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Can Keto Diet Cause Migraines

What Foods Are On A Well

A keto diet for headaches and mental health

The keto diet excludes all added sugars, grains and starchy vegetables. Because of the natural sugars in fruit, small amounts of berries are the only suggested fruits. Although avocado is technically a fruit, it is allowed.

Keto includes lots of fat and fatty foods. All meats, poultry and seafood are allowed as well as full-fat cheeses and cream. Low-carb veggies and leafy greens are allowed. Getting into consistent, sustained ketosis is what I consider as Phase 1 of keto. For most people this will take at least a few days and will depend on your own metabolism as well as how low your carbohydrate level has been.

The goal of maintaining the diet is to switch your metabolism so that you become a fat-burning machine instead of a carb-burning machine. Phase 2 of the ketogenic diet happens when your personal hybrid engine goes through a process referred to as keto-adaption.

Based on the research and observation of Dr. Stephen Phinney, one of the most prominent doctors in the field of low-carb and therapeutic ketosis, this process can take several weeks but is usually complete by 8 weeks.

While overblown and anxiety-provoking, keto flu happens in this early phase. It will be discussed later.

Can The Keto Diet Help Prevent Migraine Attacks

The ketogenic, or keto, diet is a diet rich in fats, moderate in protein, and very low in carbs.

It has long been used to treat epilepsy, a brain disorder that causes seizures.

Owing to its therapeutic effects in managing epilepsy, the keto diet has been suggested to alleviate or prevent other brain disorders like migraine.

This article examines the evidence to determine whether the keto diet can help prevent migraine.

2 ).

Carbs are found in a variety of foods, such as fruits, breads, cereals, pasta, milk and other dairy products, as well as starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn.

Normally, your body breaks down carbs from these foods into glucose to supply your cells with energy.

Yet, when you severely restrict carbs from your diet for 34 days, your body must look for alternative fuel sources to meet its energy needs .

It does so by breaking down fats in your liver to produce ketones, which your body and brain can easily use for energy.

Your body enters a metabolic state called ketosis when blood ketone levels rise above normal.

It has been suggested that these ketones have protective effects against migraine .

Migraine is characterized by headaches that cause severe throbbing or pulsing pain, usually on one side of your head .

This pain may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as nausea and sensitivity to light or sound.

How Can A Keto Diet Help Prevent Migraines

Researchers are still figuring out exactly how eating keto can prevent migraines. There are a lot of potential mechanisms that interact in a complex way so its challenging to determine just one way it produces benefits, says Josh Turknett, M.D., a neurologist based in Atlanta and author of Keto for Migraine: Keys to the Ketogenic Diet for Migraine Sufferers.

One theory is that the ketones themselves offer a protective benefit. They improve your brains ability to utilize energy between meals, explains Turknett. On a typical Western diet thats high in carbs, your body relies on sugar for energy, which causes blood sugar swingsa common migraine trigger. When youre dependent on carbs for energy, your brain is saying, You need to eat now! Turknett explains. It puts out stress hormones to try to increase blood sugar, which only adds fuel to the migraine fire.

On a keto diet, your body can easily switch from burning glucose to burning fat for energy, getting you off the blood sugar roller coaster. The stability in blood sugar and stress hormone levels is a huge part of the reason a keto diet is so helpful, says Turknett.

Inflammation is also an underlying migraine trigger, and ketones may have an anti-inflammatory effect.

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What Is The Keto Headache

The keto headache is also known as keto flu headache. It is one of the symptoms associated with the keto flu. When you start your keto diet, your body undergoes a major switch in its energy source from carbohydrates to fats.

The symptom every person feels is different from others and can be more or less severe, depending on your carbs consumption before making this shift. As your body tries to use fats for fuel instead of carbohydrates, you can experience some flu-like symptoms, such as headaches. This is what you call the keto headache.

This type of headache is dull and nagging, causing you to feel outright pain, blurred vision, and discomfort.

