Migraine Treatment and the Ketogenic Diet

Traditional migraine treatment depends on the type of migraine being presented by patients. There are two typical patterns of these severe, recurrent headaches. The first type consists of the presence of a primary headache disorder that is not migraine-related, but that which worsens until there are no relief periods for the patient. This type eventually results in what is termed a “transformed migraine”. 

The second type of migraine is found in people who get a headache one day that just never goes away. Termed “new daily persistent headache” (NDPH). This type is thought to be a chronic version of the more familiar episodic migraine conditions.

Migraine Treatment Research from Experience

I first learned of the connection between migraines and the ketogenic diet after meeting a woman named Elena Gross during a 2014 visit to Dr. Dominic D’Agostino’s lab at the University of South Florida.

Elena described the nightmare of suffering from migraines so severe she was forced to quit both her schooling and work. She was doing some intern work in Dom’s lab as part of her research journey to find relief. She had tried all of the drugs available and every other treatment she could find without success. During her personal research, she came across the use of a ketogenic diet while reading about epilepsy, and thought there must be some connection.  She promptly put herself on a ketogenic diet, and after some trial and error, she eventually found relief from her migraines. At the time, she was also experimenting with taking exogenous ketones, and found they could help her ward off a migraine as well. This put her on a mission to become a research scientist, and she just recently finished her Ph.D. with a thesis on using the ketogenic diet to treat migraines. Dr. Gross speaks about her journey in several videos here on Youtube.

During our discussion, Elena indicated to me that she hoped to write a book one day on treating migraines with a ketogenic diet, and I hope to offer that book here one day.

Other Research

Other research has been done on migraine treatments with a ketogenic diet as well. One team’s research was triggered by accident, so to speak.  Di Lorenzo et al. discovered that a pair of twin sisters who had been put on a ketogenic diet for weight loss experienced a dramatic improvement in their migraine headaches as well.  This same team carried out a second study to see if this effect could be identified in others, and found that the ketogenic diet did have a significant effect on migraine headaches. See here

This line of research on the possibility of a migraine diet is pretty new, but I hope to see more studies in the future as Dr. Gross and Dr. Di Lorenzo’s team continue their work. There are millions of people suffering, and it’s exciting to think that migraine treatment could be as simple and cost-effective as a change in diet.

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