If you have migraines or cluster headaches, it’s likely that nothing in the world can make you feel more despairing. Could following a ketogenic diet possibly provide relief?
Research indicates that the ketogenic diet can potentially combat inflammation in the brain, and therefore may be an effective treatment for migraine and cluster headache sufferers.
Many individuals have reported that their head pain improved drastically when they switched to a ketogenic eating plan.
This article will explain why a ketogenic diet could be beneficial for those who suffer from migraines or cluster headaches and it will also provide practical advice for achieving the most optimal results.
In many instances, migraines bring on excruciating agony – normally alluded to as beating or pulsating torment – as a rule in the front, side, or back of the head; these sorts of headaches usually persist for four to seventy-two hours. A small number of migraines come with unusual symptoms that do not involve pain.
In addition to pain, a migraine attack usually includes other debilitating symptoms, such as:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Extreme sensitivity to light, sounds, and odors
It is estimated that as much as one-third of migraines happen with aura, which includes the individual feeling tingling in their limbs, seeing flashing lights or colored spots, or possibly having difficulty speaking right before an episode.
It is believed that nearly one eighth of the world population, totaling at least 1 billion individuals, struggle with migraines.
Migraines affect a greater proportion of women than males, and the fluctuating estrogen levels that come with puberty and the menstrual cycle are credited to be migraine stimulants. Many other things can potentially trigger migraines in susceptible people, such as:
- Certain foods (chocolate, cheese, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, and food additives are common offenders, although responses vary among individuals)
- Lack of high-quality sleep
- Changes in weather and barometric pressure
Migraine frequency varies from person to person. Some people who suffer from migraines experience an attack a few times every year, while others have one or two every month. For those with chronic migraines, the situation is even more severe with 15 or more days of headaches every month.
Migraines are thought to be one of the most debilitation disorders in the world, second only to lower-back pain.
Triptans and alternative medications can give comfort during sudden bouts, while anticonvulsant drugs and other types of medication may aid in forestalling migraines. However, these therapies often cause unpleasant side effects.
Additionally, some people may develop drug-resistant migraines.
What causes migraines
It would be helpful if all migraine headaches had the same origin and individuals could evade whatever provoked them.
It is a shame that the factors that activate a migraine, which can be anything from stress to weather, are all individual, and can be unpredictable. Even for the same person, sometimes these triggers will spark a migraine, yet other times not.
Some people with migraines may be able to recognize certain dietary or environmental elements that lead to an episode, for instance sensitivity to dietary histamines, sulfates or sulfites, MSG, other additives or preservatives, or alterations in air pressure. A migraine attack may result from an episode of low blood sugar.
Common triggers for migraines
Some individuals may be required to abstain from beer, wine, cheese, and chocolate as a result of their migraine distress, which is already a significant struggle.
People who have an intolerance to histamines and tyramines may experience a reaction when they eat foods that have been aged or fermented. Unfortunately, migraine sufferers have no power to impact the changes in barometric pressure brought on by the weather.
Headaches are much more common among people with celiac disease, reactions to gluten, and irritable bowel disorder, and a lot of those suffering from headaches have noticed a decrease in symptoms after taking gluten out of their eating plan.
Eating a diet free from gluten can be beneficial for many physical and emotional symptoms, however, for many it is not enough of a remedy.
Many individuals utilize gluten-free bread, crackers, cookies, pasta, cereal, and other edibles that still give a greater dose of processed carbohydrate compared to what is necessary for a physiological reaction.
If migraines are caused by sudden changes in blood sugar, it makes sense why a gluten-free diet that is heavy on carbohydrates would not be enough to reduce the number of attacks or their intensity.
Keto for migraines
Despite years of investigation, scientists still have not determined the exact causes of migraine headaches. It is thought that brain inflammation, chemical imbalances, and hampered energy metabolism may be part of the cause.
Some scientists hypothesize that a migraine attack may act as a corrective measure to correct an energy shortage or chemical imbalance within the brain.
It appears that epilepsy is closely associated with migraines, and could potentially be linked by similar causes.
For many years, ketogenic diets have been employed for the treatment of epilepsy and are now accepted as a legitimate treatment for those who don’t respond to anticoagulant medications.
It is now being proposed by certain specialists that the same manner of functioning may apply for migraines in the case of a ketogenic diet. Ketones not only replace the conventional energy sources for brain activity, but could also lessen inflammation and positively affect conditions thought to be involved in migraine headaches.
Scientific evidence supporting keto diets for migraines
There has been little research into the use of the ketogenic diet to treat migraines, and it appears the same team of Italian scientists have been in charge of or conducted most of it.
A study released in 2013 focused on two adult twins who suffered frequent migraines and used a cyclical ketogenic diet to reduce their weight. For nine months, they shifted from consuming a keto diet for one month and then having a decreased-calorie, lower-carb diet for two months.
By consuming food in this manner, the siblings not only met their desires for weight reduction, but a sudden and welcomed decrease in the regularity and intenseness of their migraines happened through the occasions of the diet when they followed keto.
The researchers conducted an observational study in 96 obese female migraine sufferers at a nearby medical care facility.
The people taking part in the study were given advice from a nutritionist to either adhere to a normal low-calorie diet for six months, or to follow a low-calorie ketogenic diet for one month and then transition to a standard low-calorie diet for the next five months.
At the beginning, women who were following the ketogenic diet experienced fewer headaches and were needing much less migraine medication than those who were consuming the usual calorie-restricted diet.
When the participants in the keto study started eating a usual amount of calories, the amount of migraine attacks they experienced went up, though still fewer than what they had been getting before.