Just Reducing Carbohydrate In The Diet May Be Beneficial

Can a Ketogenic Diet Prevent Migraines?

Theres evidence that the metabolic breakdown of carbohydrate is proinflammatory, and inflammation is associated with migraine, says Moreno. The standard American diet can cause a lot of metabolic harm to our bodies some people need to be on a lower-carb or ketogenic diet to heal from eating an unhealthy diet.

Moreno often recommends a low-carb diet rather than a keto diet. I dont know that everyone needs to go into ketosis and stay in ketosis 24/7. I dont think thats how humans are meant to function, he says. Its been my experience that a lot of people get benefits just by reducing carbohydrates.

Moreno recommends following a diet of whole foods and real ingredients, which could include diets such as the Whole30, Paleo, or the South Beach Diet. A low-carb diet starts out at about 100 grams of carbohydrates a day, he says.

Its also important to note that not all carbs are created equal, he notes. If you eat a bowl of pasta, thats going to cause more inflammation than eating a bowl of veggies, he says.

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Cause #3 Sugar Withdrawal

Animal studies show that sugar has drug-like effects. Human studies have also noted that sugar affects the brain’s reward system.

So, cutting back on this addictive substance leads to withdrawal symptoms like cravings, agitation, and headaches.

How severe your withdrawal symptoms will be depends on how “addicted” you are to this macronutrient.

If you noticed that tend to overeat on carbohydrate-rich food when stressed, chances are you have developed a sugar addiction.

Ketogenic Diet And Migraines: Is The Keto Good Or Bad

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The keto diet consists of fats, high protein, and low carbohydrates. The idea behind this kind of diet is to put the human body into a ketogenic metabolic state. It claims health benefits including a decrease in migraine attacks. It decreases the consumption of carbohydrates and enhances the proportion of fats and proteins within an individuals diet. But, research about the relationship between migraine and the ketogenic diet has shown mixed results.

Do you know ketosis occurs when glucose level starts to drop because of a lack of carbohydrates in the body or fasting?It can be the reason for migraines because the human central nervous system and brain begin using ketone bodies as an energy source if there is less energy source.

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    Supplement With Exogenous Ketones

    Takingexogenous ketones is an effective way to elevate your ketone levels, even if you havent fully converted to using fats as a primary source of energy. They can elevate yourbeta-hydroxybutyrate levels by up to 2 mMol after consumption.

    Exogenous ketones cause blood glucose to decrease due to an increase ininsulin sensitivity. This is important during the induction phase because youre priming your body to start preferring fats as energy rather than carbohydrates.

    They also contain ample amounts of calcium, magnesium, and sodium which are critical electrolytes your body needs for peak brain and body functioning.

    By addingexogenous ketones into your routine, you will drastically mitigate the severity of your keto-induced headaches.

    Why A Ketogenic Diet Might Help

    Is a keto diet helpful for migraines and headaches?

    Despite years of research, the exact mechanisms behind migraine headaches are still not completely understood. However, theyre believed to involve inflammation, chemical imbalances, and impaired energy metabolism in the brain.10

    Some researchers suggest that, as a response to an energy deficit or chemical imbalance in the brain, the migraine attack itself may be the brains attempt to restore proper balance.11

    Epilepsy is another neurological disorder that appears to be related to migraines and may potentially have similar mechanisms.12

    For decades, ketogenic diets have been used to treat epilepsy and are now considered an approved therapy in individuals who dont respond to anticonvulsant drugs.13

    Some experts are now suggesting that a ketogenic diet may work similarly for migraines. In addition to providing an alternative energy source for the brain, ketones may reduce inflammation and beneficially influence other factors believed to play a role in migraines.14


    Migraines appear to involve inflammation, chemical imbalances, and impaired energy metabolism in the brain. Some researchers theorize that ketogenic diets may provide migraine relief by reducing inflammation and imparting other beneficial effects to the brain.

