A Keto-mas Miracle?
Let’s get this click-bait nonsense out of the way right off the bat: the ketogenic diet has not gifted me with a Christmas migraine miracle, but insofar as anything can be a migraine miracle, this high fat, low carb diet has come pretty darn close.
My initial reaction to “Hey, you should try keto! It worked for me!” was something along the lines of “Don’t tell me what to do! I love carbs more than life itself! I can’t afford to eat that way! Fad diets are for losers,” and “THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A CURE!”
Proceed with caution
Like many of you, I am wary of anything toted as a cure or miracle, because I’ve had my hopes and wallet dashed so many times already. My treatment triumphs have always been the result of a consistent hard work and multiple tools; rarely has a single approach felt like a magic bullet. But as I climbed my way out of a chronic migraine relapse, I was really, really ready to try something new.
I read up on a few small clinical trials, talked to a friend on the diet, chatted with my migraine specialist, and consulted with Dr. Google. The diet was developed for children with epilepsy at the turn of the century and is quickly gaining speed as the latest weight-loss fad diet, so I found a very weird mishmash of scientific information and outlandish, baseless claims about how it would make me more manly. My specialist and friend echoed much of what I found online: anecdotally, it helps a lot of people with migraine. I decided to take the plunge.
Bye bye carbs
At first it was very difficult to say goodbye to carb-rich foods. My diet is already severely restricted for various health reasons, and saying goodbye to my few comfort foods was pretty sad. I craved my bedtime gluten-free crackers with butter and jam to the point where I couldn’t focus on anything else. The smell of fries and perogies wafting on the warm summer breeze was sometimes too much to bear. And it felt very strange to eat so much fat. It went against everything I’d been taught about a healthy, well-balanced diet. I gave in to carbs. Many times.
What was interesting is that with each “cheat session" my body’s reaction became worse. The more I cleansed myself of sugary and carby things, the more my body went into full migraine inflammation horror mode when I ate them. So that became a pretty serious deterrent. The longer I went without carby things, the more manageable and infrequent my migraine attacks became. I did lose a bit of weight too, which is really neither here nor there for me, but interesting.
Four months into the diet, I’m not exactly eating my words (they’re not fatty enough), but I am surprisingly glad I let my guard down to try something despite its lack of clear and thorough scientific evidence.
On paper, my progress is not so impressive. I graduated from 13 moderate/severe attacks in August to 11 in September, 10 in October, 9 in November, and 9 in December. What is sort of miraculous is that in those four months I was able to meet more physical and social demands than I have in years, progressively, busting my butt the hardest in December. I also successfully weaned myself off several medications that I have been trying to ditch for, like, ever. All without horrific consequences. (Side note: I REALLY need to check in with a dietician and have some blood work done and make sure I’m getting everything I need. Next week! That is important for such restricted diets. I know! Okay mom?!! Okay!! I promise!)
So what’s the moral of the story? I’m still wary of anecdotal information. I still think this diet is stupidly expensive and difficult to maintain and may not be a good long term plan for me. I still think there's plenty of harmful bottomless pits of snake oil out there. But maybe, just maybe, even when there's a lack of research and a seemingly weird thing to try, if it seems relatively harmless, I think it’s okay to go out on a limb sometimes.
These days, I’m trusting my gut, and my gut is calling for butter. It's also calling for better funding for migraine research about things such as diet.
What weird thing have you tried that actually helped when you thought it was utter nonsense?
*Editorial note: Please make sure to always consult your doctor about the safety of starting a new diet in regards to your current migraine treatment plan.
When it comes to planning vacations or other events where travel is required, how much does migraine factor into your decision-making?