Can Gluten Cause Headaches? Here’s Why It Could Be the Culprit

A lot of people think that gluten is the root of all evil when it comes to their health. This is especially true for people like me who have an autoimmune disorder known as celiac disease.

If you’re one of the unlucky people who suffer from chronic headaches or frequent migraine attacks, then you know just how frustrating they can be. So what do you do when your usual remedies don’t work? What if the root cause is gluten?

Believe it or not, gluten can actually increase migraine frequency in some people. In that case, you may need to follow an elimination diet to help reduce the likelihood of migraine episodes or other gluten sensitivity or intolerance symptoms.

Keep reading to learn more about the potential link between gluten and headaches and some of the best ways to deal with this annoying and potentially debilitating connection.

Defining Gluten: What Is It and Where Can You Find It?

There’s a lot of confusion out there about gluten. What is it, and where is it found? And what are the symptoms of gluten intolerance or celiac disease? Let’s clear things up.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It’s what gives bread its chewy texture and beer its foamy head. For people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, however, gluten can trigger a range of symptoms, including gastrointestinal issues, migraine headaches, and even nervous system problems like ataxia.

In fact, celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that can damage the small intestine if not managed correctly. This is a consequence of the body’s inflammatory response, which can cause abdominal pain as well as headaches and migraines. 

It’s a good idea to see a doctor for diagnosis if you’re experiencing any of the signs of celiac disease. But even if you test negative, you may still be intolerant to gluten. 

If you suspect that gluten is perhaps a trigger for you, try eliminating it from your diet for a few weeks to see if your symptoms improve.

How Gluten Can Cause Headaches

If you suffer from migraines, you may be all too familiar with the intense, throbbing pain that can leave you debilitated for hours – or even days. And while there are many potential triggers for migraines, including stress, hormonal changes, and certain foods, new research suggests that gluten may be a hidden culprit.

While it’s long been known that patients with celiac disease – an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten – are at increased risk for migraines, recent studies have also linked gluten sensitivity to migraines.

While the exact mechanism is not clear, it’s thought that gluten may trigger migraines by causing inflammation. This inflammation is associated with a long list of symptoms, including headaches and numerous digestive issues.

We all know that certain foods can trigger headaches and even migraines. But did you know that gluten can be one of those trigger foods?

Even a tiny amount can cause unpleasant symptoms for those who can’t tolerate gluten. And for some, eating gluten can be a migraine trigger.

While there is no definitive proof that gluten is the cause of headaches or migraines, there is a growing body of evidence linking gluten sensitivity to these conditions.

The Link Between Celiac Disease and Headaches

Migraines are never fun. But did you know that they might actually be caused by something you’re eating? It’s true! If you have a sensitivity to gluten, consuming it can cause migraines. 

And it’s not just celiacs who are affected; people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) can also experience migraines.

When people with gluten sensitivity eat foods containing gluten, it can irritate the small intestine. This irritation can cause the release of certain chemicals that trigger migraines.

The best way to find out if you’re sensitive to gluten is to avoid eating foods that contain it. This can be difficult since gluten is found in many common foods, such as bread, pasta, cereal, and baked goods.

However, many delicious gluten-free options are now available, so you don’t have to give up your favorite foods entirely. And who knows, your migraines may become a thing of the past if you stick to a strict gluten-free diet!

How To Avoid Headaches Associated With Gluten Intolerance

If you’re one of the many people who suffer from headaches caused by gluten, you’re probably all too familiar with the relentless pain and discomfort that comes with this condition. 

But did you know that there are actually ways to avoid headaches caused by gluten? For people with celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is essential in managing their symptoms.

One study found that migraines can be more common in celiacs and people with inflammatory bowel disease [1]. But if you’re able to take the necessary precautions, such as taking care to avoid cross-contamination, this should hopefully help in reducing migraines.

Even for those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, avoiding foods containing gluten can help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines.

Final Thoughts on Gluten and Headaches

It seems that for some people, eating gluten can trigger headaches. I am susceptible to them, so if you are too, I feel your pain (quite literally).

If you think you might be sensitive to gluten, it’s worth eliminating it from your diet to see if it makes a difference, as headaches are a common symptom of celiac disease (among many other things).

And if you have other symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, or sensitivity to light, it’s worth getting tested for gluten sensitivity, wheat allergy, or celiac disease.

Remember, though, that headaches are just one symptom of gluten sensitivity, so even if you don’t get them after eliminating gluten, you may still be sensitive to the protein.

Digestive symptoms are also common in people who eat gluten, so it’s worth speaking with a qualified dietitian or your doctor if you’re struggling with common symptoms linked to gluten sensitivity.


How can I get tested for celiac disease?

A blood test or endoscopy diagnoses celiac disease. The blood test looks for antibodies produced in response to gluten. The endoscopy looks for damage to the villi, which are tiny finger-like projections that line the small intestine and help absorb nutrients from food.

What should I do if I experience a migraine frequently?

If you are experiencing a migraine, try to rest in a dark, quiet room and keep up your fluid intake. Over-the-counter pain medications may also help relieve symptoms associated with migraines. But if you experience migraines frequently, talk to your doctor about preventive treatments that may help reduce the frequency and severity of your migraines.

Disclaimer: This content is based on my personal experience as an individual diagnosed with celiac disease and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) who follows a strict gluten-free diet. This does not constitute medical advice. Please consult a medical professional, nutritionist, or qualified dietitian for personalized, professional advice.

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