Experiencing migraines are frustrating, and many people have a hard time getting rid of the pain. Many times frequent headaches can put a damper on work productivity as well as make it difficult to enjoy life. Sometimes it’s also hard to find any relief, which is why it’s exciting that recent studies have revealed that a low carb diet, in particular, the ketogenic diet, may treat and prevent headaches. If you’re not familiar with the ketogenic diet, this high fat, low carb diet has countless benefits. Check out the Body Reboot book to learn how the keto diet may improve your health in many different ways and help you feel better than ever before. Now let’s discuss how the keto diet may specifically help with migraines.
Based on some research and studies on the ketogenic diet and how it may improve migraines, Ruled.me shares some promising findings:
The first study on the Ketogenic diet and how it affects migraines came a few years after its first use for epilepsy in 1928. The study was done on 28 patients, and only 9 of them showed “some improvement” although most of them admitted poor compliance.
In a review of the research on the ketogenic diet and migraines (over seventy years later), the scientists concluded that the ketogenic diet “ameliorates headaches and reduces drug consumption in migraineurs, while the SD [standard low-calorie diet] is fully ineffective on migraine in a short term observation.”
The researchers hypothesized that the positive effects that the ketogenic diet has on migraines are due to how ketone bodies inhibit neural inflammation and enhance brain mitochondrial metabolism. The ketone bodies do this by blocking high concentrations of glutamate (commonly found in both migraine and epilepsy sufferers) and reducing oxidative stress.
The Takeaway: The ketogenic diet and ketones are an effective treatment for migraineurs.
Recommendations: If you suffer from migraines or recurring headaches, consider trying the ketogenic diet to get into ketosis or taking supplemental ketones in the form of MCT oil. Combining MCT oil with the ketogenic diet will probably give you the best results.
Migraine Again says there’s no guarantee that the ketogenic diet will prevent migraines, but sticking to the low carb diet is likely to prevent frequent attacks.
Can a ketogenic diet help migraines? One doctor is convinced it can: “We’ve only just begun to see glimpses of the therapeutic potential of ketogenic diets beyond the treatment of epilepsy, including cancer, neurodegenerative disorders (Alzheimers, Parkinsons, etc.), obesity, and migraine” predicts Dr. Josh Turknett, neurologist and author of The Migraine Miracle.
Kerrie Smyres, author of the popular blog @TheDailyHeadache, and shares her personal trial with a ketogenic diet. “Managing a ketogenic diet for migraine feels like trying to contain a series of wildfires” Kerrie posted on March 28, 2016. “As soon as I think one fire is under control, another part of the forest goes up in flames … But I keep hoping that after some of the fires are under control, I will feel better enough that the improvements are worth the risk.”
Her story underscores that, while keto can be very effective for dropping extra pounds, weight loss isn’t always desirable and the diet can have some side effects.
Can a ketogenic diet prevent migraines? There is no guarantee. But following a ketogenic diet could potentially reduce the frequency and severity of the attacks. At a minimum, it may help you lose weight, which is a key risk factor in the progression of episodic to chronic migraine. Each case is different.
If you feel a migraine coming on, mentally review your diet over the past few days. Have you allowed your carb intake to creep up and knock you out of ketosis? Are you keeping up with the essential electrolytes? Though a ketogenic diet can be difficult to adhere to at times and the diet will not work for everyone, it may be the answer for you.
Science Alert discusses a study on a few groups of people who both experienced headaches. During the research, the researchers found the women experienced fewer problems being on the keto diet versus a low carb diet. What differentiates between the two is that the keto diet is eating fewer than around 25 carbs versus a low carb diet which is typically in the 50-100 carbs a day range.
“Our hypothesis is that the combination of ketone bodies and changed glucose response could lead to the outstanding therapeutic effect we have observed in our patients,” lead researcher Cherubino di Lorenzo from the University of Rome told Danielle Bengsch at ResearchGate.
A total of 96 women were involved in the six-month study, all of whom suffered from migraines and were already seeing a dietician to help lose weight.
Of the group, 45 followed a very-low-calorie ketogenic diet for a month, then switched to a standard low-calorie one. The others kept to a standard diet for the whole time.
Both groups saw a drop in the frequency of their headaches, but it was much greater for those on the ketogenic diet. When these women switched to the standard low-calorie diet, the number of migraines increased – though they were still happening less often than before the study started.
In regards to the study that Science Alert mentioned, Research Gate interviewed the researcher and here are a few questions he answered about the study in the article:
RG: How did you get the idea to study the effects of a ketogenic diet on migraineurs?
Di Lorenzo: Our interest in ketogenic diets was born in 2009. A common side effect of most drugs for migraine prophylaxis, including antidepressants, anti-epileptics, calcium antagonists, and beta-blockers, is weight gain. The problem: increased weight can also worsen headaches in these patients. For this reason, we recommended that overweight patients see a dietician prior to or during preventive treatment. One of these dieticians, Giulio Sirianni, observed that patients who underwent very low calorie ketogenic diets had fewer headaches. In most cases, the headaches even disappeared during the ketogenic phase of the diet.
RG: Would you advise migraine patients to try a ketogenic diet?
Di Lorenzo: Currently, we advise the ketogenic diet in its hypocaloric form for overweight and obese migraine patients, and for all drug-resistant migraine and cluster headache patients. I don’t know why, but it is very rare to find an obese person among cluster headache patients.
In our experience, motivated patients don’t find it difficult to follow a ketogenic diet, especially since there are fewer side-effects and adverse events compared to common preventive pharmacologic treatments.
In addition to the above study, the Journal of Headache Pain did a study in 2013 on whether people experiencing headaches would see an improvement while being on the keto diet. Here’s what they found out:
Ketogenic diets (KDs), by drastic carbohydrate restriction, induces lipidic metabolism and Ketone bodies synthesis. Other than epilepsy, KDs were already suggested to be effective also in migraine (although in lack of definitive evidences) and in weight loss. We have evaluated if headache and analgesics consumption improved in migraineurs self referred to a dietician, comparing followers of KD and followers of standard low-calories diet (SD).
Migraineurs were found and enrolled in a dietician clinical setting. All clinical data were recorded before the diet initiation and, blind to neurologist, subjects were divided in two subgroups: KD and SD followers. After a one month period of diet, patients were re-evaluated for comparisons.
Headache frequency and drug consumption was reduced during the observation period, but only in KD group. Responder rates in KD group (52 subjects) were higher than 90% in terms of attack frequency and drug consumption in the month of observation, while SD group (56 subjects) has no effect.
KD ameliorates headache and reduces drug consumption in migraineurs, while the SD is fully ineffective on migraine in a short term observation. Our findings support the role of KDs in migraine treatment, maybe modulated by KBs inhibitory effects on neural inflammation and cortical spreading depression , and enhancing brain mitochondrial metabolism . Ketogenic VLCD could find a transient role in antagonize the ponderal increase, a common side effect among prophylactic migraine treatments.
Migraine Key summarizes the above study by telling us about its incredible results!
In 2013, the ketogenic diet was found to reduce migraine frequency in 90 percent of patients. These are extraordinary results that dwarf the success rates of migraine prevention drugs.
It’s exciting to think that based on the studies discussed in this article, going on a ketogenic diet may improve and prevent headaches. For many people who suffer daily from migraines, it’s exciting to think there’s something that can help. Also, the ketogenic diet can help with other health issues such as prevent diabetes, improve energy, lessen body inflammation, and provide many other benefits. At the time of writing this post, we're giving away free copies of the Body Reboot book. If you help us cover the cost of shipping, we’ll send you a FREE book. Go over to this page to see if there are any remaining copies.
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