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Similarities between migraines and epilepsy – could the same diet help?

Migraines and epilepsy have many similarities. In some cases, an epileptic seizure can be triggered by a migraine. Comorbidity is common and some medications used to treat epilepsy also help prevent migraines, such as topiramate. The kind of diet that helps with epilepsy might also help with migraines.

An extremely strict form of low-carbohydrate diet, known as a ketogenic diet, can have a good effect on epilepsy. Not for all sufferers, but for many, and some people seem to be helped by a less strict low-carbohydrate diet. One reason could be that a low-carbohydrate diet changes the metabolism of the brain so that levels of certain important neurotransmitters change. Read more in the text about epilepsy.

Since there are many similarities between migraines and epilepsy we see a need for studies that investigate whether a low-carbohydrate diet can also help migraine sufferers. There are several reports in the scientific literature that suggest this would be worth exploring. In 2006 a pediatrician at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore described his wife’s experience. She had had headaches since she was a child and her problems worsened during her teenage years. As an adult she started a strict low-carbohydrate diet, which was also low in calories, and her migraine attacks disappeared. In 2013 another doctor described how a pair of twin sisters got rid of their migraines while eating a strict, ketogenic low-carbohydrate diet to lose weight. Within the low-carbohydrate movement it’s also common to hear that migraines become milder after the change of diet. Whether a low-carbohydrate diet can help and the level of strictness necessary is something that should be examined using reliable scientific practices.

References:

Migraine and epilepsy (2010)

Can ketosis help migraine sufferers? A case report. (2006)

Diet transiently improves migraine in two twin sisters: possible role of ketogenesis? (2013)