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    Scott Adams

    Migraine Headaches: Gluten Triggers Severe Headaches in Sensitive Individuals

    Scott Adams
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    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Neurology 2001;56:385-388.



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    Celiac.com 02/15/2001 - According to a new study published in the February issue of Neurology, severe, chronic migraine headaches can be triggered in gluten-sensitive individuals who do not exclude gluten from their diets. The study examined ten patients who had a long history of chronic headaches that had recently worsened, or were resistant to treatment. Some patients had additional symptoms such as lack of balance. Dr. Marios Hadjivassiliou, from the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, UK, and colleagues tested each patient and found that all were sensitive to gluten. . The patients were tested and each was found to be gluten-sensitive. Additionally, MRI scans determined that each had inflammation in their central nervous systems caused by gluten-sensitivity.

    Results: Nine out of 10 patients went on a gluten-free diet, and seven of them stopped having headaches completely. The patients heightened immune responses, which are triggered by the ingestion of gluten, could be one of the factors causing the headaches. The other two patients who were on a gluten-free diet experienced significant relief, but not complete relief.

    Conclusion: According to Dr. Hadjivassiliou, removal of the trigger factor by the introduction of a gluten-free diet may be a promising therapeutic intervention for patients with chronic headaches. Further studies are needed to confirm Dr. Hadjivassilious preliminary findings.

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    My 8 year old son went on a gluten and dairy free diet 2 weeks ago - he had chronic daily migraines and facial spasms - they have entirely disappeared - there is a definite link between your diet and migraines! It's a lot of hard work to change your eating pattern - but it so worth it! Good luck~

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    This article was very helpful. I've been having headaches almost daily for the past year and I'm now considering to be tested to see if I'm sensitive to gluten.

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    Great article! I had migraines 2 to 5 times a week for over 10 years and they stopped completely after a couple of days of eating gluten-free. I have been gluten-free for about 6 months and they have not come back.

     

    Is there a way to make migraines one of the common symptoms caused by an intolerance to gluten? Every list I looked at stated many symptoms but rarely said anything about migraines (or headaches in general).

     

    Also, I had an MD tell me that an intolerance to gluten cannot cause migraines or headaches. Would there be a way of informing them that, yes, it can cause migraines?

     

    Cheers

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    Wow,

    I am thrilled to know that I might have found why I have been so sick those past years. I have seen different specialists and they couldn't figure what was the reason I had those multiple symptoms (chronic migraines, constipation/diahrrea, lack of appetite, fatigue etc). Usually, the doctors I went through only said: Well, here's a prescription. That made me angry because I wanted to find the cause. I couldn't find a pattern that helped me figured what was wrong. Celiac disease makes sense since gluten is found in lots of products. I'm seeing my doctor next month and I will make sure to ask for tests I need to go through to find if I have celiac disease.

    Thanks for sharing!

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    My husband has had severe headaches and migraines for many years and medication has not helped. We went on a diet last fall that only allowed some fruits, vegetables, beef, chicken and fish. His headaches and migraines disappeared completely. Now off the strict diet, we started adding things back to our diet and through process of elimination, have determined what was causing his migraines - gluten.

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    Great article I suffer with aura migraines since childhood. Yesterday I had an intense blind spots and other aura migraine symptoms. I have been gluten free for 6 months and I ate a small amount of gluten yesterday resulting in nausea intense stomach pain and an intense aura migraine. Diet is so important to our immune system.

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    I am a celiac and I do get migraines. These can usually be traced to accidental gluten ingestion. Thanks for the information.

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    I have had daily "atypical" Migraines on a daily basis for the past three years while under the care of a neurologist. A nerve block injection at the base of the skull helped for a short time and then several months ago a total of 31 botox injections in one setting in the back of the neck, skull, side of the head, and forehead worked for a few months. However, a repeat procedure was not really successful. Over the years I took many of the usual medications which did not help over the long run to prevent the headaches. However, the Triptans worked great for relieving/stopping the headaches once they started. The good news is that a recent endoscopy and biopsy revealed that I had celiac disease. I just recently went on the gluten free diet and my migraines basically went away after about three weeks (I still take some preventative meds in conjunction with the diet) but I have not had to take a triptan to kill a headache which I did before on almost a daily plus basis. I plan on slowly backing off the preventative meds.

