- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Could Food Sensitivities be causing chronic headaches?
The issue with chronic headaches is that it could be caused by so many different things. I feel that food sensitivities play such an significant role in chronic headaches that it needs to be always investigated as a possible cause. I'm not saying that all headaches are caused by food sensitivities, but that it should always be considered in rooting out the causes.
The problem is determining what food is triggering it. It is most likely not one food, but a category of food. For example, gluten or dairy or food additives / coloring, or MSG. These ingredients are in so many foods that you may not notice any one particular food as trigger. The best thing to try is an "elimination diet", that is to eliminate the most commonly allergenic foods for at least a week to see if symptoms disappears -- the longer the better. You can not just eliminate them for a day, because low-level sensitivities can have symptoms show up to three days after the food is eaten.
Because these food are so prevalent the in commercial food chain, it may mean that you have to cook all your own food during the elimination period.
If the headaches disappears during the elimination period, then food sensitivities is a likely cause. Now to pinpoint the exact food, you add back the food one at a time (give at least 3 days per food) to see which food is the trigger.
What possible food can cause headaches?
But what foods to eliminate during the elimination period.
Take a look at the book The Virgin Diet book which has a version of an elimination diet that eliminates seven food categories. These are the seven food categories that people are commonly sensitive to. They are gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, corn, peanuts, and certain refined sugars.
In the case of headaches, I would also exclude MSG, aspartame, and food colorings and additives from your diet during your elimination period.
Aspartame is a neuro-toxin and can kill brain cells. I wrote about it here. As for MSG (Monosodium glutamate), some people may be particularly sensitive to it, while others may not. Those sensitive to it may experience symptoms such as headaches and flushing.
How Does Food Sensitivity Causes Headaches?
How can food that you put in your stomach affect pain in your head? Don't be surprised, the body is not a Lego of independent pieces. Everything is connected to everything else.
Did you know that more than 90% of the brain neuro-transmitter serotonin is produced in the gut? Did you know that food sensitivity is associated with a "leaky gut"? I wrote about how to heal a leaky gut in another article. And if a person has a leaky gut, there is a chance they have a leaky blood-brain barrier too.
In fact the gut is sometimes known as the "second brain".
Read Dr. Mercola's article which has a section titled "Are Food Allergies Causing Your Migraines". It writes ...
"Searching the medical literature in PubMed.gov using the search terms "migraine" and "food allergies" will provide you with more than 150 different studies."
and that the common headache-producing food allergy foods are wheat, yeast, corn, cane sugar, grain cereals, eggs, citrus, cow's milk.
He also says that ...
"Both aspartame and MSG are notorious for causing headaches and triggering migraines."
Interestingly, WebMD writes article listing various foods that can trigger headaches. This include cheeses which is dairy and peanuts and baked goods which contain gluten. WebMD also included "cold foods" and alcohol and food additives.
Did you noticed that many of the foods listed overlap in the category to be eliminated in the elimination diet?
Gluten As a Possible Cause of Headaches
In the below video Dr. Osborne and Dr. O'Bryan talked about gluten causing headaches.
Without a doubt, gluten can be a cause of headaches for some people. Did you hear the above video? The reason that Dr. O'Bryan got interested in gluten sensitivity and celiac is when he heard of the study where 10 migraine headache sufferers was put on a gluten-free diet. Seven of them no longer have headaches. Two of them had headaches partially reduced. And the last one did not follow the gluten free diet.
Wikipedia writes that gluten-free diet as one of the preventions of migraines.
While it is true that celiac disease affects the gut. But for gluten sensitivity, this is not necessarily the case. The organ that gluten affects the most is actually the brain and central nervous system.
Here is article in Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, & Psychiatry titled "Gluten sensitivity as a neurological illness"
Just type in "gluten headache" in your search engine and you will find tons of references linking the two. Here are just a few...
CeliacDisease.about.com say ...
"But people with gluten allergies — especially those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and to a lesser extent, those with celiac disease — seem to be especially prone to them, and some even seem to get migraines that are triggered by gluten."
Dr. Perlmutter writes case report "Association Between Headache and Sensitivities to Gluten and Dairy"
Testimonials of Headaches Solved by Eliminating Certain Foods
Still don't believe that food can be causing your headaches? Here are some reports of people who have solved their chronic headache by figuring out what food to eliminate.
Posted under "Wheat Headache" is testimonial about a child with chronic headache. The mother placed him on a gluten-free diet and headaches disappear on the third day.
Dr. Vikki Petersen's article Are You Killing Your Brain with Gluten? writes that their clinic had ...
"witnessed the ‘miracle’ of removing gluten from someone’s diet and having their chronic headaches disappear. Personally, my mother and myself were migraine sufferers and these debilitating headaches had gluten as their root cause. I haven’t had a migraine in decades and it’s the same for her."
Dr. Mark Hyman writes 5 steps to solve migraines. Step one is to do an elimination diet. He says that gluten (such as in wheat, barley, rye, oats, and spelt), peanuts, dairy, and eggs can be the cause of headaches. He tells of one of his patient who had headaches for 40 years -- 40 years!! They discovered that the headaches were caused by eggs. When she stop eating eggs, no headaches. When she ate them again, headaches again.
Other possible causes of chronic headaches
In above article, Dr. Hyman also mentions other possible causes of headaches (besides gluten and other food sensitivities) could be hormonal imbalances, vitamin B deficiencies, melatonin imbalance, and magnesium deficiency.
Dr. Ben Kim writes ...
"build-up of toxins within your nervous system"
Dr. Peter Osborne writes ...
"A large percentage of migraines are actually induced by nutritional deficiencies, dietary allergens, and environmental chemical exposure. "
Spread the Word about Food Sensitivity and Headaches
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