Why do migraine headaches cause nausea?
This is why migraine headaches make you nauseated:

1. During a migraine headache, arteries in the head (especially in the temporal area) dilate.

2. The widened arteries stretch nerve fibers that encircle the arteries, causing them to send impulses to the brain. In turn, these nerve impulses cause pain and activate the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which originates in the spinal cord and extends to organs throughout the body, including the stomach and intestines. The SNS controls the body's "fight or flight" response, mobilizing the body for action by speeding up the heart rate, raising blood pressure, and slowing digestion.

3. To slow digestion, the SNS closes the pyloric sphincter (the ring of smooth muscle that separates the stomach from the upper part of the intestines). As a result, the stomach dilates and any leftover food stays in the stomach, which can cause the nausea and vomiting that often accompany migraine headaches. This phenomenon also explains why migraine medications taken by mouth aren't very effective once the headache is intense—they aren't well absorbed into the bloodstream.

Continue Learning about Migraine Headaches

Migraine Headaches

Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches are severe headaches that can last for hours or days. The pain can be so severe that the headache causes nausea and vomiting. Sometimes migraines follow a disturbance in your vision. When this happens they are c...

alled ocular migraines. The symptoms of this are flashes of light, seeing zigzagged patterns, blind spots and bright spots or stars. Migraines occur more frequently in women and are thought to be triggered by changing hormones, some foods, stress or bright lights. Talk to your doctor to see what you can do to control your migraine symptoms and what you can do to prevent them.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.