Migraines and a Low Carb Diet


Only once have I had a migraine and it was truly horrible. Years ago I had a friend who would get them every second weekend – consistently. Rarely on a weekday. This to me was as bizarre as it was perplexing.

For migraine sufferers a diet low in carbs may help. Here is the link to an article so you can check out the research but in summary a very low calorie ketogenic type diet allows your brain to work more efficiently and reduce migraine-causing inflammation.

Below is a summary of what the thrust of the article.

Fats and carbohydrates are sources of energy but importantly they provide it in different ways. Put simply carbs are broken down into glucose. Fats on the other hand are broken down into fatty acids and then to so called “ketone bodies”. Both glucose and ketone bodies are used by cells for fuel.

When you restrict your carbohydrate intake your body switches to the ketone pathway. Ketones provide more energy than glucose, but less oxidative stress partly because this pathway is a “slower burn”. As a result your brain and muscles work more efficiently. Importantly the ketone bodies have an anti-inflammatory effect which is just one of the reasons why many people report good health outcomes from a low carbohydrate diet.

For migraines this is very important as sterile inflammation (inflammation that is not caused by microbes) is known to be at the heart of the problem.

Note: If however you have any conditions that prevent you from metabolising fat then you would avoid a low carb diet. Also too much ketone body metabolism can produce a condition called ketosis.

Quiet Earth sponsored audio: Health and Vitality Meditation

3 replies

  1. If you’re interested about Ancel Keys, I’d recommend several books and a post I recently wrote (the fourth book doesn’t discuss Keys, but it does have good discussion of carbs, fats, and health):

    Good Calories, Bad Calories
    by Gary Taubes

    The Big Fat Surprise
    by Nina Teicholz

    Nourishing Diets
    by Sally Fallon

    Deep Nutrition
    by Catherine Shanahan

    Primal Body, Primal Mind
    by Nora Gedgaudas


  2. Interesting Richard and glad that you read my blog. I will check out your book soon. I re-read my article and edited it a bit to reflect that it was meant to be a summary of the article in question and not my own opinions. I am not a big believer in any one universal “diet” – simply because I look around me and people seem to get benefits and healing from all manner of food regimes. A close friend a year ago became vegan and has undergone profound healing in his body – the list of ailments has almost disappeared. Another friend is on a more low carb high protein diet for years and cured herself of many ills and is a picture of health. Another friend firmly believes in Dr Gundry’s plant paradox theory. A relative who is an old fashion meat and veg character with cups of tea and afternoon home made sweets (all his life) is 82 and exceptionally strong and healthy. And it goes on….

  3. Dear James

    My wife (Ruth) and I do read your blog with great interest. However, we do diverge greatly with your opinions on health.

    A study funded by Robert C Atkins Foundation, whose goal is to encourage high-fat, low-carbohydrate and ketogenic diets , showed that participants on ketogenic diets suffer from headaches, constipation, diarrhoea and insomnia at a greater rate than a comparison low-glycaemic group – even though the comparison group’s diet was appalling, the ketogenic diet was even worse.

    A ketogenic diet is high-fat, high-protein, low-carbohydrate, low-energy and almost invariably high animal-based diet. 8.9 billion animals are killed in the USA each year. Apart from the needless cruelty, it results in an enormous amount of pollution of the atmosphere, waterways and the soil and an increase in sickness and deaths in community where livestock is raised.

    Why grow corn to feed the cow, kill the cow and eat the meat when it is 15-20 times more efficient to eat the corn directly?

    There is more than sufficient food produced each year to provide food for all if the wheat, corn and soya beans was used to feed people instead of livestock.

    I have written a book, Low-Carbohydrate Mania: The Fantasies, Delusions, and Myths, hoping to dispel the myths of these popular but extraordinarily ill-informed commentators regarding high-fat, high-protein and ketogenic diets. Hopefully you will find the book and my website of interest.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Stuart W was under the impression that Ancel Keys lied and manipulated his data relating saturated fats and heart disease. Another reason why I wrote my book was to show how popular commentators misrepresent (well, lie about) the work of a highly esteemed researcher. One does not have to know very much about nutrition to see that their views are a complete fabrication. Stuart W bought into it. Just because standard medical advice is not helpful in solving our current medical problems, it does not mean that the popular advice that we find on the internet is valid.

    My latest blogs are regarding the CSIRO (Australia) “research” that contends that eating an “egg a day is OK”. You may find that of interest.

    A whole-food, plant-based diet is high in complex carbohydrates, high in fibre, high in phytonutrients, low in fat, saturated fat and protein.

    If you could read my book and check out my website, hopefully it will show the benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet which is by far the best diet for us humans but also for our planet and the animals we share the earth with.

    Richard Harding ♬
    Wise Nutrition Coaching
    web: http://www.wisenutritioncoaching.com.au

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