Do you get migraines? Dr. Claudia Pillow discusses how foods can trigger them and how a gluten-free diet might help.
How do you stop a migraine without taking medicine? Give up food containing wheat, barley and rye. Could Michele Bachmann and 12 million other migraine sufferers go on a gluten-free diet and experience fewer and less severe headaches, maybe even no headaches?
Migraines are severe, recurring and disabling headaches, usually affecting only one side of the head; they often are accompanied by nausea, vomiting, a sensitivity to light and visual disturbances. They occur more frequently in women than men. Approximately 6% of men and 18% of women experience a migraine headache during their lifetime and 30 million Americans experience multiple migraines every month. Many sufferers, including Senator Bachmann report that their migraines were moderately or very disruptive to their families and friends (1).
There are many foods that can trigger headaches including aged cheese, red wine, food additives and chocolate. Research also shows that gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, may be a cause of recurring headaches (2). Wheat contains gluten and many of the other trigger foods are eaten in combination with wheat based products: cheese and crackers, red wine and pasta, hot dogs and lunch meat containing food additives and bread, and chocolate cake, In fact, the medical community has known about an association between migraines and gluten intolerance for years. Celiac disease is an inherited, autoimmune disease in which the lining of the small intestine is damaged (villous atrophy) from eating gluten. It is estimated that 4% of migraine sufferers have celiac disease, equal to approximately 1.2 million Americans (3). Celiac disease is just one type of gluten intolerance and affects one in 100 people. Non-celiac gluten intolerance affects an estimated 1 in 10 and is only recently being recognized as gluten sensitivity without villous atrophy. Could 40% of migraine sufferers have non-celiac gluten intolerance? Could 12 million people go on a gluten-free diet and experience fewer and less severe headaches, maybe even no headaches? No bagel is worth the pain to you or your personal life. To understand the difference between celiac disease and non-celiac gluten intolerance, go to the FoodPhilosopher.com.
And Senator, going on a gluten-free diet no longer means giving up your favorite foods. Contrary to many reports in the news, a gluten-free diet of whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, lean protein, nuts, seeds and gluten-free grains (including buckwheat and quinoa) is very healthy, nutritious and contains plenty of fiber. Even some fast food restaurants (a necessity on the campaign trail) have gluten-free options. But just in case, always carry some Hail Merry Grawnola with you when you leave home for quick and sustaining energy on the road. When a celebratory dessert is in order, try this delicious gluten-free raw, vegan Strawberry Shortcake recipe.
- (1) "Migraine frequency and health utilities: findings from a multi-site survey," published in Value in Health, surveyed 150 migraine patients in the U.S. to study how migraine frequency affects quality of life. The study was co-authored by Jeffrey Brown, PhD (Harvard Medical School/Harvard Pilgrim Health Care), Peter J. Neumann, ScD (Tufts-New England Medical Center Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy), George Papadopoulos (Schering-Plough Corporation), Gary Ruoff, MD (Westside Family Medical Center), Merle Diamond, MD (Diamond Headache Clinic), and Joseph Menzin, PhD (Boston Health Economics, Inc.).
- (2) American Academy of Neurology (2001, February 14). Gluten In The Diet May Be The Cause Of Recurring Headaches. Science Daily. Retrieved June 7, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/02/010213072604.htm
- (3) Gabrielli, M., Cremonini, F., et al (2003). Association between migraine and Celiac disease: results from a preliminary case-control and therapeutic study. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 98(7):1674. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12650798.