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HeadWay, Issue #013 -- The gluten goblin
August 21, 2004

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In this month's issue:

The gluten goblin

Topamax revisited

Say what?! That dizzy feeling!

The gluten goblin

One thing that is important to readers of HeadWay is learning about migraine triggers. (I know because some of you have started dropping by the HeadWay mailroom with your opinions! Thanks for your feedback. To visit click the link at the bottom of the HeadWay page your password is nomoache) One trigger which is often missed is gluten.

Gluten intolerance, also known as Celiac Disease, is an immune system disorder which seems to have a genetic cause. People with the disease (and there are millions) find that foods containing gluten damage the small intestine, often causing symptoms such as diarrhea and weight loss. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, oats and barley.

Celiac and migraine
Gradually, we've been learning about the link between gluten intolerance and migraine. In 2001, an article in Neurology described a study in which 10 patients with chronic headache were found to be sensitive to gluten. In April 2003, a study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology showed that 4.4% of migraineurs had Celiac Disease (see this article). That may not sound like much, but that's from 4x to 10x the general population! We await larger studies, but it seems clear that many people with migraine are actually gluten intolerant, and could virtually eliminate the pain by cutting out gluten from their diets.

So what do I do?
Easier said than done, right? Well, first of all, one of the reasons I'm writing about this is that there's a new test out for the disease. Your doctor can now give you a blood test to check for certain abnormalities. If it looks likely that you have the disease, you may go on for further testing. Your other option is, of course, to cut out all gluten from your diet. Because this is so difficult for most of us, it's probably wise to talk to your doctor first. However, remember that diagnosis is still not an exact science make sure you do your homework and have a doctor who will listen to you. I look forward to hearing some success stories!

For more on celiac disease...
Celiac Sprue Association
WebMD on Celiac

Topamax revisited

About a year ago I wrote to you about Topamax, which is the brand name for topiramate. Topamax is one of those antiseizure medications that many doctors also prescribe for migraine. Americans were happy to see Topamax officially recognized by the FDA as a migraine treatment this summer.

As far as anti seizure medications go, Topamax is popular because, rather than causing weight gain as many do, it may actually help you lose weight. Now new research has just come out telling us that topamax may reduce cravings for alcohol (another potential migraine trigger) in alcoholics. Is there anything this drug can't do?

Before you go running out to the pharmacy, remember that topamax is still a very powerful drug that should not be your first choice in treatment. For more on topiramate, read the article online here.

Say what?! That dizzy feeling

The definition of the month - Basilar migraine: A migraine thought to be related to the narrowing of the basilar artery. Symptoms include dizzyness, faintness, double vision and poor coordination.
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