In 2019, a group of scientists ran a randomized crossover study with 35 overweight participants suffering from migraines. The participants followed a low-calorie ketogenic eating plan and then a low-calorie non-ketogenic diet, each regime lasting one month.
In 26 individuals, the frequency of migraines decreased by 50% or more while they were on the keto diet, while only three saw the same result while on a non-keto diet.
In a research project which lacked the influence of a third party, the scientists studied the variation in cerebral action in 18 people suffering from migraines who noted a decrease in discomfort after a single month of following a ketogenic eating plan. The study’s results suggested that the diet could restore brain functions to typical levels for the participants.
In Italy, a different team of researchers conducted another study that was not controlled and found a definite reduction of the frequency and time of headaches in subjects who ate a ketogenic diet.
A past examination speculated that the advantages of keto on migraine side effects were not connected to weight reduction, which implies that ketosis has a specifically positive consequence.
Despite being optimistic, these investigations involve a tiny number of investigators and a restricted amount of research. Further studies should be conducted to assess the impact of the ketogenic diet on individuals with migraines.
Connection between insulin resistance and migraine
It follows that individuals who experience migraines might also have a greater likelihood of being insulin resistant, having metabolic syndrome and hyperinsulinemia, all due to fluctuating blood sugar levels that can potentially initiate a migraine for those who are vulnerable to them. Therefore, it’s not shocking that hyperinsulinemia might cause or amplify migraines.
In a survey of 210 people who had metabolic syndrome, 11.9% of the males and 22.5% of the ladies had migraines, which is above the baseline for the general public.
Results from a separate study on 135 people with migraines revealed that 32% of them had metabolic syndrome, and 11% of those tested had fasted insulin levels that were too high.
Only around 10% had obesity or high fasting blood glucose, which implies that the link between metabolic syndrome and enhanced danger of migraine is not caused by body weight or blood sugar, but instead by insulin.
Patients dealing with chronic migraine typically have other health issues that are associated with insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
Those who are prone to migraines are more likely to suffer from hypertension and strokes, both of which are often seen in those with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance.
Studies have demonstrated that folks who experience migraines are subject to unfavourable alterations in blood vessel function across their body, hinting that migraines are possibly an evidence of a systemic illness rather than merely an ailment of the brain alone.
This can be translated to mean that migraines do not exclusively originate in the brain. Some individuals have connections with metabolic issues in other areas of the body, a few of which result from consistently elevated insulin levels.
A group of teenagers with both migraines and obesity who took part in a weight reduction plan were studied. People in this group whose headaches kept occurring had a larger waist circumference, body mass index, triglyceride levels, and HOMA-IR, which all show poorer insulin sensitivity, compared to those who no longer had migraines.
Those with insulin resistance were 3.5 times more likely than those with insulin sensitivity to endure continual migraines.
Migraine as a neurological disorder
It was previously pointed out that some migraines may be joined or come before different types of sensations such as prickling or lack of sensation in separate areas of the body.
It is better to consider migraines as a neurological issue rather than just a strong headache. Migraines and epilepsy share many of the same abnormalities in their processes, and drugs typically used to help epilepsy can be useful in treating migraine.
It is unclear what the precise causes of migraine headaches may be, and these sources of discomfort may vary from one individual to another. Some of the possibilities include:
- Inflammation in the brain
- Brain nerve excitotoxicity
- Ion (electrolyte) imbalances in the brain, which alter the electrochemical properties of neuronal cell membranes
- Blood glucose instability
The association between migraine and metabolic syndrome in combination with the resemblance between migraine and epilepsy suggests the possibility that the ketogenic diet may be beneficial for individuals who suffer from migraine.
In the end, epilepsy was the initial sickness that was demonstrated to respond positively to the ketogenic diet and it is still the one with the most reliable success.
Anecdotal evidence supporting keto diets for migraines
Lately, accounts of individuals reporting a decrease in the intensity and number of migraine episodes since they began a ketogenic diet have become more common. In certain situations, as seen with the twin sisters in the case study, a positive outcome of the keto diet that was not initially expected was a decrease in migraine attacks.
What is the best way to adhere to the keto diet to gain the most favorable outcome for migraines? Here are a few pointers:
Make sure to maintain your consumption of carbs at an extremely low level: At Diet Doctor, we consider a ketogenic diet to be one that includes no more than 20 grams of net carbs each day. It may be feasible that you could consume a slightly higher amount of carbohydrates and still have respite from migraine headaches.
Making sure that the amount of net carbs you consume each day does not exceed 20 will guarantee that you are in ketosis, and this is an effective starting point.
Take a look at our comprehensive guide on the keto diet for additional details and solutions to common inquiries regarding the keto diet.
Make an effort to prevent the “keto flu:” Starting a ketogenic diet can cause some common signs and symptoms, for example a headache. This guide could assist you in reducing or eliminating the keto flu symptoms. Increasing the amount of salt and water that you consume can be especially beneficial.
A review of 21 randomized trials has concluded that supplementation of magnesium orally may reduce the amount and gravity of migraine attacks.
You ought to think about increasing your magnesium intake to a maximum of 400 mg per day either by taking a supplement or just by adding more ketogenic meals containing sources of magnesium, such as leafy green veggies, oily fish, nuts, and seeds.
Speak to your doctor about any drugs you are taking for migraines: before you alter them in any way, get medical approval.
If you suffer from migraines, and treatments you have tried have been unsuccessful, you have no reason not to try the keto diet.
It is likely that you won’t be able to consume certain of your preferred snacks for a temporary period, but you may gain the potential benefit of having your migraines lessen both in frequency and severity.