While there are many known migraine triggers, and one possible headache culprit that often goes unnoticed is gluten sensitivity.
What diseases are associated with gluten sensitivity?
Gluten, a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye, has been linked by numerous studies with symptoms such as migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome and celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder.
Research pushes the envelope in the case of gluten-free living
Recently, the BMC journal reported on research which details the effect of gluten on the intestines and the immune system, proving that even people who don’t have celiac disease may be suffering the damaging side effects of gluten sensitivity.
Alessio Fasano, medical director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Celiac Research, says, “For the first time, we have scientific evidence that indeed, gluten sensitivity not only exists, but is very different from celiac disease.”
Another study, which was reported in Neurology, focused on 10 patients who were diagnosed with gluten intolerance; MRI results also revealed damage to the central nervous system. All the test subjects experienced frequent migraine headaches, in addition to weak muscle coordination and nausea. Nine of the 10 participants agreed to switch to a gluten-free diet and immediately found relief from their migraine symptoms. In a few cases, going back to a high-gluten diet resulted in renewed headache symptoms.
Gluten-free bread: Fad or food evolution?
Gluten-free food manufacturing is a growing market, accounting for $2.6 billion in 2010. Many who have sworn off high-gluten products such as breads and pasta are strong believers that gluten attacks the body’s immune system, much in the same way that a virus or bacterial infection weaken our defenses.
Many experts believe that 1 out of 20 US citizens experience at least one of the symptoms of gluten intolerance, including headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, fatigue and depression.
If you suspect that you might be suffering from gluten intolerance, get tested for celiac disease; if results come back negative, try switching to gluten-free products to see if any of your symptoms subside.
Tips for living gluten free
- Include plenty of fruits, vegetables and lean meats in your diet.
- Opt for naturally gluten-free grains such as quinoa and brown rice, instead of buying pre-packaged gluten-free mixes.
- Supplement with plenty of essential vitamins, particularly vitamins B and D, which are often lacking in gluten intolerant individuals.