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A bowl shaped like the lower half of a head filled with keto friendly foods that are outlined in the article.

Here’s What Happened When I Tried the Keto Diet: Part 1

When my neurologist suggested I try Keto, I wondered how losing my money in Vegas was going to help my migraines. I quickly realized he wasn’t talking about the numbers game, Keno, but about the diet that places one’s body in a state of ketosis. With my migraines, change was always slow but I was ready to roll the dice and give the Keto Diet a shot.

Failed attempts at diet changes

Over the years, I’d tried other food-related migraine cure-alls. I had a go at the Drink Your Ten Times Your Weight In Water remedy that friends suggested. After six months, when my migraines hadn’t abated, and I had reoccurring dreams I was floating to Mars, I went back to drinking normal amounts of water. Just on the off chance that I had a food allergy, I’d also gone gluten-free for several years with the only success being that my grocery store had an abundance of tortilla chips.

Trying something new

Sitting in my doctor’s office, my face must have mirrored my confusion because my neurologist went on to explain why The Ketogenic (Keto for short) Diet was different. This very specific way of eating has been used by modern physicians as a successful treatment for epilepsy (particularly children) since the 1920s, and now it was finding success with migraineurs. If this worked, it would be a miraculous change in my life. If I could regulate or stop my chronic migraines with a diet change, I was willing to try.

Ketosis is the goal

The Keto Diet is not for your average Pinterest pinner. My neurologist had given me several worksheets detailing the diet’s parameters and different websites to check out. This was much stricter than a regular “low carb” diet, and this time the goal wasn’t weight loss but to put my body in a state of “ketosis.” This happens when I make fats my primary fuel instead of burning those french fries I’d eaten earlier. No more carbohydrates or anything else high in sugary carbs for this gal. Ketones are formed when the body uses fat for its primary source of energy. When there is an elevated level of ketones in the blood, one is in a state of ketosis.

Sugar everywhere

In this scenario, sugar was the villain. For three months, I was told to eliminate fruit and even higher in sugar vegetables (I could introduce less sugary options after three months). Bread, grains, some dairy, and even beans were taken from my table in order to jump-start my body into a state of ketosis. Yes, it would be a challenge, but I figured I already ate fairly healthy until I realized this secret truth: Sugar. Is. Hidden. Everywhere.

Please stay tuned for Part 2!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • caragirl73
    4 days ago

    Hello, can you recommend one of the best websites to learn and try keto. I would like one that was recommended someone that has migraines and success at the keto diet.
    Thank you

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    3 days ago

    Hello! Peggy is right that is a great question! I’m so happy sharing my experience on the Keto diet has resonated with you! I worked so very closely with my neurologist during the 6 months I stayed on this strict diet. He monitored my progress and his knowledge of my health, and how Ketosis works, was an integral part of my experience. It’s always great to engage a health care professional when taking on a diet change—especially something as restrictive as the Keto diet can be. This website is not one my doctor specifically shared, but it’s one that mirrors the information he gave and helped give me a deeper understanding of Ketosis and how the diet functions–especially in the “Frequently asked Question Section.” I hope you find this helpful! Best to you! https://charliefoundation.org/keto-for-epilepsy/

  • Peggy Artman moderator
    3 days ago

    @caragirl, you have a good question! we are trying to contact the author since she probably has the best information for you. ~ Peggy (Migraine.com team)

  • laurahildebrand
    2 weeks ago

    I tried a keto diet several times, but I never had any change in my chronic intractable migraine. The most recent experience with keto was early in 2019. I lost weight but still no impact on migraines. I did have a negative side effect which presented as severe stomach pain which turned out to be gastroparesis. Apparently, the keto Diet is very hard on your stomach, according to my gastroenterologist.

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    2 weeks ago

    Hi there! Thank you for taking the time to share your story! I’m sorry to hear that you experienced stomach pain, and so glad you have supportive a doctor that was able to help you discover the reason! Here’s hoping you find some relief with your migraines! Thanks again!

  • RichardS
    2 weeks ago

    Hi, I have suffered most of my life from migraine, and I am now 54. I learned about Keto diet for migraine from a book called The Migraine Miracle by Dr Josh Turknett, who is a neurologist and migraine sufferer. It’s worth getting the book as it explains all about how the diet works and has lots more information as well. It’s on Amazon. there’s a website that goes with it which is very interesting. It has worked for me, but I think I have to follow it very strictly and if I ‘cheat’, the migraines come back. it’s also important to remember that you have to be free of medication overuse rebound headaches before this has any chance of working. Also combining the diet with excercise helps a great deal, I have found.

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    2 weeks ago

    Hi there! I’m sorry to hear that you have suffered from migraines for most of your life, but happy to learn that the Keto diet has helped you experience a more migraine free life. Thanks for sharing the information on the book! It sounds fascinating! Best to you!

