Investigating the Connection Between Migraine and Gluten Sensitivity

Investigating the Connection Between Migraine and Gluten Sensitivity


As someone who has personally experienced migraine attacks and has an interest in understanding potential triggers, investigating the connection between migraine attacks and gluten sensitivity is crucial. Migraine Attacks are neurological conditions characterized by recurring headaches with moderate to severe pain along with additional symptoms like nausea, light sensitivity, and aura. Gluten sensitivity, on the other hand, refers to an adverse reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, which can cause various symptoms including gastrointestinal issues, fatigue, and joint pain. This article aims to explore the potential link between migraine attacks and gluten sensitivity.

What is Gluten Sensitivity?

Gluten is a protein commonly found in many grains, including wheat, barley, and rye. It gives dough its elastic texture and helps to hold food together. Gluten sensitivity, also known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), is a condition in which individuals experience symptoms similar to those of celiac disease, but without the immune responses that occur in celiac. These symptoms may include digestive issues, headaches, fatigue, and joint pain. While the exact prevalence of gluten sensitivity is still uncertain, studies suggest that it affects around 6% of the general population. It’s important to note that gluten sensitivity is different from celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten ingestion and affects about 1% of the population.

Understanding Migraine Attacks and Their Triggers

Migraine Attacks are characterized by severe recurring headaches accompanied by additional symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and sometimes visual disturbances called aura. While the exact cause of migraine attacks is unknown, several triggers have been identified. These triggers can vary from person to person but may include:

  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes
  • Certain foods (e.g., aged cheeses, processed meats, chocolate)
  • Environmental factors (e.g., bright lights, strong smells, weather changes)
  • Sleep disturbances

Identifying triggers can help manage and reduce the frequency of migraine attacks. For example, if stress is a trigger, practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises or meditation may help alleviate migraine symptoms. It’s essential to keep a migraine diary to track and identify patterns between migraine attacks and potential triggers.

Investigating the Potential Link between Migraine Attacks and Gluten Sensitivity

Several scientific studies have explored the potential connection between migraine attacks and gluten sensitivity. While the results are not yet conclusive, some studies have indicated a higher prevalence of gluten sensitivity in individuals with migraine attacks compared to the general population.

For example, a study published in The Journal of Headache and Pain found that a gluten-free diet led to a significant reduction in migraine frequency, duration, and intensity in a group of patients with both migraine attacks and gluten sensitivity. Another study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience reported improvements in migraine attacks following a gluten-free diet.

Countless individuals with migraine attacks have also reported anecdotal evidence of experiencing relief and improved overall well-being after eliminating gluten from their diets.

However, it’s crucial to consider the limitations and counterarguments surrounding the research. Some studies have produced inconclusive findings and have shown mixed results. The placebo effect may also play a role, as individuals may experience perceived improvements in migraine attacks due to the belief that a gluten-free diet will help. Therefore, controlled trials are needed to further investigate the potential link between migraine attacks and gluten sensitivity and determine if the elimination of gluten truly has a beneficial effect on migraine symptoms.

The Role of Inflammation in Migraine Attacks and Gluten Sensitivity

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury or illness. While acute inflammation is a normal immune response, chronic inflammation can contribute to various health conditions, including migraine attacks.

Research suggests that gluten may trigger inflammation in the body, particularly in the gut and the immune system. In individuals with gluten sensitivity, the ingestion of gluten may lead to an inflammatory response, which can contribute to migraine attacks.

Individuals who have eliminated gluten from their diets have reported a reduction in inflammation and improvements in migraine attacks. However, it’s important to note that the impact of gluten on inflammation and migraine attacks may vary from person to person. Consultation with a healthcare professional is essential for an accurate diagnosis and guidance on making dietary changes.

Practical Steps to Determine if Gluten is a Trigger for Your Migraine Attacks

If you suspect that gluten may be a trigger for your migraine attacks, there are practical steps you can take to investigate further:

  1. Consult with a healthcare professional: Working with a doctor or a dietitian who specializes in migraine attacks can help you accurately diagnose gluten sensitivity and guide you through the process of eliminating gluten from your diet.
  2. Elimination diet approach: Gradually remove gluten-containing foods from your diet for a specific period, usually around two to six weeks, and monitor any changes in migraine frequency, intensity, and overall well-being. Keep a detailed record of your migraine episodes and symptoms along with your food intake.
  3. Keeping a detailed migraine diary: Recording the date and time of each migraine attack, duration, impact on daily activities, and any accompanying symptoms can help you identify patterns and potential triggers. Share this information with your healthcare professional for further analysis.

Remember, individual responses to dietary changes can vary, and what works for one person may not work for another. A personalized approach and professional guidance are crucial in determining if gluten is a trigger for your migraine attacks.


While the potential link between migraine attacks and gluten sensitivity is an area of ongoing research, exploring the impact of gluten on migraine attacks and making informed dietary choices can be beneficial for individuals who experience migraine attacks. Understanding triggers and considering a gluten-free diet may provide relief for some individuals, but it’s important to consult with healthcare professionals, conduct controlled trials, and continue research in this field for a better understanding of the connection between migraine attacks and gluten sensitivity.

Jenny from Migraine Buddy

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