Migraine and tension-type headaches may share genetic links with irritable bowel syndrome, according to new research.
Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is the most common stomach disorder worldwide.
Many people remain undiagnosed and the exact cause of the chronic condition is not known.
Common symptoms include abdominal pain or cramping, a bloated feeling, gas and diarrhea or constipation.
Study author Doctor Derya Uluduz, of Istanbul University in Turkey, said: “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.”
The study involved 107 people with episodic migraine, 53 with tension-type headache, 107 people with IBS and 53 healthy people. The migraine and tension headache participants were examined for IBS symptoms and participants with IBS were asked about headaches.
People with migraine were twice as likely to also have IBS as people with tension headache. More than half (54 per cent) of those with migraine also had IBS, compared to 28 per cent of those with tension headache. Of the participants with IBS, 38 also had migraine and 24 also had tension headache.
When researchers looked at the serotonin transporter gene and the serotonin receptor 2A gene, they found that the IBS, migraine and tension headache groups had at least one gene that differed from the genes of the healthy participants.
Dr Uludiz added: “Further studies are needed to explore this possible link.
“Discovering shared genes may lead to more future treatment strategies for these chronic conditions.”
The findings were presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Vancouver, Canada.