Celiac disease and headache

By Van Waffle

People with celiac disease are more likely to visit the doctor with headache complaints, according to a large population study by U.S. and Swedish researchers. It identified 26,638 Swedish celiac disease patients and matched each with up to five controls for comparison. The celiac disease patients made 66% more headache-related health-care visits. The most common diagnosis was migraine.

The risk for headache visits declined over time after diagnosis but remained higher than normal. The study didn’t track adherence to the gluten-free diet, so no conclusion could be reached on its benefits.

The study also found an elevated headache risk in people who had intestinal inflammation but no tissue damage associated with celiac disease and in people with normal intestinal tissue but elevated blood antibodies associated with celiac disease. These findings support evidence that autoimmunity and inflammation associated with celiac disease can lead to headaches. More research is needed to explain why.


Lebwohl B, Roy A, Alaedini A, Green PHR, Ludvigsson JF, “Risk of headache-related healthcare visits in patients with celiac disease: a population-based observational study,” Headache, 12 Mar 2016, doi:10.1111/head.12784 [Epub ahead of print].

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