Less carbs, more fat: ketogenic diet makes migraine patients’ headaches disappear
written by Dr. Mark
I came across this article the other day and found it very interesting and relevant since we’re doing the 60-Day Turnaround right now. The diet we eat on the 60-Day is similar to a ketogenic diet that we increasing our healthy fats and decreasing our carbohydrate considerably.
Before the ketogenic diet became the latest low-carb diet trend, it was used to treat childhood epilepsy. Doctors had observed that fasting reduced the amount of seizures, and eating mainly fat and little else mimicked the effect of starvation in the brain. In recent years, researchers have made similar positive observations with migraines. Cherubino Di Lorenzo studies the effect of a ketogenic diet on migraine patients and, in his latest paper, their brains at the Sapienza University of Rome.
During a ketogenic diet, carbohydrate restriction induces the fat metabolism to produce so-called ketone bodies. These ketone bodies act as a replacement for carbohydrates and fuel several types of cells, including neurons. In the classic ketogenic diet, the fat that’s taken in with the food is the source for the production of ketone bodies . In the very low calorie ketogenic diet, however, the ketone bodies are produced from fats in adipose tissue. You could think of this process as the body’s own biochemical liposuction. Each molecule of ketone bodies produces more energy than glucose, but less oxidative stress, so the brain and the muscles work more efficiently. This effect of ketone bodies as energetic boosters is very important in migraine patients, or migraineurs, because they have an energetic deficit in the brain. Ketone bodies also have an anti-inflammatory effect. This is also important because ‘sterile inflammation’ – inflammation caused by damage rather than by microbes – is at the heart of migraines. The ketone bodies dampen the neural inflammation that’s both common in epilepsy and migraines and modulate the cortical excitability, the firing rate of neurons.
A few key points to get from the text above. First off, when there is a decrease, or lack of free carbohydrate (sugar) coming from the food we eat, the body will begin to use fat to create energy. This fat can come from the food we eat and fat we have stored. Fat molecules produce more energy than a carbohydrate molecule. Last the ketone body may also have an anti-inflammatory effect. This coupled with a sharp drop of sugar input, which is highly inflammatory, is very beneficial (as we’ve seen already, about 3 weeks into this 60 day).
The study performed looked at 2 groups of participants that suffered from migraines and were also overweight. The group that was on the high fat, low carbohydrate ketogenic diet had a sharp decrease in migraines/headaches with one month of following this diet. After one month they were put on a non-ketogenic diet and more migraines returned. One important thing to note:
More recently, we found similar results for non-overweight migraineurs and patients with the most severe form of headache, cluster headache, who consumed a high-fat ketogenic diet with normal calorie intake. However, we found that the diet is not effective in tension-type headaches and cervicogenic headaches, a form of headache that originates in the bone or soft tissue of the neck.
So you do not have to be losing weight for this to be effective, which we also see in our 60 day turnaround, its not just about losing weight. Second I should not this was not effective for tension type or cervicogenic type headaches which is fine, because you have us chiropractors to help with those. These types of headaches we see great success when we correct necks because these headaches, as stated above, originate in the bone and soft tissues of the neck.
If you suffer from migraines I strongly recommend giving this a try. I don’t personally get migraines often, but I will get an occasional headache. However, thinking about it now, I don’t think I’ve had one since the first few days of starting this 60 day diet. I will usually get a pretty bad headache day one or two on this, because my body just isn’t happy with me when I don’t give in to my addiction, but after getting past that I can’t say I’ve had one.