Gluten in the Diet May Be the Cause of Recurring Headaches

St. Paul, Minn. – It may be worthwhile to consider how much wheat you eat if you suffer from headaches or lack of coordination and have gluten sensitivity. Researchers found that removing or cutting back on gluten – a protein in wheat and other grains -- in the diet greatly reduced these symptoms among a middle-aged study group. The study is reported in the February 13, 2001 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study reported 10 patients with gluten sensitivity whose MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) tests suggested inflammation of the central nervous system. All had experienced occasional headaches and some suffered from unsteadiness and failure of muscle coordination. After removing gluten from their diets, nine of the 10 patients in the study found full or partial relief. One patient would not try the diet. In one of the cases, a 50-year-old man developed headaches and nausea along with confusion and agitation. He had experienced episodic headache for four years but then the attacks progressed in frequency and severity. After starting a gluten-free diet his balance improved rapidly and his headaches cleared completely. After a relaxation of the gluten-free diet, his intermittent headaches returned. In a similar case reported elsewhere, said study author and neurologist Marios Hadjivassiliou, MD, a 45-year-old man had suffered from migraine since childhood, and that over time his attacks had become more severe and resistant to treatment. Following the diagnosis of gluten sensitivity and introduction of the gluten-free diet, his headaches were resolved. “Removing the trigger factor, in this case gluten, may be a therapeutic intervention for some patients with gluten sensitivity and headache,” said Hadjivassiliou. The diagnosis of gluten sensitivity and gluten-related neurological dysfunction relies on the presence of antibodies. In addition, certain genes make some individuals more susceptible to gluten sensitivity.

The American Academy of Neurology is the world's largest association of neurologists and neuroscience professionals, with 34,000 members. The AAN is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, concussion, Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.

For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit AAN.com or find us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.


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