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  • Jefferson Adams

    Increased Rates of Migraines for People with Celiac Disease, IBD

    Jefferson Adams
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    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 06/27/2012 -  If you have celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and also suffer from migraines, you are not alone. In fact, you are part of a growing group of people who suffer migraine headaches along with their celiac disease or inflammatory bowel condition.

    Photo: CC -- dirk@vorderstrasse.deA recent study found that people who are sensitive to gluten have higher rates of migraine headaches. The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, held from April 21 to 28 in New Orleans.



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    A research team led by Alexandra Dimitrova, M.D., from the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, studied the association in U.S. patients.

    The team conducted a survey of 502 individuals. The survey group included 188 people with celiac disease, 111 with IBD, 25 with GS, and 178 controls.

    Each member of the survey group completed a self-administered survey which included details on medical history, medications, alcohol/caffeine/drug use, method/duration of celiac disease/IBD diagnosis, duration of gluten-free diet, and headache type and frequency.

    The team diagnosed migraine using the ID-Migraine screen, and assessed severity with the Headache Impact Test (HIT-6).

    The results indicated that 30 percent of people with celiac disease, 56 percent of those with gluten sensitivity, 23 percent of those with IBD, and 14 percent of control patients reported chronic headache.

    After the team compensated for confounding variables, patients with celiac disease, GS, and IBD showed significantly higher rates of migraines compared with control subjects, with odds ratios of 3.79, 9.53, and 2.66, respectively.

    As measured with HIT-6, patients with migraines who had celiac disease suffered from more severe headaches compared with the other groups.

    "Our findings suggest that migraine is a common neurologic manifestation in celiac disease, GS, and IBD," the authors write. "Future interventional studies should screen migraine patients for celiac disease, particularly those with treatment-resistant headaches."

    Do you know anyone who has celiac disease, gluten-sensitivity, or IBD and also suffers from migraine headaches? Let them know by sharing this study information. Let us know by commenting below.

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    My son, who was diagnosed with celiac disease at the age of 9 had constant headaches before diagnosis and I had terrible, disabling migraines before adhering to a strict gluten-free diet. Twelve years into the diet, we only have headaches rarely, when unintentionally "glutened".

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    I have celiac disease and whenever I am exposed to gluten I get a migraine cycle, which takes about a week to break. I have to take migraine medication 2-3 times per day for 6-7 days until the migraine finally breaks. Non-gluten migraines go away after the first or second migraine pill.

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    It's amazing to me how many people have shrugged off the suggestion that their migraines might be gluten related. I had terrible migraines for 30 years before going gluten-free and they ceased miraculously. I was angry that my physicians had given me no clue and even poo-pood the idea that they could be "allergy" related. I had tried everything. Imitrex was new when I went gluten-free and was the only thing that worked after all those years. I still keep it on hand for the inevitable slips. I would have tried anything that held the possibility of relief from the debilitating pain and nausea and it's mind boggling to me that people would rather live with that than contemplate the idea of giving up gluten.

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    I was diagnosed with celiac disease two years ago and have been eating a gluten-free diet since, but I still have chronic migraines. Did the study mention if the headaches will get better after going on a gluten-free diet, and how long it would take? Thank you for the article.

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    Oh yes - migraines were one of the many 'unrelated' health issues that seem to have resolved since diagnosis and going gluten-free. I'm obsessive about my gluten-free diet (I follow the specific carbohydrate diet), but migraine seems to be the first symptom I get if I have an accidental brush with gluten. For example, I was recently required to attend a team building cooking session for work, and inhaling flour that others were using was enough to launch the visual symptoms and headache. It was short-lasting, thank goodness.

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    I had really debilitating migraines since I was a youngster. Now 64, I was diagnosed Hashimoto and Graves thyroid 3 years ago. I have irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, (not doctor diagnosed), which led me to going gluten-free 3 months ago. I now find that I have fewer migraines, (2 in 3 months instead of minimum of 6), and they are less severe.

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    True with me.

    Very interesting. My mom (age 77) was recently diagnosed with celiac disease. She has suffered her whole life with migraines. Makes you wonder if she has had celiac disease her whole life. Thanks for the info.

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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 2,500 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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