The keto diet is the best body-hack that I have found for migraine relief.
I think of food as my medicine and choose to eat low-carb to maintain mind and body balance.
Though the mechanism is still not understood, research on keto diet migraine relief is part of a larger look at the benefits of ketones on brain function as well as a whole host of other ailments .
Like many people, I have found that a keto diet not only gives me migraine relief, but it lowers my stress, increases my energy and allows me to live my life much more fully. As a bonus, when I am in ketosis, I lose body fat. Thus, it’s a win-win-win!
The keto diet and migraine relief
With fat fueled weight loss, I found energy, focus and migraine relief
On a ketogenic diet, the body is “forced” to use fat for fuel by restricting the daily carbohydrate (sugar) intake. In a low-carb state, the liver breaks down fat for energy instead of glucose. The liver produces ketones from fat. Therefore, ketones become the main fuel for the body. They can cross the blood brain barrier to provide energy and are known to help quiet the brain.
16 years ago, I followed the Atkins Diet specifically for weight loss. The Atkins diet is similar to the Ketogenic diet in that it focuses on low-carb foods and ketone production. I lost over forty pounds and stayed committed to low-carb eating.
Over the course of two years, I noticed a significant reduction in the number of migraine headaches. I wondered if there was a link between the keto diet and migraine relief.
Initially, I found very little research specifically on the relationship between migraine and diet. But, I did find that the keto diet is nothing new.
In the 1920’s, before the advent of anticonvulsant medications, the ketogenic diet was popularized for the treatment of patients with epilepsy. The diet followed the principle that food is medicine.
As I researched further, I found studies that showed a relationship between migraine headache and seizures. Many articles pointed to the benefits of a ketogenic diet for the reduction of seizure activity. So, if eating the right foods works well to control seizures, it has to be doing something to help prevent migraine, right?
In 2009, one researcher in Rome started to ask the same question. Cherubino di Lorenzo conducted research to prove that people with a history of migraine found relief with a keto diet. Several theories emerged from his research, but one idea I found interesting is that ketones may simply provide more energy to the brain and allow it to function more efficiently.
Looking for the link between the keto diet and migraine relief
In 2013, The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a literature review of the benefits of ketogenic diets . It sited not only the ketogenic diet’s use in weight loss but also its benefits for treating medication resistant epilepsy, type II diabetes, cancer and certain neurophysiologic imbalances.
Right now, there is research looking into the benefits of a ketogenic diet on enhancing cognitive function, stabilizing blood sugar and decreasing inflammation. Some studies indicate that ketones produced from Omega 3 fatty acids may reduce cognitive deterioration in old age. [Freemantle,E. et.al, “Omega-3 fatty acids, energy substrates, and brain functioning in aging”(2006) Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids.75(3):213-20.]
For me, the benefit of keto diet migraine relief far outweighs any desire for a honey glazed donut. I struggle a bit to avoid putting warmed bread and butter in my mouth, but overall, it’s easy for me to choose to eat the keto-way.
I’m not hungry and I don’t feel deprived. My sleep is better and I am more focused and energetic throughout the day.
How do I get keto diet migraine relief?
I don’t know.
Indeed research is still at the beginning of unraveling the complex relationship between the food we eat and the neurophysiological consequences.
I am intrigued by the fact that my non-stop brain just does better with the power-packed energy of ketones! Comparing the brain to an engine, maybe it just needs the proper fuel mix to run without misfiring? So, in choosing the food we eat, the question would be, what what kind of fuel does your brain need to run smoothly?
Aside from all of that, what I do know is, migraines waste precious time and energy. They lower my quality of life.
Eating “keto” gives me the time, energy, and focus to live my life fully.
Getting into Ketosis
First off, everyone is different. Pay attention to your body and how it feels.
In the beginning, it’s important to restrict your carbs enough to get your body to switch into a ketotic state. Ketosis occurs when carbohydrate intake is limited to the point that glycogen stores in the liver have been depleted. When the liver has used all of its sugar stores for energy, it switches to using fat for energy.
My Fitness Pal App and Ketone Testing
Count your carbs
Keep track of the number of carb grams you have eaten. MyFitness Pal helps to count carbs and keep them under a set amount.
It is fairly common to not feel hunger while in ketosis. Thus the app also helps ensure that enough calories are consumed in a day. This is especially important if hunger queues are non-existent.
There are several ways to test ketone levels in the body. A cheap and easy way to monitor ketone levels is to test the urine with ketone test strips.. Keto sticks are not as accurate as breath or blood tests, but they will still give you an idea how you are doing.
The first few days are the hardest. The body will feel depleted as the main fuel source – glucose – is running out. During this time, the body is switching from a fast burning fuel, sugar, to a slow-burning, power-packed fuel, fat. Give it time.
When I shift into ketosis, I have a few days of fatigue. Then, it’s easy.
Staying in Ketosis
Again, everyone is different.
Once in ketosis, add carbs back slowly. You will find your carb sweet-spot when the ketone level on the KetoStix starts to drop.
Most people will be able to stay in ketosis with a net carb intake of 50g of carb and less. Some people can eat more. Others, like me, may have to restrict net carb intake to under 30grams.
Food as Medicine – Keto Friendly Foods
- All meats including chicken, fish, steak, sausage and bacon
- Eggs – prepared a million different ways
- All Cheeses and HighFat Yogurt/Cottage cheese
- Nuts and seeds
- All Berries – Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries…
- Above-Ground Vegetables, greens, celery, cucumber, tomatoes
- Pickles and olives
- Butter and Heavy Cream
- Coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, MCT
Trust yourself. Find what works for you!