what causes migraine headaches?

What Causes Migraine Headaches?

If you suffer from migraines, you know it’s not just a headache. Affecting about 13% of men and 33% of women, migraine is a highly disabling condition associated with high personal and financial costs. Despite the many years looking into this condition, researchers are still struggling to understand this complex neurological condition. And to answer the question, what causes migraine headaches?

One aspect known is that, despite having a certain genetic background – calculated at about 20% in twins – this condition is greatly influenced by environmental factors. One of these factors seems to be the type of bacteria living in your gut. This can have an enormous impact on your health, with friendly bacteria boosting your immune system while less hospitable ones can cause a variety of diseases, from obesity to depression.

The exact mechanism linking migraines and gut microbiota is still a mystery, but a possible way involves gut permeability and increased inflammation. Given the detrimental effect gluten can have on the intestinal wall, it should not be surprising then that researchers have found a link between celiac disease and migraines.

Migraine and celiac disease

Several studies have now confirmed the link between migraines and celiac disease. In fact, the connection goes both ways: patients with celiac disease are more likely to suffer from migraines and patients with migraines are more likely to develop celiac disease. For example, one study reported a risk of developing migraines twice as high in patients with celiac disease compared to the control group, while the risk of migraine patients having celiac disease was about four times higher in another study.

How are these two conditions linked?

Researchers believe the link between migraine and celiac disease is caused by increased gut permeability and inflammation. As the gut “leaks” inflammatory compounds into the bloodstream, they quickly reach the brain and cause migraines, especially in patients that already have a genetic susceptibility to this condition. This connection has proved so strong that some researchers even advocate that all patients suffering from migraines regularly should be screened for celiac disease.

Curiously, this link with migraines is not exclusive to celiac disease, but it can also occur in patients suffering from other intestinal disorders, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease. At a first glance, this seems to suggest that it’s not directly caused by gluten, but rather a consequence of the inflammation and leaky gut.

How to treat migraines in celiac disease patients?

Few studies have addressed this issue, but not surprisingly, the few that did found that a gluten-free diet goes a long way to minimise or even eliminate migraines. Still in a preliminary phase, but it seems the effects of a gluten-free diet are felt quite quickly with significant reductions in duration and intensity of migraine headaches. Further research is needed to confirm, but these results suggest simply following a strict gluten-free diet can bring a welcome relief from headaches, with no expensive and unpleasant medication.

Future research

The study of migraines may have been going on for decades, but the link to celiac disease is a recent discovery. Confirmative research is ongoing. Further research is needed to pinpoint exactly what’s happening and potentially find better and faster ways to help patients. This could include studying gut permeability in migraine patients or looking closely at how a gluten-free diet can alleviate the condition.



This original article is made possible by Gluten Free Therapeutics. Our mission is to educate, inform, and provide the most effective nutritional products possible to allow those with celiac disease and serious gluten intolerances to heal their bodies. CeliVites complete line of superior gluten free supplements includes multivitamin supplements, iron supplements, and calcium supplements for people living with celiac disease. All CeliVites products are designed to help you heal, restore and rebuild your body, because going gluten free isn’t enough! 


Comments ()

  1. Joy Neale-May says:

    I have a gluten sensitivity and have suffered from migraines for over twenty years. Since going gluten free there has been a marked improvement in my headaches. I do take Calan SR to stabilize the veins, prescribed by the neurologist.

  2. Laura says:

    I have had migraines for years. Went GF and it changed nothing, unfortunately.

  3. Jen says:

    Taking magnesium glycinate has helped my migraines immensely. I take 200 mg in the morning, and 200 mg at bedtime. After a few weeks, they began to happen less often and be less severe. Now I will notice light and sound sensitivity, but little to no pain even with my monthly cycle. However, be warned…when I get accidentally glutened, migraines come back and it takes a while for the magnesium to build up in my system again. I assume this is due to an inability to absorb it because of my damaged gut.

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