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What is the Connection Between Heartburn and Headache?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The primary connection between heartburn and headache is that medications used to treat each condition may lead to the other. Foods may also have this effect, as in the case of caffeine. In some medical conditions, a headache and heartburn may occur together, although this is usually caused by treatment of the condition rather than by the illness itself. One exception is irritable bowel syndrome, which very occasionally may cause headaches in sufferers.

Most people suffer from heartburn and headache pain on occasion. These conditions normally exhibit themselves separately and are unrelated, but when certain medications are used, both may be experienced together. Many migraine medications have been known to list headache as a side effect. Additionally, some heartburn treatments can also lead to mild to severe headaches if taken long-term or in large amounts.

There are also foods which link heartburn with headaches. Caffeine, for instance, has been shown to reduce migraine pain in some people, but has also been linked to digestive upset including heartburn. This is especially true in drinks like soda and coffee, both of which are irritants to the stomach and esophagus. Patients who use caffeine to treat headache pain may need to find alternate treatments if heartburn is the result. The effectiveness of using caffeinated foods and drinks for this purpose does not usually outweigh the potential discomfort of heartburn or indigestion.

In some rare cases, patients who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome have reported frequent headaches as part of their symptoms. This is not necessarily a side effect of the syndrome itself, but may be caused by the stress sufferers of the condition deal with. Once dietary changes are made and digestive upset is lessened, headaches often subside without further treatment. An over the counter medication may be used in the meantime.

Sometimes both heartburn and headache can be associated with stress. Severe anxiety can cause both conditions if not treated. It causes both an increase in stomach acid formation as well as tension, creating the perfect scenario for heartburn and headache-related pain. Treatment may include over the counter medications to alleviate symptoms, as well as therapy or prescription drugs to treat the root stressors. Normally, once anxiety has been alleviated, both symptoms will also go away.

Occasionally a medication for a non-related condition will cause headaches and heartburn or indigestion. If this occurs and does not lessen over time, patients may need to be switched to an alternate medication. Sometimes this is not possible and additional drugs may be needed to combat uncomfortable side effects.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By sunshined — On Aug 06, 2012

Are there natural remedies that work for headache and heartburn? I had heartburn with my pregnancy, and was afraid to take any medication for it.

I also get headaches from time to time, and would love to know what some natural choices are for treating both of these conditions.

It would be great if the same natural remedy worked for both headache and heartburn.

By LisaLou — On Aug 05, 2012

When I am under a lot of stress, it never fails that I get a pounding headache. It is not uncommon for me to have everyday headaches when we are under pressure to make an important deadline at work.

Recently, I have also been experiencing some headaches and nausea along with these headaches, and realize I need to find a better way to cope with this.

The reason I feel like this is all related to stress is because I don't get headaches or heartburn when I don't feel like I am under a great deal of stress.

I can see how headache and heartburn are connected. I am not one to take medication very quickly, but would like to know if I took something for a headache it wouldn't cause heartburn too. That would just make you feeling even more miserable.

By bagley79 — On Aug 04, 2012

It sounds like taking medications for headache and heartburn is a vicious circle. What is good for one, is the cause of the other.

After eating greasy foods, I would get heartburn and chest pain. I never had a problem with headaches until I started taking medication for this. I never realized there was a connection between the two of them.

While this is kind of frustrating, I am at least glad to know that I am not the only one this happens to.

By Mykol — On Aug 04, 2012

I know what it feels like to have both a headache and heartburn, and neither of them are very fun. I have had headaches for as long as I can remember, and used to take a lot of ibuprofen for them. This is what always worked best for my headaches and I could go about my daily routine.

After many years of doing this, I started having heartburn symptoms. When I had some tests run, they discovered that I had gastritis, which was the cause of my heartburn.

Unfortunately, this had been caused from the years of taking ibuprofen. I began taking something to treat the heartburn, but also had to find something different to treat my headaches, that would not continue to aggravate my stomach.

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