Wheat protein can trigger severe headaches

February 20, 2001 in Allergies & Intolerances, Nutrition Topics in the News

Wheat protein can trigger severe headaches

According to the results of a small new study from the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, UK, some people may experience migraine headaches due to wheat.

The investigators found that limiting gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains, reduced symptoms of severe headache in seven out of nine patients. The patients were all found to have sensitivity to gluten, which results in a heightened immune responsiveness triggered by the protein.

Gluten sensitivity can include celiac disease, an inherited inability to digest gluten that results in abdominal distention, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle wasting and lethargy. Other conditions can also develop, including neurological problems or dermatitis herpetiformis -- blister-like lesions on the elbows, buttocks and knees. The only treatment is strict avoidance of certain foods.

The study looked at 10 patients who had a long history of headaches that had recently worsened or became resistant to treatment. Nine of the 10 patients tried a gluten-free diet, and seven stopped having headaches. Two other patients had some, but not complete success, by switching to a gluten-free diet. If the results of the current study are confirmed, removal of the trigger factor by the early introduction of gluten-free diet may be a promising therapeutic intervention for migraine headaches.

Further studies of the effect of gluten-free diet are needed to confirm these preliminary findings.

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