First let me just clarify one thing- migraines are not your regular headaches. They are far more complicated and need careful care and concern. Migraine is not just a headache but also includes a collection of associated symptoms that can be debilitating. These include nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity and dizziness. But the main dilemma that comes with migraines is that often people struggle to determine what triggers their migraines. It can be environmental, hormonal, genetic, secondary to an underlying illness, or triggered by certain foods, such as cheese, or chocolate. One food that has received a lot of attention in recent years is gluten — a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.
So what is gluten and how is it even relating to the effects it brings to migraines?
Gluten is a protein you can find in grains, such as barley, rye, or wheat. People may avoid gluten for a variety of reasons. Most people who don’t eat gluten have celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to form antibodies in response to gluten. Other people may avoid gluten because they have an intolerance to the protein. If your body is intolerant of gluten, the lining of your small intestine can’t take in key nutrients. If you eat gluten and have intolerance to it, you may experience diarrhea, bloating, weight loss as well as a general decline in your health.
The question that arises is what are the major symptoms when it comes to what leads to the triggering of migraines. Some people who have migraines will experience what is called an “aura” before the head pain. During the aura, you could experience a variety of sensory disturbances. Some people see blind spots or zig zags. Others say they feel funny or have a strange sense of taste or smell. Other migraine symptoms include: fatigue, nausea, having a loss of appetite, feeling bolts of fever and also going through a series of discomfort.
While there may be a range of reasons as to why someone is suffering from migraines, gluten is definitely something that needs to be highlighted. Gluten may be a trigger for migraines in some people. One recent studyTrusted Source has suggested a link between celiac disease and migraines. Migraines may even be an early symptom of celiac disease in some people, though migraine is considered a rare complicationTrusted Source of celiac disease. It can affect the nervous system in people with celiac disease and people with non-celiac gluten intolerance. Examples of conditions that affect the nervous system include: learning disorders, depression, migraine, and heavy headache. That means that gluten may trigger migraines in people who don’t have celiac disease but instead have a sensitivity to gluten. Gluten sensitivity isn’t well-understood yet. A person with gluten sensitivity may also experience: foggy thinking, abdominal pain, gastrointestinal symptoms, like diarrhea or constipation, a headache, joint pains, bloating, chronic fatigue. Gluten may be a trigger for migraines in some people, but more research is necessary to understand this connection. In recent years scientists have gained a better understanding of how and why migraines occur. Migraine is now considered a genetic condition that is found commonly within families. But just looking at a gluten-intolerant person’s inflammatory response doesn’t provide the whole picture on gluten’s link to migraine. Early theories suggested migraines occurred because of enlargement or dilation of the blood vessels. But now neurologists realize this isn’t the whole story. We now know the cascade that leads to a migraine involves the nerves in the trigeminovascular pathway (TVP) — the collection of nerves that control sensation in the face as well as biting and chewing..
When the TVP is activated by the presence of gluten, for example, it causes the release of many chemicals including histamine, a substance that immune cells produce when responding to injury or allergic and inflammatory events. The TVP nerves also produce a recently discovered trigger for migraines; a protein called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP).
In both gluten sensitivity, or celiac disease, and migraine, there is an inflammatory process occurring within the body. The inflammatory response to gluten makes it easier to activate the trigeminovascular pathway, thus triggering a migraine. Typically, a food trigger will cause a migraine to start within 15 minutes of exposure to that substance. If someone tests positive for celiac, or wheat allergy, then the answer is simple: remove gluten from the diet. So the question arises when someone tests negative should we still eliminate gluten? It is often worth a try, because there is a condition called non-celiac gluten sensitivity. If someone does not have celiac disease but suffers from symptoms of gluten sensitivity, an elimination trial of gluten is often helpful for reducing migraine frequency or severity. Gluten elimination for migraines is still experimental. We need to treat the whole person in medicine. This includes looking at potential triggers for headache and doing an elimination diet can be of benefit. There are so many gluten-free products currently on the market, it makes removing gluten from the diet easier.