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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Fewer Headaches for Gluten-free Celiac Patients?

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 05/28/2015 - A number of studies have shown than many people with celiac disease, including women and children, have issues with headaches, especially migraines. This also true for people with inflammatory bowel disease.

    Image: CC-- Pierre WilleminPeople with celiac disease who follow a gluten-free diet report having having fewer headaches, and recent research supports a relationship between a gluten-free diet (GFD) and a reduction in headaches—especially migraines—in people with celiac disease.

    Gluten's connection to neurologic problems in people with celiac disease is well known, but its connection with headaches and the gluten-free diet is controversial. Recently, Ameghino LucÍa, of the Neurology Department at FLENI in Buenos Aires, Argentina and his colleagues conducted a survey of patients. They reported the results at the 2015 annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Washington, DC.

    A total of 866 people who completed the questionnaire met the criteria. Of those, 24% reported headaches as their main symptom after a celiac disease diagnoses. The team used the "chi square test" or "Mann-Whitney test" to analyze the survey.

    The subjects reported different types of head pain, including tension-type headaches (TH), reported by just over half, migraine with aura (MWA), reported by 15.4%, and migraine without aura (MWOA), by 32.5%. Upon further examination the researchers revealed that neurological symptoms were more often found in MWA patients than TH.

    They found that patients with severe headaches generally had better gluten-free diet compliance, at 77% overall, compared to 66% for those with milder manifestations.

    Furthermore, the study revealed that those with the best gluten-free diet compliance experienced less severe and frequent headaches. For example patients MWA showed nearly a 50% reduction in headache frequency when they followed the diet.

    These results suggest that the strict adhesion to a gluten-free diet could benefit celiac patients who experience headaches. However, they say more studies are needed to determine whether a gluten-free is beneficial for migraine in general.

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    I was a "walking headache" for years living on aspirins, they were the tension headaches at the temples. Once I was diagnosed with celiac and followed the gluten-free diet, they all but disappeared.

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    I had severe debilitating migrains for 50 years starting in my teens. After going gluten free three years ago because of intestinal symptoms,(I have not been diagnosed celiac), I have had only the odd normal headache, my migrains have completely disappeared, how I wish I'd known about gluten-free earlier.

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    Like Jacquie, I was in nearly constant pain for over 25 years. No one could figure out what was causing my headaches. I would get migraines that lasted 3 to 5 days straight. I thought the best I could do was manage it. Then my acupuncturist suggested that I stop eating starch. That was a real battle, to tell the truth. Starch was my main food group. After a month without any starch at all I slowly added back in different foods. When wheat went back on the table my headaches came back. That's proof enough for me! Incidentally, the lesser issues of alternating diarrhea & constipation and bloating also disappeared. Now, when I see something I really want to eat, I ask myself if this food is migraine-worthy. So far nothing has been.

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    I had a constant headache since I was 8 (when I came to the US). I got used to the pain since it was constant, although I'd get very painful migraines that sometimes lasted one to two weeks. Concentration was very difficult. At age 33, I became glutton free and within two months my headaches went away. My life has changed. I keep a food journal. Now when I get headaches I can trace it back to the restaurant... and never go there again.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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