Friday, 16 November 2012

"Study Connects Migraine With Celiac & Irritable Bowel"

Do forgive me for talking about such indelicate matters so early on a Friday morn - but alas the stomach and migraine is, well, a pain in the butt. Just yesterday I had another of my giving birth-esq stomach spasms that required my poor mother to administer wet flannels and mugs of hot peppermint water while I groaned on the loo. This reminds me that I really must talk to the Queen about recommending mother for the New Years honours list. 

I was also reminded that I a) need to have my follow-up visit with the dietician who put me on a clever diet that is meant to help with these spasms (which I have obviously been forgetting to follow) and b) write the blog post that tells you all about this clever diet. It's amazing the thoughts one has whilst in the bathroom. 

Appropriately, this week the migraine advocate and educator extrodinaire Teri Robert posted a link to a new US study  that confirmed what apparently we in Europe proved long ago: that there is a known prevalence between those who have celiac disease/and or irritable bowel and migraine. The results are quite astounding:

Study results:

(GS = gluten sensitivity)

Chronic headaches were reported by
  • 30% of celiac disease group,
  • 56% of the GS group, and
  • 23% of IBD group. 
  • Compared with 14% of control subjects.
There was a significantly higher prevalence of Migraine by ID-Migraine criteria:
  • 40% in the celiac disease group,
  • 21% in the GS group, and
  • 14% in the IBD group,
  • Compared with 6% in the control group.
When rating the impact of Migraine:
  • 72% of participants in the celiac disease group graded their Migraines as severe;
  • 60% of those with GS graded theirs as severe;
  • 30% of the IBD group graded theirs as severe; and
  • 50% of the control group with Migraines graded theirs as severe.
  • There was o correlation between years following a gluten-free diet and Migraine severity.
Although these results may come as no surprise to a lot of migraine patients - they suggest that migraine specialists and neurologists should make screening for celiac disease and gluten sensitivity a routine part of initial investigations. I was astounded to realise that the first time I was ever officially tested myself, was last summer by a Gastroentorologist. He was the first Doctor, after 13 years, who had ever suggested this as a possible trigger, despite me always mentioning my delightful stomach spasms. Though he did say that they were, most likely, a result of gastric stasis that occurs during (and they're discovering outside) migraine. In the end my results came back negative but he still referred me onto a dietician, much to my chagrin. And I'll tell you all about that meeting in another exciting blog post. 

But for now, if you still can't pin point your main trigger it really is worth looking into whether or not you might have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity. I know a few migraineurs who have cut out gluten from their diet with incredibly positive results. It hasn't eliminated all of their migraines but cut out a large chunk - which is something I know many of us would wish for. 

Study Links & Further Info:


  1. Thank you for this useful post. I had heard about the link before and as someone who suffers with both irritable bowel and migraine, it certainly gives me food for thought (scuse the pun).

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Boom, boom! Yeah, IBS and migraine are comorbid - again I just wish this was more commonly known.... xx

    2. Interesting. I suffer with IBS aswell. I'll have to bring that up with Dr Erlington next mont!

  2. They're starting to discover that IBS is comorbid with a huge range of things, like chronic fatigue syndrome. Considering that IBS is just a label for a collection of symptoms, and the gut is sensitive to things that happen all through your body because it's part of your autonomic nervous system, it's not really that surprising that IBS pops up all over the place. At least, it doesn't surprise me - research doctors seem to find it surprising.

    I also suffer from IBS and migraines (actually chronic daily headache). Weirdly, my headaches only became chronic shortly after I switched to a low-FODMAP diet for the IBS, which worked wonders. I'm pretty sure the timing is just a coincidence, but it does make you wonder...

    1. Hi Sarah - well exactly. The FODMAP diet is actually what I'm meant to be on too - because the dietician said the lower intestinal spasms I sometimes get mimic that of people with IBS so it was worth a shot for me to try it or to be aware of it around severe migraines..... have you considered coming off the diet! Though if it's helping that bit of a catch 22 I can see. Hope you're well today!

    2. Unfortunately, the low-FODMAP diet is too necessary to stop - the last time I accidentally ate onions I was in pain for a week and a half. I think the headaches are far more likely to be due to other things happening at the time like a change of meds and a serious bout of muscular-triggered tension headaches, but there's always a bit of wonder as to whether stopping the diet would be a magical cure. I'm not holding my breath, though!

      Good luck for the diet, hopefully it works as well for you as it does for me. It's a pity you don't live in Wellington - we have a cafe that has a low-FODMAP menu. It's pretty awesome being able to actually order something straight from the menu!

    3. Hi - that cafe in Wellington sounds great! Have you tried a TENS unit for the muscle ache? I find them really useful - there's a post on here somewhere about them. Hope the head isn't too bad today :)

  3. Oh how I wish my neurologist had been more aware of this connection a decade ago! The diagnosis over "over-medication with painkillers" as a reason for my chronic migraines could not have been more wrong. Seriously, who wouldn't take daily painkillers for daily excruciating headaches?! The only thing that came from me going "cold turkey" was the realisation that painkillers didn't actually help at all - my migraines were the same with or without them.

    What (eventually) worked for me was cutting out *all* gluten - even the tiniest cross-contamination triggers a migraine. by this time I discovered the gluten/migraine link - completely by accident - I had given up on ever trying to reduce my migraines and was learning to live with them.

    Living without gluten is a teeny tiny price to pay for the reward of living without chronic migraine.

    1. Yeah, I keep trying to explain to my DR that if I'm in pain what am I supposed to do?! I have to use the pain meds! And if I have a bad pain week i'm going to use more... I couldn't function otherwise.

    2. Hi Wendy, really interesting to hear this - as usual patients having to do a lot of the leg work themselves. Though at least you finally found one of your main triggers! x


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