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You Are What You Eat: Diet Helps Both IBS and Migraine Symptoms

Health care professionals and researchers have known for several years that a link exists between irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and migraine, and a small recent study shows that food may play an important role in reducing symptoms in both disorders.

Researchers in Istanbul, Turkey, designed a study to evaluate the benefits of a diet in which patients eliminate foods that provoke an immune response and elevate Immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies. Such diets have previously proven beneficial for improving symptoms in both migraine and IBS.

When on the elimination diet, participants’ IBS symptoms improved, ranging from less severe pain and bloating to improvements in the severity of diarrhea and constipation. Participants also reported greater quality of life, including greater happiness at home and work. Concerning migraine symptoms, nearly 67% reported at least a 30% reduction in migraine days, and nearly 48% reported at least a 50% reduction in migraine days.

Specifically, the authors noted, the tailored elimination diets decreased lymphocyte proliferation responses, improved clinical outcomes and decreased the release of inflammatory agents.

When the offending foods were re-introduced into the diet, symptoms of both disorders increased, and patients who had improved relapsed.

The authors note that food elimination diets and food challenges are considered to be time consuming for both patients and health care professionals, and require that patients be motivated and compliant with the dietary plan. For this reason, the authors do not recommend a general elimination diet, but encourage diets tailored to the individual and based on serum IgG antibody titers. The tailored-made diets are expected to be the easiest for patients to follow because they would most likely require removal of fewer foods than a general plan, thus leading to increased compliance and the most success.

The lead author of the study was Elif Ilgaz Aydinlar, MD, of the Department of Neurology at the Acibadem University School of Medicine in Istanbul, Turkey. The article appeared online last month in the journal Headache.

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