Firstly, what is gluten intolerance?
Gluten intolerance is where the body has a negative reaction to foods containing gluten resulting in symptoms such as diarrhoea, nausea and fatigue. Gluten intolerance affects around one in every twenty people.
Celiac disease on the other hand is an autoimmune disorder in which gluten proteins cause inflammation and damage to the small intestine. It is not the same as gluten intolerance, but both those who are gluten-intolerant and those who have celiac disease are harmed by diets which contain gluten and can suffer from similar symptoms.
Some sources suggest that eating foods which contain gluten can trigger migraines for those who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, but is this the case?
According to the Migraine Trust, headaches may be “part of a large number of symptoms which are listed as being associated with gluten-sensitivity but there is no evidence that gluten-sensitivity causes migraine”. There is scientific evidence to support this statement.
In one study, around 25% of people with celiac disease reported suffering from migraine headaches, and migraines were often reported as the first symptom of celiac disease. In another study however, only 8 of the 188 celiac patients in the study reported a reduction in their headaches when following a gluten-free diet, and the period of the gluten-free diet did not correlate with migraine severity.
It may be then that gluten intolerance is a condition which can go hand-in-hand with migraine, and that celiac sufferers are more likely to suffer from migraine than the general population, but the Migraine Trust states that there aren’t enough scientific studies to say that eating a gluten-free diet will stop your migraines if you are intolerant. On an individual basis however, it has to be said that if eating a gluten-free diet helps to reduce your migraine severity and/or frequency, who cares what the statistics say!