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    Is The Keto Diet Bad For You

    Both Condon and Kleinman said they wouldnt recommend the keto diet to their patients because it is ultimately not realistic or sustainable. The diet restricts fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy that can help with long term weight loss and overall health.

    Theres not one diet thats good for everyone, Kleinman said. Do your research, consult a dietitian, discuss with your doctor, and make sure youre being safe.

    Call the Health and Nutrition Experts atUChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial at to discuss nutrition counseling programs offered to meet your personalized needs.

    Is A Keto Diet Helpful For Migraines And Cluster Headaches

  • Summary
  • If you suffer from migraines or cluster headaches, youll likely agree that few things on earth can make you feel more miserable. Could following a ketogenic diet possibly provide relief?

    Emerging scientific evidence suggests that, possibly by reducing inflammation in the brain, keto eating may benefit those with migraines or cluster headaches.1 Indeed, some people have reported that their headaches dramatically improved after switching to a keto diet.

    In this guide, well discuss why a ketogenic diet may be helpful for migraines and cluster headaches, and provide practical advice for getting the best results.

    Start your FREE 30-day trial!

    Get instant access to healthy low-carb and keto meal plans, fast and easy recipes, weight loss advice from medical experts, and so much more. A healthier life starts now with your free trial!

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    Can Supplements Help A Keto Headache

    Supplements are an essential part of any ketogenic diet.

    Were not just talking about electrolytes, either.

    The keto diet is great for weight loss, epilepsy and some cancers.

    What its not good for is providing a balanced diet rich in nutrients.

    Most B vitamins are found in grain and other carbohydrate-rich foods.

    Since youre cutting carbs out of your diet, youll need to take a B-vitamin supplement.

    Make sure its full-spectrum because B vitamins need to be taken in the right proportions to be fully effective.

    Youll also want to make sure youre taking sugar-free supplements, so you dont undermine your diet with a couple of pills.

    Vitamin D is enough of a challenge for everybody, let alone people on the ketogenic diet.

    Americans are so vitamin D deficient that milk, cereal and other companies add it to their products.

    Unfortunately, you wont be eating a lot of processed or fortified foods on your ketogenic diet, so youll need to take supplements.

    Besides pills, the best vitamin D supplement is natural sunlight!

    As little as an hour of sunlight a day can stimulate your body to produce enough vitamin D for its needs.

    Finally, youll need to take a calcium supplement.

    Ketones are acidic, which upsets your bloods normal pH.

    Since your body needs your blood to fall within a fairly narrow pH range, it will release calcium from your bones to neutralize the acid.

    Needless to say, you dont want this to happen.

    Suggested Mechanisms For The Association Between Dietary Fat And Headache With A Focus On Migraine Pathogenesis

    Can A Low Carb Ketogenic Diet Help Migraine Headache ...

    Fat intake, inflammation, hypercoagulability and hyperaggregability

    Amount and type of fat intake affect inflammatory responses . The balance between the omega-6 and omega-3, two main fatty acids that compete with arachidonic acid as eicosanoid biosynthesis precursor, contribute to inflammatory control in response to the environmental metabolic changes. Prostaglandins , which are made from essential fatty acids, take part in platelet function and regulation of vascular tone. PGs also play the principal role in controlling acute and chronic inflammation . PGE1, downstream metabolite of linoleic acid , is one of the most potent vasodilators. PGE1 has been shown to cause headache . On the other hand, omega-3 fatty acids and docosahexaenoic acid ) might probably attenuate platelet aggregation and affect serotonin biosynthesis pathway or the function of 5HT receptors .

    It is generally believed that high-fat diet elevates plasma LDL-cholesterol and consequently increases platelet agreeability . Studies reported hypercoagulation in serum samples obtained from healthy subjects after a high-fat meal . On the flip side, it has been suggested that migraine attack could be initiated following and condition that causes platelet aggregation, through serotonin secretion and its consequent effects on blood vessels, and NO and PGs production. The secretion of these factors simultaneously may contribute to head pain initiation in migraine .