  • AZReynolds
    2 weeks ago

    Looking forward to part 2!!! I went keto in November 2018. Lost 21 lbs in 6 weeks. I did it to beat my Fibromyalgia and arthritis pain. It helped my joints, but put me into fibro flare ups for months. I kept up with it thinking it would ease off, but it never did. My migraines did improve slightly though! However, my neurologist had also put me on beta blockers around March 2019 so they might be why the migraine improved. (He said he doesn’t believe in diet to beat migraines.) Unfortunately beta blockers also lower your blood pressure, so I fainted, fell and broke my back, and had to rely on my husband to cook or retrieve food from the outside. Also my dear neighbor and sister-in-law insisted on cooking for me, so I had to eat what was brought. And golly, I missed bread so I was enjoying the break…from keto, not the fractured back!! Anyway, the fractured vertabrae required surgey, so here I am 5 months later trying to get back on keto again. I’ve gained back 10 pounds, Fibromyalgia returned to it’s previous level of pain, arthritis is ten times worse, and my migraines slowly returned to the level before the keto. So…to keto or not? I’m not sure. But I loved losing weight so easily and I loved losing those cravings for sugar and salt, so I probably will go back as soon as my back heals.

    PS. My keto breath was sweet like cooking sugar, but my body BO was like garlic!! Yuk! Good luck!

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    2 weeks ago

    Oh my! I’m so sorry to hear about your fractured vertebrae! I totally understand that the demands of eating in the Keto style can be challenging, and it sounds like you’ve had some lovely help from your friends and family during this time. I too love a good baked bread roll! Good luck and please keep us posted!

  • cczarzeus
    2 weeks ago

    In February 2019, I was diagnosed with Diabetes.

    I have been working with a nutritionist for the past 2 years for my IBS/Migraine/Thyroid/Arthritis and FODMAP issues, so I was recommended to switch to Keto.
    Within 3 months, I had lost 30 pounds, brought my A1C from 7.4 down to 6.0 which my Endocrinologist thought was excellent.

    What I noticed was my headache/migraines have decreased and the joint and muscular pain has diminished.

    For me Keto has been a turning point, but, I am taking this one step further by going carnivore! Currently, I am still having issues when I eat raw or cooked veggies with IBS symptoms. So, by going carnivore it keeps my blood sugar really low, which in turn helps to relieve the joint pain, I was still experiencing.

    It takes at least 3 months for the body to register change, for some even longer, I truly believe that if you want to see change you have to work at changing your mind first!

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    2 weeks ago

    Hello there! Thanks for sharing your journey with the Keto Diet! I’m happy to hear that this way of eating has improved your overall health and your migraines and joint pain has diminished! Let us know what happens with going carnivore! Good luck with everything! 🙂

  • dpasek
    2 weeks ago

    I have been doing low carb for almost 20 years and keto for longer than the past year, the carnivore keto version for most of that. It has never had the slightest influence on migraine frequency or severity for me. There are many other significant benefits to keto for me, including amazing appetite control and complete cure of eczema, but has never helped migraines in the slightest. I have observed that I sometimes have carb cravings during a migraine episode, but it apparently has nothing to do with whether or not I am eating keto. YMMV, so you have to try for yourself.

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    2 weeks ago

    Hi there! You know, I get carb cravings when I have migraines too! Pizza and french fries mainly…I’m sorry to learn that Keto wasn’t able to lesson your migraines, I agree, though, there are many other benefits. I’m glad you’ve experienced some of these and found a way of eating that supports you. Thanks for sharing!

  • Cheryle Breaux
    2 weeks ago

    I’m working my way up to full on keto. For the last 2 1/2 weeks I’ve cut out all sugar (even those hidden ones), grains, beans, and all processed foods. I still allowed myself fruit, sweet potatoes, and full fat dairy because I felt if I went too far too fast I would not stick with it. I’ve been doing a lot of research on keto and am thinking about going all in starting next week. I have chronic daily headaches and psoriatic arthritis and I’ve tried everything. I’m looking forward to part 2 of your journey.

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    2 weeks ago

    Hello! Thank you for sharing how the Keto way of eating is progressing for you! Research is always a good way to gain information when beginning any new diet, and I hope you find some improvement in your chronic headaches and psoriatic arthritis. Please let me know what happens! 🙂

  • Bamavic
    2 weeks ago

    I tried Keto–was very strict on it for about a month. Result: No effect on migraines, keto breath, more night leg cramps. Needless to say, I didn’t continue.

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    2 weeks ago

    I’m so sorry to hear that! Listening to one’s body and knowing when to move on is all a part of the process for finding some relief it seems. I appreciate you sharing your experience. Thank you!

  • Maylem
    2 weeks ago

    I started keto about 15 months ago and migraines have gone from 12-15 headache days per month plus auras without headache every 2-3 days all month, to 1-2 headache days per month and auras are basically gone. Intensity of headaches I do get has decreased significantly too – usually can manage without meds and can still go to work. Such a relief!

