Research Shows IBD Sufferers More Prone to Chronic Headaches

January 14, 2013

Practitioners of eastern or alternative medicine would not be at all surprised to learn the results of a recent research report indicating that individuals with underlying digestive system ailments like irritable bowel and celiac disease are prone to headaches and migraines.  If you suffer with tummy problems and severe chronic headaches or migraines, your treatment may involve correctly diagnosing and treating the underlying digestive disease.  In eastern medicine, there is a fundamental understanding that the body’s functional systems are interconnected, and that it makes perfect sense if there is a problem in one area, it will be related to problems in others areas.

The study was designed to determine the frequency of headaches among sufferers of irritable bowel disease and celiac disease. Inflammatory bowel disease includes ulcerative colitis, which affects the lining of the colon, and Crohn’s disease, a more serious condition affecting the entire wall of the colon.  These incurable diseases are managed in a variety of ways including diet modifications, medication, stress management techniques and in severe cases surgery. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that is treatable by adopting a gluten free diet.  Various research studies have explored possible connections between chronic headaches or migraines and IBD, but the connection is not entirely understood.  The key to treating migraines that may be linked to IBD may be found in the treatment for these conditions as well.

In the recently published study from the Department of Neurology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, 502 people were surveyed.  Among the subjects, 188 had celiac disease; 111 had IBD; 25 had gluten sensitivity and 178 were healthy.  Among those with stomach conditions, 30 percent of those with celiac disease and 23 percent of those with IBD had chronic headaches.  56 percent of those with gluten sensitivity had serious headaches.  The researchers also found that the subjects with IBD were 2.66 times more likely to suffer with migraines and those with celiac disease were 3.79 times as likely to experience migraines.  Treatment for migraines and headaches among this population should no doubt include diet modification like eliminating gluten, caffeine and various other inflammatory foods.  Therapy for managing stress is also recommended for these autoimmune diseases which tend to flare with stress and tension.  The study appears online at Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain.

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