By Vanessa Maltin
NFCA Director of Programming & Communications
Today is a marvelous day for people with celiac disease. And, it is especially wonderful for me since I suffered for more than 21 years with debilitating migraine headaches. I always thought that migraines just ran in my family. My dad and grandmother got them all the time and I just thought it was somewhat normal to always have a pain in the right side of my head….or at least I thought it was normal until the pain got so bad in college that I could hardly function. I was taking Intravenous prednisone daily (yes, a nurse came to my dorm room to administer it) and was nauseous and miserable all the time until that magical day that I was finally diagnosed with celiac disease.
Within six weeks of being on a a gluten-free diet, my headaches were gone. In my mind, it was truly a miracle. Since my diagnosis, I’ve told everyone I know who complains about migraine headaches to get tested for celiac disease. Today, I actually have scientific proof to send them that migraine headaches are an indicator of celiac disease! So here you go….published Turkish research about the connection between migraines and celiac!
The study is published in the September issue of the journal Cephalalgia and finds that children who experience migraine headaches have a greater risk of being diagnosed with celiac disease than children without headaches. I was first diagnosed with migraines when I was seven years old, so right in this age group!
Researchers from Baskent University Faculty of Medicine in Turkey studied 73 patients ranging in age from 6 to 17 who complained of migraine headaches and compared them with 147 healthy control patients. They found that 5.5% of the patients reporting migraine headaches tested positive for celiac disease, compared with only 0.6% of patients in the control group. Not all of the patients who received a positive blood test result underwent a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis, so the researchers are considering the findings a “reliable indicator of the presence of celiac disease.”
The researchers concluded that their findings of a higher prevalence of tTGA antibodies in migraine patients “suggests that an association between migraine and celiac disease might exist in the pediatric age group.”
Although the researchers note that significantly more research needs to be done, the study is a milestone for thousands of celiac patients who presented only with headache symptoms before receiving a diagnosis.
So…if you know someone who has routine migraine headaches, tell them to get tested for celiac disease! Send them to the Beyond Celiac and tell them to fill out a symptoms checklist and take it to their doctor! You never know…a simple blood test could change your life!