    I tried keto when I read that it was an effective treatment for epilepsy – went to NIH to find lit on whether it was also effective for migraine, and the consensus was that while more research was needed, ketogenic diet appears to be a safe, effective, sustainable treatment for migraine. I started keto shortly after that and the results are worth every dietary “sacrifice” I’ve made.

  • 6h8i94
    2 weeks ago

    I am so happy for you! That is the result everyone is looking for! I tried it too, as did my daughter, we ate the same exact things and she lost weight (12 lbs in 3 wks) and had less headaches. I stayed the same weight and had a couple more headaches. It is different for everyone! You are the success story migrainers need to hear!

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    2 weeks ago

    Hi there! 12-15 headaches down to 1-2 a month is wonderful news! I’m so pleased to hear that you’ve found relief on the Keto diet! Thank you for sharing your results! 😉

  • Peggy Artman moderator
    2 weeks ago

    @Maylem, welcome to our community forum. Thank you for reaching out! I’m glad that you have found some relief. ~Peggy (Migraine.com Team)

  • Yarnman
    2 weeks ago

    I started the Keto diet in an attempt to lose weight. I was up to 25-30 migraine days a month in spite of a year long try of botox. I was on the diet completely, no carbs, no sugar and no processed foods. I lost 30 lbs and withing a week of starting the migraines stopped. I was amazed and overjoyed. I also felt so much better overall and my progressive MS was also much better.
    After over 3 months I had an occasional migraine and a few bad cluster headaches. I started adding more fruit and limited carbs. Then the migraines came back with 10 horrible straight days. I dumped gluten this time. Now it has been a couple of weeks gluten free and I have a mild migraine about once a week. I am considering going back to full Keto, but it is a really hard diet to manage.

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    2 weeks ago

    Thank you for sharing your experience on the Keto diet. I’m glad to hear you experienced some initial relief, and I agree with you that it can be a lot to work out with food prep and then going out to dinner can prove a challenge. Please keep me posted! 😉

  • Peggy Artman moderator
    2 weeks ago

    @yarnman, I’m glad that you have had such good results from the Keto diet. You are right that this kind of diet must be hard to maintain long term! I hope your migraine attacks continue to improve. ~ Peggy (Migraine.com Team)

  • ripeka
    2 weeks ago

    I have been on and off keto over past 3 years and worked out that it is the gluten present in white food that has been a migraine trigger for me; when on keto, gluten is also naturally removed so that’s perhaps something to consider to. Keto/low carb is great because it removes so much crap and hidden sugar from your diet that affects so much else in our bodies.

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    2 weeks ago

    Thanks for taking the time to read and respond! Doing Keto I was shocked to discover how much hidden sugar there was in everything! I’m glad through this process you were able to discover that gluten is a trigger. Best! 😉

  • gill10stars
    2 weeks ago

    I have just started a vlcd which will put me into ketosis in an effort to lose weight but am hoping that a side effect will be less motivated migraine attacks. It’s weird because one of the things I have already noticed is improved mental clarity

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    2 weeks ago

    Hi there! So great to hear about your improved mental clarity, and here’s hoping for less migraine filled days! Fingers crossed!

  • ripeka
    2 weeks ago

    what is a vlcd please?

  • dmeguy
    2 weeks ago

    I started keto in early May for weight loss purposes. I knew my diet had become way too sugar-filled and that it was causing inflammation that contributed to my migraines. I was averaging about 7-10 migraine days per month. But, since I’ve switched to keto, I have only had three migraine days in three months!

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    2 weeks ago

    That is wonderful news! I love hearing that your migraines have reduced in frequency due to trying the Keto diet! Three days in three months…hooray! Thanks again for sharing! 🙂

  • Martha Growdon moderator
    2 weeks ago

    That’s great news, dmeguy! Keep it up!
    -Martha
    Migraine.com Team

  • gitasgirl
    2 weeks ago

    I was on the Auto-immune Protocol (AIP) which is very similar to keto. Did it for a year. Lost 30 pounds and seldom had a headache all year. This was after almost 30 years of migraines! The year prior to this diet my migraines had turned to vestibular migraines: I had severe vertigo and almost quit my job! My functional medicine doctor put me on this diet with a variety of supplements too ( fish oil, curcumin, resveratrol, vitamin D, etc). And then…gradually, I started letting things back in. The headaches didn’t come back all at once…but gradually…now a year later? Full on headaches, vertigo popping back in, full on weight gain…all the miseries. I’ve started the diet again this week. Wish me luck!

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    2 weeks ago

    Yes–good luck! I love hearing that the diet helped you, and after thirty years of migraines you seldom had a headache. Let’s hope that you feel this same sense of relief going back on the diet again! And I’m right there with Donna–please keep us posted! 🙂

  • DonnaFA moderator
    2 weeks ago

    Sending love, light and positive energy, @gitasgirl Let us know how it goes! – Warmly, Donna (Migraine.com team)

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