Keto Diet and Migraines
Keto Diet

Keto Diet and Migraines

Migraines are no joke. Some relationships do exist between the keto diet and migraine. Anyone who has suffered from migraines knows how serious they can be, including nausea or vomiting, severe pain, and sensitivity to light and noise. Migraines can keep a person from working or leaving home and may reduce the overall quality of life.

Some migraineurs use a keto diet as a way to improve their migraines. We will discuss why and how ketosis can be beneficial for migraineurs.

What is a Migraine?

Here are some facts about migraines:

  • Migraines are moderate to severe headaches that usually include intense palpitations and last from 4 to 72 hours. They usually start on one side of the patient’s head and may spread to both sides.
  • Some people experience halos, such as flashes of light and fatigue, before the migraine begins.
  • Triggers for migraines may include hormonal changes, diet, exercise, or stress.
  • Most medications used to treat migraines are designed to relieve pain or prevent or reduce recurrences. However, each one has its possible side effects and is not guaranteed to be effective.

Let’s look at how inducing ketosis in the body through a keto diet can help migraine sufferers.

Keto Diet for Epilepsy and Migraines

A keto diet is defined as a diet rich in fat, low in carbohydrates, and moderate in protein. According to WebMD, followers of this diet can drastically reduce their carbohydrate consumption in favor of fat, bringing their bodies to a metabolic state known as ketosis.

In addition to weight loss, the keto diet has other health benefits. One of these is the treatment of epilepsy and the prevention of other brain disorders. As a result, some people believe that this diet plan can also address migraines.

There are some interesting commonalities between migraines and epilepsy:

Doctors often prescribe anti-epileptic drugs (originally used for epilepsy patients) for migraine patients. This is because people with epilepsy and migraines have high levels of glutamate in their bodies, and these drugs usually block the neurotransmitter glutamate.

When someone is in a state of ketosis, the ketone bodies produced in the body can block large amounts of glutamate. Therefore, just as ketosis is beneficial for people with epilepsy, it is also beneficial for people with migraines. The ketone bodies produced in ketosis function when the body shifts from carbohydrates to fat as an energy substitute, providing fuel for many types of cells, including the neurons in the brain that are thought to cause migraine attacks.

Ketosis for Migraines

Benefits of Ketosis for Migraines

While there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that the keto diet is helpful for migraines, we hope to conduct more conclusive research on this topic in the future. That said, there have been some interesting findings recently.

One study involved two 47-year-old twin sisters who had approximately 5-6 migraine attacks per month. The migraines in these women lasted up to 72 hours and included the common symptoms of migraine.

The sisters also tried various migraine prevention treatments but stopped using them because they were ineffective or caused weight gain. However, when the sisters began a medically supervised keto diet, they not only lost weight, but their migraines stopped while their bodies were in a state of ketosis.

Another short-term study divided migraine patients into two subgroups, one following a keto diet and the other following a standard low-calorie diet. It was concluded that the keto diet helped relieve headaches and reduce the number of medications taken, while the standard low-calorie diet was found to not affect migraines during the observation period.

Cherubino di Lorenzo, a neurologist at the Sapienza University of Rome, also noted in an article that he found that patients’ headaches only improved significantly in a ketogenic state.

In addition, ketone bodies can help reduce hunger, as well as insulin and glucose problems. As mentioned in the twin study, a common side effect of most migraine medications is weight gain. The downside is that weight gain can also make symptoms worse. Obesity increases the risk of migraine by 81%.

Blood Sugar and Migraines

Ketones may not be the only cause of migraines. Migraineurs often experience problems with blood sugar and insulin levels to cope with sugar intake. Therefore, the low-carbohydrate aspect of nutritional ketosis combined with ketone bodies as an alternative fuel source may help improve migraines.

Keto Diet and Migraines

Keto Foods for Migraine

Since the diet is an important factor in migraine outcomes, let’s take a look at some of the foods that are best avoided by migraine sufferers. It is important to note that the triggers for certain foods may vary from person to person.

Common Foods to Avoid Migraines Include:

  • Aged cheeses: These and other aged or stale foods, such as aged meats, red wine, olives, ripe avocados, red vinegar, and balsamic vinegar, contain tyramine, one of the most well-known migraine triggers.
  • Caffeine: While caffeine helps stop migraines and does not cause migraines when consumed regularly, caffeine withdrawal can be a trigger.
  • Aspartame: An artificial sweetener that usually comes in the form of NutraSweet or Equal. Note that most beverages, such as carbonated beverages like Coke, contain aspartame, so consuming carbonated beverages is not a good idea if you suffer from migraines.
  • Sulfites: present in most wines.
  • Nitrites and Nitrates: found in cured meats, bacon, and other processed proteins. Most processed meats are on our list of foods to avoid.
  • Bananas: Bananas and citrus fruits both contain histamine, which can trigger headaches.
  • Foods Containing Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): Remember what we mentioned earlier about glutamate and how high it is in migraine sufferers? MSG, used in some restaurants and packaged foods, is the sodium salt of glutamate.
  • Yeast Foods: such as soft pretzels, pizza crusts, and sourdough bread.

Fortunately, following a keto diet will automatically help you avoid some of the foods that are most likely to trigger migraines, such as bread, fruits, and artificial foods.


Inducing nutritional ketosis through a keto diet may provide a way to greatly reduce the severity and frequency of attacks in migraineurs and promote weight loss, which in itself is beneficial for migraineurs.