Can oatmeal cause headaches?

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Headaches that occur after eating oatmeal are considered uncommon and might indicate an allergic reaction. Even though oatmeal is not a common food allergen, it might contain gluten which is a protein that is known to instigate an allergic response after eating products that contain barley, wheat or rye.

Other ingredients that are present in oatmeal are capable of triggering a food allergy such as dairy, tree nuts or soy. The headaches that manifest due to an allergic reaction to oatmeal are a result of sinus inflammation.

Allergy to oatmeal

The sinus headaches mainly trigger pain in the forehead and behind the eyes as well as cheekbones.

Any food is capable of instigating an allergic reaction that can result to various symptoms. The cause for the food-related allergic reaction is a highly active immune system to one of the proteins in oatmeal.

The immune system recognizes the proteins as a harmful substance and reacts by attacking the proteins. The immunoglobulin E antibodies (IgE) initiate a chemical reaction all over the body that causes the white blood cells to generate histamine. Take note that histamine is a chemical responsible for protecting the body against infection but also increases the inflammation. In case oatmeal is responsible for triggering a reaction, it is best to eliminate oatmeal in the diet.


The outcome that occurs after histamine was released in the nasal tissue is inflammation and swelling due to the increased flow of blood. Shortly after consuming oatmeal, the individual can end up with a stuffed nose that is clogged by the swollen sinus tissue.

The histamine also causes the mucus membranes to increase the production of mucus in the nasal passages which complicates the issue since the excessive mucus could not drain out of the nose. These two actions result to an unusual amount of pressure all over the head that triggers pain. The sinus headaches mainly trigger pain in the forehead and behind the eyes as well as cheekbones.

Identifying a headache

The doctor will recommend allergy testing in order to determine the exact protein that triggers the allergic reaction that causes the sinus pain. A skin test is carried out to determine how the skin responds when a small amount of oat proteins are administered beneath the skin.

In case the skin becomes inflamed, itchy or develops bumps, it indicates an allergy. A blood test is carried out to confirm and diagnose the proteins that trigger an allergic reaction in the body.


Once the allergy is identified, the individual is instructed to eliminate all foods that contain the proteins responsible for triggering the allergy. When it comes to sinus headaches, they are commonly managed with antihistamines to minimize the level of histamine. Decongestants work by reducing the swelling of the sinus tissues while pain medications are given to reduce the pain.

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