Food for Thought About Headaches

What do 10 million people a year visit the doctor for?

a. Common cold
b. Muscle aches and pains
c. Allergies
d. Headaches

If you picked “headaches,” you’re right. The common cold actually sends a lot more people to the doctor, about 100 million a year.

But if you’re among the 10 million people who need help for a headache, or one of 35 million more who suffer through a headache on your own, it’s worth knowing what causes some headaches.

Headaches can be triggered by a lot of different factors like stress or tension in the neck and shoulders. But there’s at least one other reason...your diet.

Tufts University researchers have found that for some people, headaches can be triggered by eating foods like:

  • Potato chips
  • Canned soup
  • Fried foods
  • Cured meats
  • Aged cheese
  • Dark chocolate
  • Processed foods
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine

And then there’s foods that contain gluten.

About 1 in 5 people diagnosed with Celiac disease report recurring headaches. Sometimes migraine, level 10, debilitating headaches, that have a negative impact on quality of life.

The good news, says Dr. John Leung, director of the Center for Food-Related Diseases at Tufts Medical Center, is that “57 to 71 percent of celiac patients’ headaches improve with a strict gluten-free diet.”

If you don’t have Celiac disease, but do have a gluten sensitivity, limiting gluten can also help reduce the frequency and severity of headaches.

What’s the easiest way to follow a gluten-free diet to prevent headaches, when so many foods contain gluten?

Eating healthy foods when you have a gluten allergy or sensitivity shouldn’t give you a headache. It’s practically a no-brainer when you take a look at the selection of Gluten-Free meals. You’ll find 50-plus meals, sides, snacks, and even cookies, to help you enjoy your favorite foods without a headache.

If you have headaches frequently, keep a journal to track your diet and when headaches occur. That might provide you with clues that link your diet to headaches. Your doctor can also help you identify potential triggers and reasons for headaches.