gut under stress, acting as a catalyst for triggering migraine.

How can I help my gut?

Studies have shown there are many things we can do to help keep our gut as healthy as possible. These include:

  •  Maintaining a balanced diet, rich in foods with a low glycaemic index
  • Ensure your daily fibre intake is sufficient
  • Supplement nutrients you may lack, including vitamin D and omega-3
  • Incorporate probiotics into your diet to restore balance to gut microbiota

What are probiotics, and can they help my migraine?

Probiotics, often known as Live Bacteria, are gut-friendly bacteria which can be introduced into the body through your diet. They can help maintain a healthy gut by increasing the variation in bacterial species as well as replacing any nutritional molecules lost with ‘leaky gut’. These can be found naturally in foods such as yoghurt and kefir, or in supplements such as Bio-Kult Migréa.

Recent research has shown that use of supplementing the gut with live bacteria can work to help migraine sufferers. In a 2019 study published in Cephalalgia (3), one of the world’s leading headache journals, it showed that both frequency and intensity of migraines were reduced for patients receiving a live bacteria supplement.

40% decrease in frequency for people with episodic migraine
45% decrease in frequency for people with chronic migraine
29% decrease in intensity for people with episodic migraine
31% decrease in intensity for people with chronic migraine

As it is Migraine Awareness week, ADM Protexin, who’s live bacteria supplement was used in the above study, have kindly offered our patients and supporters 40% off of their next order at www.bio-kult.com. Just enter the discount code MED40 at the checkout. The code is valid until 31st December 2020 and is valid for up to 10 products once per customer.


1) Arzani, M., Jahromi, S. R., Ghorbani, Z., Vahabizad, F., Martelletti, P., Ghaemi, A., Sacco, S., Togha, M., & School of Advanced Studies of the European Headache Federation (EHF-SAS) (2020). Gut-brain Axis and migraine headache: a comprehensive review. The journal of headache and pain, 21(1), 15. https://doi.org/10.1186/s10194-020-1078-9

2) van Hemert, S., Breedveld, A. C., Rovers, J. M., Vermeiden, J. P., Witteman, B. J., Smits, M. G., & de Roos, N. M. (2014). Migraine associated with gastrointestinal disorders: review of the literature and clinical implications. Frontiers in neurology, 5, 241. https://doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2014.00241