How Patrick Vlaskovits Discovered His Migraines Were Due to Wheat

My personal science taught me that (a) there are useful things health experts don’t know (b) that the rest of us can discover. I am curious how these discoveries are made. When  commented

I suffered migraines my whole life until my 30s. I am prescribed meds to help me manage the pain. These meds are better than nothing. Then I quit eating grain-based products, no migraines ever.

I asked him how he discovered the connection. He replied:

This was in years pre-Paleo — I played with Atkins and one day my wife said to me: “You haven’t had a migraine for at least a month now.”  And it hit me, holy shit, I hadn’t.

Until then, my whole life even as a small child, I would get insane mind-melting-migraines seemingly at random —- and when they hit, my face would twitch and aside from the pain, I would experience hyper-light-and-sound-sensitivity.  My response would be to sit the shower in the dark for hours on end and then crawl into bed to fall asleep and hopefully wake up sans headache.  This was from grade-school through post-grad-school.

What no one had seen until then was the lag time between my digesting some wheat product and onset of migraine — usually about a day. Nowadays, I tend to eat wheat-free (and disallow it from my toddler’s diet) but I will indulge in a NYC pizza or something similar if traveling — I reckon that about 10% of those cheat instances I am hit with an earthshattering migraine.

BTW I mentioned this a few years ago to Ryan Holiday, and he mentioned it to his girlfriend — a few weeks ago I saw both of them in NYC, and she has a virtually identical story. Crazy.

He added later:

[After avoiding wheat] my nighttime tooth grinding also stopped as did my insomnia [“being tired but unable to fall asleep, would go to bed at 11pm, my mind would race for hours on end in a state of neither sleep nor being awake, I would finally fall asleep around 5 am, and have to get up at 730 am to go work, and be exhausted all day —- this went on for years”] — generally, I feel 1000x better not eating wheat —

I have been tested with a skin-prick test and was told that that my results came back normal, not sensitive to anything.

I am unsure of what it is in wheat that I react to – an obvious culprit could be gluten in modern wheat, could also be mycotoxins (per Dave Asprey’s thinking), could perhaps be pesticide residue; I simply don’t know. — however, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. A simple risk less change resulted in orders of magnitude change for the better.

Last thing, another family friend has a 10 year old who has migraines, I recounted my story to them and early evidence looks like health improvement via avoidance of wheat.

How well-known is this connection? A few articles mention it: this one, for example. Here is a whole paper — in 1979 — about how food causes migraines:

The commonest foods causing [migraines] were wheat (78%), orange (65%), eggs (45%), tea and coffee (40% each), chocolate and milk (37%) each), beef (35%), and corn, cane sugar, and yeast (33% each).

Thirty years later, this extremely useful information has yet to reach most migraine doctors, apparently. An even older article (1976) said:

The 10 chief offenders among food allergens are cow’s milk, chocolate and cola (the kola nut family), corn, eggs, the pea family (chiefly peanut, which is not a nut), citrus fruits, tomato, wheat and other small grains, cinnamon and artificial food colors. Food allergy results in a remarkable variety of clinical syndromes.

The Mayo Clinic website says that migraines are sometimes caused by food but fails to say that if you suffer from migraines you should try an elimination diet to look for possible causes.

9 Replies to “How Patrick Vlaskovits Discovered His Migraines Were Due to Wheat”

  1. My blocked sinuses are made worse by citrus fruit. Dreadful shame – I love freshly squeezed orange juice, but there you are. But I’m not so sensitive that I’ve had to give up G & T.

    In my fifties I became intolerant to Brazil nuts and (I now suspect) hazels. Fortunately almonds are OK.

  2. “My whole life even as a small child” Hahahaha! I can’t picture Patrick ever having been a “small” child!

    Seriously though, Brent Pottenger also banished the migraines that plagued him most of his adolescent and early adult life by giving up grains, especially wheat.

  3. Same with me. I have been wheat free for over two years. I recently realized, I have not had a migraine in a long time, probably two years. I used to get them every month or so.

    Now it is a great excuse for not eating all the wheat I am offered, instead of an amorphous claim of trying to eat better. I tell them my doctor told me to do it and it has stopped my migraines.

    Also, since I stopped the wheat:
    Pre-diabetic symptoms – gone.
    Seasonal allergies- almost completely gone.
    Sinus infections- very rare, used to be regular.
    Stomach aches, heartburn- very rare, used to be common.
    Soreness after working out is drastically reduced.
    I could list things all day that are better.

  4. I’ve noticed that my teeth grinding has stopped since going Paleo/wheat free. I haven’t woken my husband in a LONG time! I’d been doing it so long, my canine teeth are flat!

  5. Seth,

    Great post! I used to wake up every morning unrested and exhausted due to sinus inflamation. I thought the cause of the inflammation was due to environmental factors like dust, pollen, etc. This was not the cause! Ive been wheat free for three weeks now and I wake up every morning rested and not struggling to breath. Amazing that the source of my sinus inflammation was from wheat.

  6. I’m not an “anti-doctor” or “corporations are evil” type, but I really feel like the entire industry has been co-opted by the pharmaceutical companies. It seems like any time you go to a doctor, the first and only option they even consider is some kind of drug. Food, lifestyle, and vitamins don’t even enter the discussion, and if you bring it up, they practically laugh it off.

    I research canker sores and the whole reason I do so is because I’ve had them my whole life and pretty much the most information I got from a doctor or dentist was, “Yeah, that happens to some people.” I’ve had great success with Vitamin B12, and when I mention that to doctors, I usually just get a smirk and they pass it off as placebo. A placebo that doesn’t work with any of the other supplements I’ve taken for some reason.

    It’s a shame that this side of healthcare gets so ignored.

  7. I had a similar experience. I suffered from migraines, frequent sinus infections, anxiety, heartburn and IBS symptoms my entire life. I guess I always thought this was the normal state, because my mother had the same problems. In February of this year, I did a 30 day Paleo challenge and eliminated all grains. Within a week, my chronic sinus congestion had disappeared, my digestive symptoms were gone, and I have not had an anxiety attack or a migraine in the past six months since continuing to avoid gluten.

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