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    I have had daily "atypical" Migraines on a daily basis for the past three years while under the care of a neurologist. A nerve block injection at the base of the skull helped for a short time and then several months ago a total of 31 botox injections in one setting in the back of the neck, skull, side of the head, and forehead worked for a few months. However, a repeat procedure was not really successful. Over the years I took many of the usual medications which did not help over the long run to prevent the headaches. However, the Triptans worked great for relieving/stopping the headaches once they started. The good news is that a recent endoscopy and biopsy revealed that I had celiac disease. I just recently went on the gluten free diet and my migraines basically went away after about three weeks (I still take some preventative meds in conjunction with the diet) but I have not had to take a triptan to kill a headache which I did before on almost a daily plus basis. I plan on slowly backing off the preventative meds.

    Hi Frank, I am glad to hear that you are feeling better. Did your doctor think you had celiac disease before the endoscopy? I believe it is possible I might have celiac sensitivity and had just googled celiac and migraines and found this page. I will have an endoscopy and colonoscopy next week. I plan on asking my doc if he will take the necessary biopsies to test for celiac. I just tried Topamax and I had to stop because of side effects. Good Luck!

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    Would love to believe that this is the answer for my husband's migraine problem. 13 years now and we haven't found a solution. Dr.'s all want to through a script at him and no one wants to eliminate the source. He has kept a food diary, tried preventatives (Topamax and Nortriptyline), massage therapy, chiropractor and acupuncture. Mouthguard for TMJ, special pillows and his only help is the Imitrex he takes for pain when he gets a headache. I started him gluten free yesterday (January 1) and on day two, he has a migraine. Hoping it will just take a few weeks and then they'll be gone. Don't know what to do next if it isn't gluten.

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    More positive reinforcement. I have suffered from migraines since 4th grade. It was assumed the cause was hormones. Over time, they got worse, until about 10 years ago they were so bad I was put on a steady diet of narcotics to relieve the pain and allow me moderate function. They keep getting worse, with doctors throwing all manner of drugs at me just to see if they would help. The headaches are constant and daily, migraines, tension headaches, cluster headaches etc. I finally got to the end of the line, the 37 Botox injections across my head and down my neck. Supposed to last 3 months, they lasted 3 weeks, the biggest improvement i had felt in 10 years. I am now at the point of applying for disability because I can no longer work or even effectively care for my children. My sister has been bugging me about trying a gluten free diet, but i love love french bread, bagels, etc. Finally i said, why not just try it? That was four days ago. I have not had any significant headache since. I am cautious, since it is hard to credit that after more than twenty years of endless pain, it could end with such a simple solution. But it really does seem to be working. Hooray! I can barely imagine that i will be able to smile and play with my kids and not yell at them to be quiet.

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    Would love to believe that this is the answer for my husband's migraine problem. 13 years now and we haven't found a solution. Dr.'s all want to through a script at him and no one wants to eliminate the source. He has kept a food diary, tried preventatives (Topamax and Nortriptyline), massage therapy, chiropractor and acupuncture. Mouthguard for TMJ, special pillows and his only help is the Imitrex he takes for pain when he gets a headache. I started him gluten free yesterday (January 1) and on day two, he has a migraine. Hoping it will just take a few weeks and then they'll be gone. Don't know what to do next if it isn't gluten.

    Tracy, your husband's story is similar to mine, I have had all kinds of meds thrown at me, mood stabilizers, antidepressants, muscle relaxers, narcotics, steroids, massage, acupuncture, magnesium creams, hormone therapy, etc. Finally did Botox, which helped a little but lasted 3 weeks instead of 3 months. The gluten free diet seems to be helping me, but it has been only 4 days so I am cautious. My point is to not give up, and don't resign yourselves to never finding the cause. There is one, and it is worth it to keep looking, although it can be incredibly difficult to be hopeful with so much pain.

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  • About Me

    Scott Adams was diagnosed with celiac disease in 1994, and, due to the nearly total lack of information available at that time, was forced to become an expert on the disease in order to recover. In 1995 he launched the site that later became Celiac.com to help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives.  He is co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of the (formerly paper) newsletter Journal of Gluten Sensitivity. In 1998 he founded The Gluten-Free Mall which he sold in 2014. Celiac.com does not sell any products, and is 100% advertiser supported.


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