Does Gluten-free = Migraine free?

by Sharon Hopkins


You've stopped knocking back those glasses of wine, the cheese board and chocolates remain a no-no for you, and you have even tried yoga…but the migraines still continue unabated. If, like 28 million other Americans, you suffer from chronic headaches and migraines, there may be some light at the end of the tunnel. There have been murmurs in the world of gastroenterology research that may provide a welcome explanation about why we suffer from migraines. According to a recent study published by the American Journal of Gastroenterology, there may be a link between migraines and Celiac disease.

Research conducted at the Neurological Institute at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City confirmed these theories and indicated that people with celiac disease do suffer from a higher amount of headaches as compared to those without the disease. Celiac disease once believed to be an allergy is now acknowledged as an autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive process. If you have celiac disease and consume foods and food products containing wheat, barley, and rye, the immune system mistakenly kicks in and starts attacking the cells of the small intestine and causes symptoms such as gas, bloating, stomach pain, and diarrhea. When left undiagnosed or untreated, celiac disease can lead to other complications such as fatigue, anemia, osteoporosis, infertility and even behavioral changes. And here's where it gets tougher – the only way to treat celiac disease is to completely avoid wheat and wheat products in your diet. This doesn't just include stuff like cakes, breads, or pizzas. You have also got to keep an eye out for gluten in products such as vitamins, cosmetics, beer, and certain medications. What the research implies is that if you suffer from migraines, it may be caused by celiac disease. It further postulates that by following a gluten-free diet, you could effectively reduce symptoms and prevent future migraine attacks.

According to Dr. Alessio Fasano, medical director of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research in Baltimore, patients with celiac disease complaining of headaches is not unusual. The link between the two is well known. What is not known according to him is why this happens. One theory is that celiac disease causing a general inflammation of tissues in the body that result in symptoms including headaches. Another version implies that as an autoimmune disorder, celiac disease attacks sensitive cells and tissues and may reduce the blood flow to the brain and therefore cause migraines. An idiopathic reason apart, what does seem clear is that chronic migraine headaches can be triggered by gluten in the diet of gluten-sensitive people. So, if as recent research indicates that gluten-free = migraine free, you now have a whole host of other things to add to your Don't List!

Nevertheless, there is good news too. According to researcher Maurizio Gabrielli, MD (Gemelli Hospital in Rome, Italy), if more studies are conducted on the impact of a gluten-free diet on migraines, it could completely change the current range of migraine treatments available. According to his own research, Gabrielli discovered that migraine patients who were treated with a gluten-free diet for six months reported an elimination or significant decrease in headache symptoms. Scans also indicated an improvement in the cerebral blood flow offering Gabrielli and his team one possible explanation as to why a gluten-free diet may help reduce migraines. Once these patients switch to a gluten-free diet, most can look forward to a happy headache free life! Reason enough to try out a gluten-free diet and see for yourself.

References:

http://celiac.nih.gov/

Am J Gastroenterol. 2003 Mar;98(3):625-9.
Association between migraine and Celiac disease: results from a preliminary
case-control and therapeutic study.
Gabrielli M, Cremonini F, Fiore G, Addolorato G, Padalino C, Candelli M, De Leo
ME, Santarelli L, Giacovazzo M, Gasbarrini A, Pola P, Gasbarrini A.
Department of Internal Medicine, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Gemelli Hospital, Rome, Italy.


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