Gluten intolerance and migraines

The relationship between gluten sensitivity and migraines has been frequently noted. For example, in one study, neurologist Marios Hadjivassiliou described a middle-aged man whose migraines began in childhood and did not respond to treatment but stopped completely after he was diagnosed with coeliac disease and switched to a gluten free diet (American Academy of Neurology, Feb 14, 2001).
Researchers Gabrielli and colleagues in Italy found that blood donors with migraines were more likely to have coeliac disease than those who were healthy.

Dr Vikki Petersen runs a medical clinic in Sunnyvale, California with a strong focus on gluten sensitivity. She is the co-author of The Gluten Effect in which she notes that many physicians lack awareness of the symptoms gluten sensitivity can trigger including ataxia (balance and gait disorders), seizures, and development of brain lesions and calcifications as well as migraines.

Tests results may often be misleading, registering ‘normal’ in someone who is gluten sensitive. However, a number of symptoms may alert a physician or migraine sufferer to suspect gluten sensitivity as a trigger. According to Dr Petersen, ‘Having migraines is a “red flag”, as is a craving for gluten and starchy foods. Patients who have no problem with gluten typically can “take it or leave it” in their diet. It's the patients who feel they “can't live without it” that definitely should check for a sensitivity.’

Adams, Scott; Migraine Headaches: Gluten Triggers Severe Headaches in Sensitive Individuals;; 02/15/2001
DeNoon, Daniel J; Migraines Linked to Celiac Disease; WebMD Health News; March 21, 2003
Gabrielli, M, et al, Association Between Migraine and Celiac Disease: Results From a Preliminary Case-Control and Therapeutic Study, AM J Gastroenterol. 2003 Jul; 98 (7):1674


Click here for more research

First May 2009

First Published in May 2009


Top of page