Some of the most common causes of migraine are vitamin/mineral deficiencies, food sensitivities, and environmental changes.
Some studies have shown a link between gluten intolerance and thyroid disease (especially hypothyroidism), and we already know there is a link between hypothyroidism and migraines, so let’s connect the dots.
The Thyroid – Gluten Connection
Since the studies are written in medical jargon, which should be added to my list of migraine triggers, I am going to take a few minutes to break down this connection. This way, we can all slowly back away from the hard-lined terms of medical studies without making any sudden movements.
To summarize, gliadin is the protein part of gluten. The structure of gliadin is very similar to that which makes up the thyroid gland, so when gliadin makes its way into the bloodstream through the gut barriers, your immune system screams “DESTROY!” and the war on gliadin (gluten foods) begins.
Unfortunately, when the immune system panics like that, the antibodies that break down gliadin will also attack the thyroid tissues.
Here’s the real kicker, the immune system is a persistent system and can go at it against gluten for up to 6 months after eating the foods.
The Trifecta – Gluten, Thyroid, and Migraine
Blood tests and labs will not usually show the link; however, without question, there is a clear connection between my migraine patients who also have hypothyroidism. Here are some of the connections:
- T3 is the smaller hormone that is used for metabolism, but T4 is the larger storage hormone that converts to T3
- Migraineurs do not convert T4 to T3 very well, leading to frequent attacks
- The inability to convert the hormones means that the brain is “starving” because the hormones and nutrients are is not being metabolized into energy
- The thyroid gland is responsible for maintaining body temperatures, and low body temps are known to lead to migraines, but literature on the “how” factor is sparse
It probably seems obvious by now, the connection between gluten sensitivity and migraines. Gluten has a protein that, when leaked into the bloodstream, attacks the thyroid, leading to a “starvation” factor in the brain.
It is important to note that medications will not likely help with migraines in these cases. Many of the medications can lead to even greater gluten intolerance, not to mention dependency and vitamin or mineral deficiencies.
So, What Now?
Well, let’s consider the fact that it is highly unlikely that there will ever be a blood test or diagnostic study that will clearly identify this connection. Therefore, you will need to take your health into your own hands. Here are some suggestions:
- Talk to a functional medicine doctor or naturopath about what you are experiencing. Jot down your symptoms and foods you currently eat on a daily basis
- Take a month to test out your diet. Remove gluten completely and see how you feel!
- Keep a food diary to determine if you have any other food allergies that may be contributing to your migraines. Dairy and processed foods are huge triggers. See my post about the elimination diet and food allergens.
- Ask your doctor to test you for vitamin deficiencies, especially B vitamins and magnesium.
- Avoid over stimulation of the senses, meaning back away from strong perfumes, exceedingly bright lights, loud noises, etc.
- Chiropractic care may be helpful, because sometimes migraines are caused by structural abnormalities in the spine, preventing nutrient-rich fluid from reaching the brain.
Migraines can be triggered by any number of factors, but food sensitivities and thyroid problems are at the top of the list; therefore, it is reasonable that you do what you can to figure out the cause of your migraines, because they are difficult to diagnose and treat in medical office settings. Take control of your health and life.
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