Migraine sufferers who don't get relief from treatments may want to ask their doctors about a celiac disease screening. This is the recommendation from researchers who found significantly higher prevalence of migraine headaches in patients with celiac disease compared to those without it.
Migraines were also more common in those with inflammatory bowel disease and gluten sensitivity.
Researchers obtained detailed medical and lifestyle histories from 700 participants using a questionnaire. It included whether a participant had been diagnosed with celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease, or had problems eating foods containing wheat. Researchers also asked about headache history.
After eliminating those who had previous head trauma, brain tumors, or any lifestyle habits that are known to trigger headaches, they had 502 people remaining in the study.
Of those, 188 people had celiac disease, 111 had inflammatory bowel disease and 25 were gluten-sensitive. Gluten sensitive means a person has not tested positive for celiac disease but does have symptoms when they eat foods with wheat. The other 178 individuals were healthy and served as the control group.
They found that chronic headaches of any kind were reported by 56% of gluten-sensitive participants, 30% of those with celiac disease and 23% of those with inflammatory bowel disease, while only 14% of the control group reported headaches.
When the researchers looked at migraines specifically, 21% of those with celiac disease and 14% of those with inflammatory bowel disease reported disabling headaches, compared with only 6% of the control group.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that damages the small intestine when a person consumes gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.
This damage prevents the small intestine from absorbing the nutrients in food, and people with celiac disease slowly become malnourished.
If left untreated, gluten intolerance is associated with certain cancers, osteoporosis, infertility, skin rashes and joint pain. In severe cases, it can cause death.
It is estimated that one out of every 100 people in the U.S. may be affected by this disease.
Symptoms of celiac disease vary. Some people may experience diarrhea and abdominal pain while others have no digestive complaints but may have mood or cognitive impairments such as anxiety or depression. Symptoms can occur at any age and some people with celiac disease have no signs or symptoms. For these reasons celiac disease is often overlooked by physicians.
In addition to migraines, other conditions frequently coexist with celiac disease, including: Type 1 diabetes, thyroid disorders, Turner Syndrome, Williams Syndrome, infertility, and osteoporosis.
If you suspect that you may have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, don’t stop eating wheat until you see a doctor for a screening test. If you eliminate gluten, it will stop the immune response and lessen the presence of antibodies in the blood stream. This can result in a false-negative test result.
The sooner celiac disease is diagnosed, and gluten is eliminated from the diet, the better the chance that the intestines will fully heal and the body will recover.
National Foundation for Celiac Awareness