Study Connects Migraine With Celiac and Irritable Bowel

Teri Robert @trobert Health Guide
  • A recent study should be of interest to many Migraine patients who have wondered about gluten as a Migraine trigger and any connection between Migraine and celiac disease and / or inflammatory bowel disease. Studies in Europe have shown an increased prevalence of Migraine in patients with celiac disease compared with patients without Migraine. This study was conducted in the United States.

    The Study

    Study objective:

    "To assess the prevalence of headache in clinic and support group patients with celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) compared with a sample of healthy controls."

    Study methods:

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:
    • Potential study participants answered a self-administered survey to obtain clinical, demographic, and dietary data, including data about Migraine and headache type and frequency.
    • The Headache Impact Test (HIT-6) and ID-Migraine screening test were also used to screen potential study participants.
    • Of 522 subjects who met the exclusion criteria and were analyzed:
      • 188 had celiac disease,
      • 111 had inflammatory bowel disease (IBD),
      • 25 were categorized with gluten sensitivity (GS),
      • and 178 were categorized with none of the three.

    Study results:


    Chronic headaches were reported by

    • 30% of celiac disease group,
    • 56% of the GS group, and
    • 23% of IBD group. 
    • Compared with 14% of control subjects.

    There was a significantly higher prevalence of Migraine by ID-Migraine criteria:

    • 40% in the celiac disease group,
    • 21% in the GS group, and
    • 14% in the IBD group,
    • Compared with 6% in the control group.

    When rating the impact of Migraine:

    • 72% of participants in the celiac disease group graded their Migraines as severe;
    • 60% of those with GS graded theirs as severe;
    • 30% of the IBD group graded theirs as severe; and
    • 50% of the control group with Migraines graded theirs as severe.
    • There was o correlation between years following a gluten-free diet and Migraine severity.

    Study conclusions:


    As have other international studies, this study indicates that patients with celiac disease report increased headache and Migraine prevalence when compared to patients without known celiac disease. This study also showed a significantly increased prevalence of headache and Migraine in patients with irritable bowel disease. Additionally, in this study, the data on Migraine severity showed that more of the participants with celiac disease experienced "very severe impact." The study authors concluded that, "Future studies should include screening migraine patients for celiac disease and assessing the effects of gluten-free diet on migraines in celiac disease."

    Summary and comments:

    Both patients with celiac disease and patients with inflammatory bowel disease showed a higher prevalence of Migraine than healthy controls as did patients with gluten sensitivity. This should be of interest, especially given the current interest in gluten-free diets. Patients who think they may have comorbid celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or inflammatory bowel disease, should discuss these issues with their doctors.


    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:




    Dimitrova, Alexandra K., MD; Ungaro, Ryan C., MD; Lebwohl, Benjamin, MD; Lewis, Suzanne K., MD; Tennyson, Christina A., MD; Green, Mark W., MD; Babyatsky, Mark W., MD; Green, Peter H., MD. "Prevalence of Migraine in Patients With Celiac Disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease." Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain. Early View. First published online November 5, 2012. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2012.02260.x.

    Live well,




    Get the latest Migraine and headache news, informational articles, tips for living well, and more in my free weekly newsletter. To subscribe, CLICK HERE.



    Follow me on    or



    Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape© Teri Robert, 2012.
    Last updated November 12, 2012.

Published On: November 12, 2012