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Gluten and headaches

Sometimes I just want to shake people (no one in particular) and say “DUH!” I know I see things differently with my gluten-free vision (yes, I am a superhero), and things seem obvious to me. So I get frustrated. Let me explain…

An article came out on the newswire yesterday about a study conducted in Norway to assess the association between headaches and gastrointestinal complaints. The article began like this: “The prevalence of headache is higher in people with gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms such as nausea, acid reflux, diarrhea, and constipation, than in people who don’t have these bothersome symptoms.”

Immediately I think about the fact that headaches and migraines can be symptoms of celiac disease or gluten intolerance. The gastrointestinal symptoms stated in the news article are also commonly caused by celiac disease or gluten intolerance. So it is clear to me that the people with the GI symptoms also have headaches because they are reacting to gluten in many ways, which is usually the case with people who cannot tolerate gluten. I was sure that the doctors who performed the study would draw the same conclusion, and probably also suggest that anyone with headaches be tested for celiac disease.

Alas, no. The conclusion of the study was simply that “headache sufferers generally are predisposed to GI complaints.” And at the end of the article one of the doctors from the study states, “It is important to consider the total burden of discomfort in these patients and to avoid headache medication with adverse gastrointestinal effects in those with much gastrointestinal discomfort.”

Huh? Those are the big conclusions? Oh, those poor headache people also have stomach problems. Boy did they get a bad deal! Well, let’s just be sure we don’t give them any drugs that could make their stomachs feel even worse.

It shouldn’t take a gluten-free superhero to see this gluten connection. It was concluded in a 2003 Italian study that “a significant proportion of patients with migraine may have celiac disease, and that a gluten free diet may lead to a improvement in the migraine in these patients.” I know people whose headaches went away once they cut out gluten. My husband is one of those people — he went from having frequent headaches and monthly migraines to having none since he started a gluten-free diet. No more Excedrin!

The bottom line of this post is that I know that many people suffer from headaches and migraines. If you are one of them, pleeease consider gluten as a possible cause.

Learn more:

Symptoms of celiac disease
Testing for celiac disease
Blood tests are not the final say

Gluten-Free Guide

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