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    What Is A Migraine Exactly

    Turns out, Im not the only one whose migraines went undiagnosed for years. Research shows that approximately 75 percent of people with chronic migraine are undiagnosed. Part of the problem has been a lack of research and understanding of how a migraine differs from a headache.

    Now, doctors understand migraine to be a disabling neurological disease. A migraine is not just a headache, says Jessica Ailani, M.D., associate professor of neurology and director of the Headache Center at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital. Its a headache, plus other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and/or soundand its those symptoms that help make the diagnosis of migraine.

    Cognitive dysfunction, like difficulty speaking or focusing, is also common during a migraine attack, she notes. When I have a migraine, my brain feels so foggy that doing something as simple as sending a text feels like an impossible task. Before an attack, some people may also experience an aura, which is a sensory disturbance such as seeing sparks or zig zags or experiencing tingling on one side of the body.

    During a migraine, something triggers your brain to go haywire. You have too many chemicals and electrical signals going off, explains Ailani. Its like your brain is having a partyflashing the lights on and off and playing loud musicand it makes you miserable.

    Ketogenic Diet May Stop Migraines By Changing The Brains Fuel

    A low-carb diet may help reduce migraines


    Cutting carbs has been shown to prevent migraines, perhaps by changing the type of fuel that enters the brain.

    The ketogenic diet is a very low-carb diet that makes the body burn fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. Aside from aiding weight loss, it also seems to ease neurological conditions like epilepsy and schizophrenia in some people.

    Cherubino Di Lorenzo at the Don Carlo Gnocchi Foundation in Italy and his colleagues wondered if the diet might also help to prevent migraines. Previous studies

    Continue reading

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    Tying It All Together

    Like other complex neurological conditions, migraines are clearly not a one-size-fits-all problem. From the enormous amount of anecdotal evidence, its clear that a Paleo diet must be somehow beneficial for migraneurs, but the cause isnt easy to pin down. Is it the improved gut health? The lack of gluten? The more relaxed lifestyle? Ketosis? Quite possibly, the answer includes a little bit of everything and is different for every person. But from what we do know, there seem to be several potential links that are definitely worth exploring.

    Based on this research, some practical suggestions for a migraine-friendly version of Paleo would be:

    • Strictly avoid gluten, as well as any other personal trigger foods.
    • Reduce or avoid caffeine.
    • Avoid foods high in tyramine, histamine, and arginine.
    • Avoid intermittent fasting, since skipping meals is also a common trigger.
    • Get plenty of sleep, and practice stress management techniques like meditation and journaling.
    • Make sure to get enough magnesium and B vitamins.
    • If you have IBS symptoms, experiment with different foods to see what helps starting with FODMAPs is probably a good bet.
    • Try a ketogenic diet.

    Keto Diet For Migraine How To Get Started

    On Keto, Migraines, and Topamax

    This post may contain affiliate links. Migraine Strong, as an Amazon Affiliate, makes a small percentage from qualified sales made through affiliate links at no cost to you.

    This is an evidence-based article from the authors of Migraine Strong. It includes scientific evidence from studies and peer-reviewed research papers. References to the evidence may be reviewed by clicking the hyperlinked words and/or numbers in parenthesis within the article.

    Medically reviewed by Danielle Aberman, RD

    If you are reading this, then you are likely curious about whether or not the ketogenic diet can help you find migraine relief. As a registered dietitian schooled in the low-fat era, I thought Eww, gross! about low-carb and keto. I wish I had been more open-minded sooner. Keto is not at all what I thought it would be like. It helped reduce my attacks and improved my overall wellness while being delicious. There is scientific evidence to support the keto diet for migraine as well reports from neurologists and other practitioners.

    You may be considering this significant change in the way you eat to help you find a new level of relief from migraine attacks. This article is focused on some basics. It is written with the assumption that you have done your own homework and have asked your doctor for input. Im going to assume you have decided to dive in and commit to keto for a few months to see if it can help reduce attack frequency or lessen some symptoms.

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