Monday, April 22, 2013

Are Migraines a Predictor of Celiac Disease?


According to a research study published in Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, if you have celiac disease, you’re more than twice as likely to have migraines than the normal population. If you have gluten sensitivity, you’re more than four times likely to suffer with debilitating migraines. The researchers also looked at those suffering with IBD, inflammatory bowel disease, and found them a little over one and half times more likely to suffer migraines.

Migraine intensity seemed to also be positively associated with gluten intolerance. Seventy-two percent of celiac stated that they suffered from migraines that were severe in impact, as did sixty percent of those suffering from gluten sensitivity. Of those suffering with IBD, only thirty percent ranked their migraines in the severe category.

When we consider that ninety-five percent of all celiacs remain undiagnosed and likely ninety-nine percents of all those suffering from gluten sensitivity, any assistance in improving those abysmal percentages is data well worth knowing.

What this study reveals is that the symptom of migraine could very well be a red-flag for celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Imagine if doctors whose patients complained of migraines were regularly screened for gluten intolerance? Would our percentage of diagnosis improve? It seems likely that it would.
One thing that did concern me was the researchers found that the number of years on a gluten-free diet had no influence on the severity of the migraines suffered. For me that is unacceptable. It is rare in my clinic that we don’t resolve migraines. I agree, that a food sensitivity, frequently gluten, is a trigger. But more must be done and this study clearly demonstrates that.

We once again find ourselves in the arena of Secondary Effects. If not addressed, these Secondary Effects of gluten will perpetuate a weakened immune system, leaky gut, nutritional deficiencies and hormonal imbalance – to name a few. When these factors persist, so will the migraines, in the majority of cases.
The take away from this study was two-fold for me. One facet being positive, while the other was decidedly negative.
1.      Patients suffering from migraines should be evaluated for gluten intolerance as they suffer from the symptom, vastly more often than does the general population of sufferers.
2.      One the negative side, those removing gluten from their diet, continued to suffer from migraines. Based on my clinical experience, this is due to improper treatment of the Secondary Effects of gluten. The facts are that we see many very serious migraine cases and our success rate is quite excellent. We attribute that to diagnosing not only any food sensitivities, but also proper evaluation of the Secondary Effects as mentioned above.

Many individuals suffer from debilitating migraines. I was one, actually and so was my mother. When I developed migraines in my teenage years I was told that I had them because my mother did. Not a very encouraging statement! After all, I couldn't change my genes… or could I? In fact, I found that what my mother and I both shared was a gluten intolerance. And yes, secondary to that intolerance were some infections, nutritional deficiencies and hormonal imbalance. And guess what? When I fixed those things I NEVER had another migraine – never. And when I fixed them in my mother, she NEVER had another migraine.

I understand migraines, therefore, personally as well as professionally. They are definitely no fun and I urge you to pass this post along to anyone you know who suffers.

We are always here to answer questions and assist where needed. Anyone interested can call us for a free health analysis as well – call 408-733-0400.

Our destination clinic treats patients from across the country and internationally. You don’t need to live locally to receive help.


To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”
Author of the e-Book: “Gluten Intolerance: What you don’t know may be killing you!”
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