A recent study suggests that people with celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease may have more migraines than people without these conditions.
Peter H. Green, MD, of Columbia University in New York says he expected to see a higher rate of migraines in celiac patients, but the increased migraine risk in the IBD patients was a “complete surprise.”
“We primarily wanted to study migraine rates in celiac patients… We included two comparison groups: one made up of healthy volunteers and another made up of patients with inflammatory bowel disease, because we wanted a gastrointestinal disease comparison as well. We didn’t think the inflammatory bowel disease group would actually show a high rate of migraine, too,” said Green.
In the study, migraine was graded as severe by 72% of those with celiac disease, 60% of those with gluten sensitivity, and 30% of those with IBD. The researchers noted that the migraines experienced by celiac disease patients seemed to be more debilitating compared with those in the other groups.
While some patients said they had fewer migraines and less severe migraines after starting a gluten-free diet, there was no link between years on a gluten-free diet and migraine severity. Green added that whether or not a gluten-free diet can improve migraines was not the focus of the study, though several of his patients said the diet change helped.
“People often look to natural therapies for migraine, they try giving up red wine and chocolate. Why not try giving up gluten? It is not an unreasonable idea. Many people are trying gluten-free diets at the moment, and several people have noticed that their migraine appears to improve on this diet. But these are just anecdotal reports. We need more studies to evaluate the gluten-free diet as a possible protective intervention for migraine both in celiac and non-celiac patients,” says Green. Medscape Medical News March, 2013