Although the ketogenic diet has been understood to reduce seizures in epileptic patients for decades, new research is beginning to uncover all the benefits of a very low-carb diet. Our research at Konscious Keto can help you uncover the latest findings on migraine information in the medical community.
A possible connection between keto and migraines has been recently discovered, and scientists believe that a ketogenic diet can help migraine patients in a similar way to epileptic patients.
In this guide, we’ll break down what migraines really are and how a keto diet may help reduce their frequency.
You can learn what foods you should and shouldn’t eat on a keto diet, as well as supplements you can take, to reduce the likelihood of having a migraine.
What Are Migraines?
First , it’s important to understand what migraines are. Migraines are not just any old headache!
They are moderate to severe headaches that recur over time. Even more, migraines can last anywhere from 24 hours to multiple days in a row. Migraines are typically described as the intense throbbing in the head.
Other symptoms of migraines are:
- Pain spreading from one side of the head to the other
- High sensitivity to light or sounds
- Pulsing flashes of light in your vision
Migraines can start for a number of reasons. Some families pass down susceptibility to migraines through genetics.
Other reasons for migraines include:
- Hormonal changes
- Intense exercise
- Diet and eating habits
There are medications that can be taken for migraines since they’re pretty common. Many medications, however, come with their own side effects and not all medications work for all people.
Keto Diet and Migraines
You may know that the ketogenic diet was originally designed to help treat epilepsy patients. It was discovered that by starving the body of glucose, patients would have fewer seizures.
Now, scientists have been studying the effects of a ketogenic diet on patients with diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, autism, and many other neurological disorders. This includes migraines, as well.
There are actually a few similarities between migraines and epilepsy, which give professionals a reason to believe a keto diet may help prevent or stop migraines:
- Both patients of epilepsy and migraines tend to have high amounts of glutamate, a neurotransmitter. High amounts of glutamate can be the cause of seizures and headaches.
- Medication that is given to epileptic patients is also sometimes given to migraine patients since the medication is meant to block glutamate.
- Ketones are also known for blocking glutamate, and they’re created by the liver when the body is in diet-induced ketosis.
It’s easy to see why many believe keto and migraines may have a connection. Instead of glutamate transmitting cells that cause migraines, the body can use blood ketones as a means for energy, without inducing migraines.
Keto Foods to Avoid for Migraines
There are a handful of foods that may trigger migraines! Thankfully, the ketogenic diet eliminates a lot of them. However, there are still a few to look out for.
If you know you are prone to migraines, this list is especially important to you:
- Aged cheese
- Aged/ripe foods such as aged meats, wine, olives, red vinegar
- Caffeine - it’s the withdrawal that causes migraines!
- Aspartame or Equal
- Sulfites - these are usually found in wine
- Nitrites and nitrates - usually found in processed meats
- Yellow #6 food dye
- Pickled foods
- MSGs (monosodium glutamate)
You may notice a repetition of aged foods in this list. Aged or fermented foods can by high in tyramine, which is a well-known trigger for migraines.
How Ketosis Helps Migraines
While we are still waiting on a fully conclusive study that shows the direct relation between keto and migraines, there is one study in particular that helps provide evidence that a ketogenic diet can truly reduce migraines.
A study was placed on a pair of 47-year-old twins who both suffered five or more migraines every month. As described before, the twins’ migraines could last up to 72 hours at a time and come with a list of the common migraine symptoms.
Over their lives, these twin sisters had tried migraine medications, but they experienced unwanted side effects, including weight gain. Weight gain is a common side effect of migraine medication.
After being introduced to the ketogenic diet, not only did both sisters see a reduction in their migraines, but they also both lost weight! Their bodies reacted quickly to the keto diet, using ketones instead of glutamate. Then, the weight loss began to occur.
If more studies such as this one can be conducted, scientists may be able to discover the link between keto and migraines.
Professionals are now also theorizing that the ketogenic diet can really help overweight patients with high-frequency migraines.
Blood Sugar and Migraines
While most believe that the keto diet and migraine connection relies on ketones replacing glutamate in the blood, it's possible that it is related to the keto diet changing how the body responds to blood sugar.
Many migraine patients experience trouble when it comes to their insulin response after consuming sugar.
Some theories suggest that the low-carb factor of the keto diet, in combination with ketones replacing glucose may be the key to solving migraines.
Keto Foods for Migraines
As mentioned before, the keto diet thankfully removes a lot of the foods that trigger migraines. While eating ketogenic, you’ll be avoiding high-carb and high-sugar foods like grains, bread, fruits, and artificial foods.
There is no one food that is believed to stop or block migraines. However, eating these foods will help you maintain ketosis and energize your body in a way that won’t trigger migraines:
- Full-fat dairy products
- Drinks with electrolytes
- Unprocessed meats
- High-magnesium foods - almonds, avocados, and dark leafy greens
Keto Supplements for Migraines
Taking exogenous ketones is a great way to quickly add ketones to your body for energy before your body resorts to breaking down nutrients into glucose. Keto Activate is made of beta-hydroxybutyrate, which keeps you in ketosis.
Arguably, you can avoid having migraines when you take this supplement since it helps to rebalance your salts.
Keto Activate is also good for those who have just begun their ketogenic diet. It takes time for the body to adjust from using blood glucose to ketones for energy, so adding chocolate ketones to your diet is like a ketosis “kick-start.”
Being deficient in other important minerals can trigger migraines as well. Make sure your body is getting enough sodium, magnesium, and potassium while you’re going keto.
When to Chat with a Doctor
Migraines are no laughing matter.
While the keto diet may help inhibit migraines, you should look for the following signs as a cue to make a doctor appointment:
- Do the migraines interfere with your daily life? See a doctor if you have to schedule tasks around your migraines or if they’re preventing you from doing planned activities.
- How often are your migraines? If they occur once a week or more, you should see a doctor.
- If any medication you do take seems to do nothing to stop your migraine, it’s time to see a doctor.
- Can your friends or family notice specific characteristics of your migraines? That’s a sign that they are common for you, and you should consult a doctor.
- Taking over-the-counter medication for migraines more than once a week means you should see a doctor about a prescription and diagnosis.
Migraines can be incredibly painful and can ruin a person’s daily life. It is possible that a nutritional ketogenic diet can help reduce the frequency of migraines while also helping you lose weight.
However, if you notice your migraines persist while in ketosis, you may need to consult a doctor.
To supplement your diet, taking chocolate ketones can help reduce your body’s reliance on glucose for energy.
- Di Lorenzo C, Currà A, Sirianni G, et al. Diet transiently improves migraine in two twin sisters: possible role of ketogenesis?. Funct Neurol. 2013;28(4):305–308. doi:10.11138/FNeur/2013.28.4.305
- Moffett A, Swash M, Scott DF. Effect of tyramine in migraine: a double-blind study. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1972;35(4):496–499. doi:10.1136/jnnp.35.4.496
- Williams TJ, Cervenka MC. The role for ketogenic diets in epilepsy and status epilepticus in adults. Clin Neurophysiol Pract. 2017;2:154–160. Published 2017 Jul 1. doi:10.1016/j.cnp.2017.06.001