Celiac disease and its link to migraine headaches

what you need to know

If you suffer from chronic migraines and not finding relief from current therapies. Give our office a call at (425) 686-4498 to schedule your initial consultation to learn how we can help!

Natural relief from Headaches


Imagine a fire somewhere in your body that was triggered by something you ate. This fire can spread rapidly, causing damage and affecting other parts of your body. By finding the source of what is fueling the fire, removing it, and properly repairing damaged tissues, your migraine symptoms could be gone for good.


Celiac disease and its link to migraine headaches

Celiac disease is the result of an autoimmune reaction against gliadin, the main protein found in gluten. The reaction creates inflammation and damage to the small intestine lining (aka the endothelial cells that line the intestine). These cells, which are held together by tight bonds, become weaker upon damage by the immune reaction, resulting in inflammation.

Therefore, this damage leads to intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut): particles that should not cross the intestinal cells make their way into the bloodstream and can lead to further allergies or intolerances. If the particles travel to the brain, inflammation can result in headaches or migraines.

Are there other conditions associated with celiac?

According to the National Institutes of Health and The American Journal of Gastroenterology, recurrent migraines and headaches may be associated with celiac disease and other disorders, like IBS and inflammatory bowel syndrome. It is estimated that 4% of migraine sufferers may have celiac disease.

In a recent study, this connection was examined, and a correlation was found in people with diagnosed celiac disease. Another set of people with inflammatory bowel disease had an increased prevalence of migraines. Some participants in the study reported an improvement or resolution of their migraines on a gluten-free diet. Additional research soon to be published will address how gluten-free diets may help migraine sufferers. One study noted that participants on a six-month gluten-free diet showed not only a decrease in migraine attacks but also an increase in cerebral blood flow, possibly explaining why they had fewer migraines.

What is the connection?

The link between celiac disease and the prevalence of migraines may be due to the relationship between the gut and the brain (the gut-brain axis). This association between gut health, microbial balance, and the effect on brain health may be deeper than previously thought. These systems are connected not only via immune pathways but also neurologically. Many of my patients already inherently know this: they come in for digestive issues, like constipation and IBS, but also feel depressed, anxious, or just plain “lousy.”

Role of gut microbiome

There have been over 25 different diseases associated with disturbances in the good bacteria in the gut and the subsequent effect on health; migraines is only one effect. The gut microbe plays a key role in maintaining digestive and brain function; its association with diseases like migraines and everyday headaches highlights the importance of removing triggers that lead to inflammation in both the gut and the brain.

By incorporating the use of probiotics into a treatment plan for migraines helps to repair and repopulate the good bacteria. Probiotics (aka the good microbial) are cultures of normal bacteria that reside in the gut. They work to enhance the microbial balance, restore and sustain integrity of intestinal cells, and boost the immune system, all of which helps to prevent leaky gut and the development of food intolerances, and assists in regulating digestion.

Read more on probiotics in our previous post here.

Therefore, the first step in reducing migraine attacks might be the diagnosis of celiac disease followed by adherence to a gluten-free diet and correction of any other nutrient deficiencies to prevent malabsorption, reduce inflammation, and restore microbial balance and gut health.


If you suffer from chronic migraines and not finding relief from current therapies. Give our office a call at (425) 686-4498 to schedule your initial consultation to learn how we can help!

Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist in Bothell, WA at her practice Starting Point Acupuncture. She specializes in chronic and complex cases and commonly treats neuropathy, fibromyalgia, migraines, autoimmune, and infertility cases. Dr. Ellie Heintze is also the author of the book, A Starting Point Guide to Going Gluten-Free  and Keep Calm and Zen Out available on Amazon.


Barclay, L. (2003, March 25). Migraine Linked to Celiac Disease. Retrieved August 25, 2015, from Medscape Multispeciality: www.medscape.com/viewarticle/451164

Dimitrova AK., e. a. (2013). Prevalence of migraines in patients with celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease. Headache , 53 (2), 344-355.

Gabrielli M., e. a. (2003). Association between migraine and celiac disease results from a preliminary case-control and therapeutic study. Am J Gastroenterol , 98, 625-629.

Gaby A. (2011). Nutritional Medicine. Concord: Fritz Publishing.

Mokrozub VV., e. a. (2015). The role of beneficial bacteria wall elasticity in regulating innate immune response. The EPMA Journal , 6 (13), 1-15.

NIH. (2004). National Institutes of Health. Retrieved August 14, 2015, from https://consensus.nih.gov/

Rogawski MA. (2012). Migraine and Epilepsy-Shared Mechanisms within the Family of Episodic Disorders. Jasper’s Basic Mechanisms of the Epilepsies .

Rubio-Tapia. (2010). Celiac Disease. Curr Opin Gastroenterol , 26 (2), 116-122.

Rubio-Tapia, A. e. (2013). ACG clinical guidelines: diagnosis and management of celiac disease. Am J Gastroenterolol. , 108 (5), 656.

Call or Schedule Now! (425) 686-4498

Call or Schedule Now!

(425) 686-4498

Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc

  • Master’s Degree in Acupuncture
    Bastyr University
  • Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine
    Bastyr University
  • Master’s Degree in Chemistry
    Northern Arizona University
Dr. Heintze Acupuncturist and Naturopathic Doctor

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