Child Migraine: A Sign of Celiac Disease?

Although many people who do not have celiac disease have still found relief from their migraine attacks from a gluten free diet, a recent study suggests that migraine attacks may actually be a sign of celiac disease in children.

Celiac disease is an immune reaction to to eating gluten, a protein in wheat, barley and rye. It is diagnosed by blood tests and endoscopy, a method to check the tissue of the small intestine.

However, there are early indications of celiac that should tell doctors that these tests should be done. Although there are sometimes few or no symptoms, most commonly people with celiac experience digestive problems. In children, this may show itself as stomach pain and may lead to developmental problems.

Of course, stomach pain may also be a sign of abdominal migraine in children. In the case of celiac, though, the pain will typically strike after eating.

Child Migraine and GlutenIn a 2013 study, researchers found that neurological symptoms may also be an early sign of migraine. A third of the children had neurological symptoms, and the most common was headache and/or migraine.

The full list, most common first:

  • Migraine/headache
  • attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • epileptic seizures
  • slowed mental development
  • cerebellar ataxia (a type of brain damage affecting motor skills)
  • behavioural disorders

Celiac disease can be very serious in children because of the way it affects their development. It is very important to catch it as early as possible.

There is good news for children with celiac and migraine. When the children went on a gluten-free diet, it helped with the migraine attacks. The same was the case with the epilepsy symptoms.

Although we don’t yet have a standard blood test for migraine, in children it may be wise to test for celiac disease, especially if there are additional reasons to suspect that it may be present.

Study: Celiac disease with neurologic manifestations in children.

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