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Migraine Among Patients with Celiac Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease

In the first US study of the kind, research conducted at Columbia University determined that chronic headaches and Migraine are more frequent among patients with Celiac Disease, gluten sensitivity (GS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) than among people with none of these conditions.1

Research findings

The research found the following about the prevalence of headache disorders among patients with the conditions studied:

Chronic Headaches:

  • Celiac Disease – 30%
  • Gluten Sensitive – 56%
  • IBD – 23%
  • Control Group (no Celiac Disease, GS or IBD) – 14%


  • Celiac Disease – 21%
  • Gluten Sensitive – 48%
  • IBD – 10%
  • Control Group (no Celiac Disease, GS or IBD) – 7%

Tension Headache:

  • Celiac Disease – 13%
  • Gluten Sensitive – 20%
  • IBD – 7%
  • Control Group (no Celiac Disease, GS or IBD) – 6%

Cluster Headache:

  • Celiac Disease – 2%
  • Gluten Sensitive – 4%
  • IBD – 3%
  • Control Group (no Celiac Disease, GS or IBD) – 1%

Those with Celiac Disease or IBD are more likely to experience migraine

The research team noted that Celiac Disease and IBD were both independent predictors of Migraine and had similar levels of Migraine prevalence. It is not yet known why people with Celiac Disease or IBD are more likely to experience Migraine. Also not yet known is whether there are any differences in the disease process of Migraine between patients with Celiac Disease and IBD.

Of great interest are the study’s findings about the severity of the patients’ headache disorders, as determined using the HIT-6, a six question written test used to assess the impact of living with a headache disorder on the patient’s functioning:

  • 72% of Celiac Disease patients reported the impact of Migraine on their lives as “Very Severe.”
  • 60% of IBD patients reported the impact of Migraine as “Very Severe.”
  • 50% of the control group reported the impact of Migraine as “Very Severe.”

Celiac disease may cause greater migraine severity

While the differences between these results is not statistically significant, the researchers said they raise the possibility that Migraine patients living with Celiac Disease experience a more severe version of Migraine as a result of the body’s inability to tolerate gluten.

Although an examination of treatments for Celiac Disease, gluten sensitivity or IBD was outside the scope of this study, the researchers noted that adopting a gluten-free diet is frequently reported to alleviate the burden of headache disorders in gluten sensitive patients.

The researchers recommend that Migraine patients be tested for gluten sensitivity and Celiac Disease, particularly those patients with severe, frequent and/or treatment-resistant Migraine attacks. As a patient if you suspect you may have gluten sensitivity or Celiac Disease in addition to Migraine, discuss it with your doctor.

Have any of you observed a connection between Migraine and Celiac Disease, gluten sensitivity or IBD? How has this affected the approach to treatment of your Migraine Disease?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

1. Alexandra K. Dimitrova, Ryan C. Ungaro, Benjamin Lebwohl, Suzanne K. Lewis, Christina A. Tennyson, Mark W. Green, Mark W. Babyatsky and Peter H. Green. "Prevalence of Migraine in Patients With Celiac Disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease." Headache 2013;53:344-355. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2012.02260.x.


  • Nilofer
    7 years ago

    I learned about gluten as a strong trigger 3 years ago, but I didn’t realize how strict I had to be to really see an effect. Since going STRICT (no breadcrumbs, no gluten in sauces etc) I have found a HUGE reduction. Unlike other food triggers, this one seems to be the most sensitive. Milk products, sadly, are a big trigger too but now quite as sensitive as gluten for me.

  • Diana-Lee author
    7 years ago

    I’m glad to hear eliminating gluten has helped you. I tried a gluten free diet for about four months to see if it helped with my Migraines. It didn’t, but I’m still glad I ruled it out.

  • mrsbrimtown
    7 years ago

    Good article, it’s prompted me to start reexamining my diet. Again.

    I know that pizza dough and soft pretzels trigger some of the worst ever migraines, I’ve got rosacea, sebbhorric dermatitis, dandruff, chronic constipation, esophagus tightening, soy allergy, definite digestive issues, etc. (Despite regular exercise and healthy low fat dieting with lots of fruits and veggies. All the good stuff.)

    When following a no processed foods diet in the past I’ve felt great. Usually no processed meant no wheat products since they’re processed.

    Won’t know if it’s helped for several months though.

  • Diana-Lee author
    7 years ago

    It definitely sounds like gluten free might be a good option for you. I tried it for about four months to see if it helped my Migraines. It didn’t, but I’m still glad I gave it a shot. I hope it will be helpful for you.

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