The Ketogenic Diet Helps Relieve Migraine Pain

Ketones are produced when the body burns fat for energy.  They are molecular components that make your body’s cells more efficient.  For many, a ketogenic diet helps relieve seizures, headaches, migraine and other neurodegenerative disorders.

What is a Ketogenic Diet?

A ketogenic diet essentially means that the foods you eat help the liver make ketones, which are water-soluble and burn like fat.  It is a low carbohydrate, high fat, and moderate protein diet that will allow the body to break down fat faster in order to metabolize ketones.

Ketogenic Foods

Ketones are not in your food or drinks.  They are not a vitamin or mineral, but are the result of burning fat.  Some foods and ingredients help burn fat, thereby producing more ketones in the body.  These include medium-chain triglycerides like:

  • MCT oil
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Butter from grass-fed cows
  • Coconut oil

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Research has suggested that a ketogenic diet (having more ketones in the body) is essential for the relief of migraine symptoms.

Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet

There are several huge benefits to starting a ketogenic diet, especially for migraineurs:

  1. Ketones eliminate glutamate, a major factor in inflammation and pain symptoms.
  2. Hypoglycemia can cause neuronal starvation and cognitive impairment (brain fog), but ketones prevent this from happening.
  3. They help the brain fight infection and pain. A 2013 study found that 90% of patients on a ketogenic diet had less use of migraine medications and fewer migraines.

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ketogenic-diet-and-migrainesThe most significant finding is that a ketogenic diet rids the body of excess glutamate.  Glutamate is excitotoxic, killing the neurons and messengers in the brain.  There is a gene mutation connected to glutamate abundance, according to a study published in Nature Genetics. Those with this genetic mutation not only have increased glutamate in their body, but they are also more susceptible to migraines.

The Ketogenic Diet and Migraines

If you could eliminate this problem by reducing foods that produce glutamate, it would go a long way to relieving migraine symptoms.  Here are some reminders or tips to follow to reduce your migraine frequency and, perhaps, get rid of them for good!

  • Reduce processed foods. These are filled with chemicals and preservatives that trigger inflammatory responses and migraines.
  • Use good fats that are beneficial to the production of ketones, like MCT and coconut oil.
  • Do not starve yourself. Hunger is a migraine trigger; however, so is rapid weight gain and obesity. A ketogenic diet will help you better manage your weight, while also satisfying your hunger.
    • Ketones reduce insulin resistance and regulate the levels of glucose in your blood.
  • Eat antioxidant foods like blueberries and other fresh fruits and vegetables. Oxidative stress is a huge migraine trigger.  Oxidative stress is an overabundance of free radicals and the body’s inability to get rid of them fast enough.

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Migraines indicate that the brain is not metabolizing glucose into energy properly. A marvelously simple fix would be to increase the foods that produce more ketones, which will help glucose and fat metabolize better. In addition to migraine symptoms, the ketogenic diet can help reduce:

  • Brain fog
  • Oxidative stress
  • Brain lesions
  • Glutamate levels, which can help treat:
    • Spinal cord injuries
    • Multiple Sclerosis
    • Alzheimer’s disease
    • Parkinson’s disease
    • Alcoholism or alcohol withdrawals
    • ALS

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As with all medical research, more information is necessary to confirm the migraine benefits of a ketogenic diet; however, the research so far is helpful, showing that the diet will help:

  • keep you at a manageable weight and nutritionally satisfied,
  • reduce free radicals in the body, and
  • decrease glutamate levels, leading to less inflammation and pain.

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Always check with your primary provider before starting a new treatment regimen.  The ketogenic diet is essentially harmless and overall helpful for almost everyone, but if you have underlying conditions like diabetes and heart disease with specific dietary restrictions, then it is better to be safe than sorry.

References:

  1. http://www.livestrong.com/article/517437-foods-that-have-ketones/
  2. http://perfecthealthdiet.com/2010/09/migraine-sufferers-should-try-a-ketogenic-diet/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3620251/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1865572/

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