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Migraines, Tension Headaches genetically tied to Gut Disease, Study Finds

Update Date: Feb 24, 2016 11:39 AM EST

New research suggests that migraines and tension headaches might be genetically linked to the gut disease, irritable bowl syndrome.

For this study, the researchers recruited four groups of participants. The first group included 107 people with episodic migraines. The second group was composed of 107 people with IBS. The third group had 53 people with tension headaches and the fourth group had 53 people without any of the three conditions. Episodic migraines were defined as having zero to 14 headache days per month.

The researchers found that 54 percent of the participants who have episodic migraines also suffered from IBS. The rate of IBS was significantly lower in participants with tension headaches (28 percent). In patients with IBS, 38 had migraines and 24 had tension headaches.

To further analyze the link between the conditions, the researchers examined the participants' genes. The researchers found that in the participants with migraines, tension headaches or IBS had at least one gene that was different from the people who did not have any of the three conditions. The team had looked at the serotonin transporter gene and serotonin receptor 2A gene.

"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," study author Dr. Derya Uluduz at the Istanbul University in Turkey said in the American Academy of Neurology's news release.

Dr. Uluduz 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 study's findings will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 68th meeting held in Vancouver, Canada from April 15 to 21.

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