Having chronic migraines could be a sign of celiac disease, according to a new study from researchers in New York.
After studies in Europe showed a link between celiac disease and a high prevalence of migraine headaches, Dr. Alexandra Dimitrova, a neurological resident at Columbia University Medical Center, under the supervision of Dr. Peter Green from the Celiac Disease Center at that university, decided to investigate whether the same held true in the U.S.
The researchers found that 30 per cent of the patients they studied with celiac disease reported chronic migraines (14 or more per month).
For the study, the researchers analyzed the intensity and frequency of headaches of 502 people with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, irritable bowel disease, as well as a control group. They also looked at daily habits, such as coffee and alcohol consumption. Those with celiac disease reported the most frequent and intense migraines.
Since it often takes many years before someone is diagnosed with celiac disease, the presence of migraines could be a clue: “I would test any patient not responsive to appropriate migraine medical therapy administered by a neurologist,” says Dimitrova.
The good news is that both the European and U.S. research suggests that a gluten-free diet can reduce the number and severity of migraines.
More work needs to be done, says Dimitrova, including a study in which diet and eating habits are looked at in-depth to determine the impact on migraines.