Is Gluten Causing Your Migraines?

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If you have ever experienced migraine headaches, you know that they are intense, throbbing/pulsing sensations in one area of your head.

In addition, they are often accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea/vomiting and an extreme sensitivity to sound and light.

A migraine headache attack can result in serious pain for hours or even days and can be so extreme that the only thing that you can think about is finding a quiet and dark place to lie down.

In some cases, migraine headaches are preceded by some sensory warnings- known as aura- which can be blind spots, tingling/numbness in arms and/or legs, or flashes of light.

There are many possible causes for migraines, including gluten. Researchers are currently looking at gluten as a possibility for migraine cause.

If you suspect gluten is causing your migraines, you should do a trial elimination period in which you eliminate gluten from your diet for a period of one to three months.

Then, slowly reintroduce it- if the gluten is causing your migraines, the headaches will go away when you are not consuming it and will come back once you start again.

There are some medications that can help to lower the severity and frequency of your migraine headaches. If you have tried one- or more- treatments in the past and nothing has worked for you, speak with your physician about trying something else.

If gluten is what is causing your headache, try eliminating gluten from your diet. In addition, there are medications that you can take as well as some changes in lifestyle and self-help remedies that can be quite effective.

Symptoms of Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches typically appear in children, teens, or young adults. While typically migraines will progress through 4 stages, everyone may not experience all stages.

Prodrome: a day or two before the onset of a migraine, you might notice some changes that indicate an oncoming migraine, including: depression, hyperactivity, food cravings, constipation, neck stiffness, irritability, and uncontrollable yawning

Aura: this can occur before or even during a migraine headache. An aura is a nervous system symptom that is typically a visual one, such as flashes of light. In addition, auras can be sensory, motor, or speech-related disturbances.

Most people do not have aura with their migraines- but if you do have them, they typically build slowly over several minutes and last for 20 to 60 minutes.

Headache: when left untreated, a migraine headache will last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours- but the frequency varies from one person to the next. Some individuals have migraine attacks several times each month and some don’t have them very often.

During a migraine headache, you may notice pain on one or both sides of your head, pulsing/throbbing pain, sensitivity to sensory stimuli (light, sounds, smells, etc), blurry vision, lightheadedness, and nausea/vomiting.

Postdrome: this is the final phase of a migraine headache and is the time period when you will likely feel drained/washed out- though some individuals have reported euphoria during this time.

 connection between gluten and migraines

When to Visit your Physician

In most cases, migraine headaches are left undiagnosed and therefore, untreated. If you experience the signs and symptoms of migraine headaches on a regular basis, you should keep a record of these attacks and how you are self-treating them. Then, you should make an appointment to discuss your headaches with your physician.

Even if you do have a medical history of your headaches, if the pattern of them changes or they start to feel different, you should speak with your physician.

If you experience any of the following, you should go to the nearest emergency room or see your physician immediately:

  • Headache accompanied by stiff neck, seizures, numbness, difficulty speaking, mental confusion, fever, weakness, or double vision
  • Headache after an injury to your head
  • Sudden, severe headache similar to a thunderclap
  • Chronic headache that worsens after you cough, strain, move suddenly, or exert yourself
  • New headache pain for individuals over the age of 50

Prevention of Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches cannot be cured, but your physician will work closely with you to determine the best way to manage your condition.

There are a variety of medications that have been designed for the treatment of medications. There are also some medications that, while put on the market to treat other conditions, have been found to relieve the pain of migraine headaches or even to prevent migraines.

Besides the medications, there are also some self-care treatments you can use to help with your migraine headaches.

As mentioned, if it is suspected that gluten is the contributing factor to your migraine headaches, you should eliminate gluten from your diet for a period of at least one month- however, 2-3 months would be better.

After this elimination, you can slowly reintroduce it to your diet. For those individuals who have migraines caused by gluten, they will notice their headaches almost disappear during their elimination period and when they reintroduce it to their diet, the migraines return with a vengeance.

Some of the other self-care and natural measures that can help to ease the pain associated with migraine headaches include the following:

Muscle-Relaxation Exercises: some research says that relaxation techniques can help to ease the pain of migraine headaches. This can include things such as meditation, yoga, or even progressive muscle relaxation.

Get adequate sleep/rest: make sure that you get the proper amount of sleep every night- but don’t sleep too much. Go to bed and wake up at regular times each day.

Relax/rest: when you feel a headache coming on, if it is possible, find a quiet, dark room to rest in. Wrap an ice pack in a cloth and place on the back of your neck and/or gently apply pressure to the areas of your scalp that are painful.

Keep a diary: even after you see your physician, it can be helpful to keep a headache diary- this will help you to learn more about your triggers and which treatments work best.