Can a Gluten-Free Diet Benefit Migraine Sufferers?

Migraines are severe, recurring and disabling headaches, usually affecting only one side of the head; they often are accompanied by nausea, vomiting, a sensitivity to light and visual disturbances. They occur more frequently in women than men. Approximately 6% of men and 18% of women experience a migraine headache during their lifetime and 30 million Americans experience multiple migraines every month. Many sufferers report that their migraines were moderately or very disruptive to their families and friends (1).

There are many foods that can trigger headaches including aged cheese, red wine, food additives and chocolate. Research also shows that gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, may be a cause of recurring headaches (2). Wheat contains gluten and many of the other trigger foods are eaten in combination with wheat based products: cheese and crackers, red wine and pasta, hot dogs and lunch meat containing food additives and bread, and chocolate cake, In fact, the medical community has known about an association between migraines and gluten intolerance for years. Celiac disease is an inherited, autoimmune disease in which the lining of the small intestine is damaged (villous atrophy) from eating gluten. It is estimated that 4% of migraine sufferers have celiac disease, equal to approximately 1.2 million Americans (3).  Celiac disease is just one type of gluten intolerance and affects 1 in 100 people. Non-celiac gluten intolerance affects an estimated 1 in 10 and is only recently being recognized as a gluten sensitivity without villous atrophy. Could 40% of migraine sufferers have non-celiac gluten intolerance? Could 12 million people go on a gluten-free diet and experience fewer and less severe headaches, maybe even no headaches? No bagel is worth the pain to you or your personal life. To understand the difference between celiac disease and non-celiac gluten intolerance, go to

Going on a gluten-free diet no longer means giving up your favorite foods. And contrary to many reports in the news, a gluten-free diet of whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, lean protein, nuts, seeds and gluten-free grains (including oats, quinoa, and brown rice) is very healthy and nutritious. The Food Philosopher website is filled with delicious gluten-free options for bread and pancakes. One of my favorite summer pasta dishes is Penne Pasta with Feta, Tomato and Basil. Serve it with grilled chicken and vegetables. For a complete dinner menu with gluten-free recipes go to


Serves 8 to 10 as a side dish

1 pound gluten-free penne pasta* (such as Tinkyada®)
½  cup chicken stock
½ cup prepared pesto
8 ounces feta cheese cut into cubes
6 Roma tomatoes, chopped
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ cup corn, cooked until just tender
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions.
  2. In large mixing bowl, toss cooked warm pasta with chicken stock and pesto.
  3. Combine remaining ingredients and toss with pasta. Adjust seasonings.
  4. Can be served hot or at room temperature. Keep tightly covered until ready to serve.


(1) “Migraine frequency and health utilities: findings from a multi-site survey,” published in Value in Health, surveyed 150 migraine patients in the U.S. to study how migraine frequency affects quality of life. The study was co-authored by Jeffrey Brown, PhD (Harvard Medical School/Harvard Pilgrim Health Care), Peter J. Neumann, ScD (Tufts-New England Medical Center Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy), George Papadopoulos (Schering-Plough Corporation), Gary Ruoff, MD (Westside Family Medical Center), Merle Diamond, MD (Diamond Headache Clinic), and Joseph Menzin, PhD (Boston Health Economics, Inc.).

(2) American Academy of Neurology (2001, February 14). Gluten In The Diet May Be The Cause Of Recurring Headaches. Science Daily. Retrieved June 7, 2010, from­ /releases/2001/02/010213072604.htm.

(3) Gabrielli, M., Cremonini, F., et al (2003). Association between migraine and Celiac disease: results from a preliminary case-control and therapeutic study. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 98(7):1674. Retrieved from


1 Comment

  1. May 15, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    4) One cup of Campbell harvest light soup of a roasted
    chicken with Italian herbs is also a nice example of
    a healthy snack list. Sweet rice flour is the best at thickening sauces and gravies.
    So the prospect of eliminating my baguette when having
    my cheese or not having my Sunday treats was a little daunting.

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