Hi. I'm new on this forum, but wanted to share some thoughts on the ketogenic diet. My 20 year old son has had episodic cluster headaches for the past three years. I would do anything to provide him and anyone suffering from cluster headaches some relief, which is the reason why I am writing.
I recently read a journal article from a group of researchers out of Italy who placed 18 chronic cluster headache patients on a 3 month ketogenic diet. Of the 18 patients, 11 experienced full resolution of their headaches and 4 had a headache reduction of at least 50%. Here is a link to the study:
I realize that this is a small sample size and the results are positive but preliminary. But I wanted to share this information, so that others may be able to benefit.
We have a family friend who has chronic cluster headaches. I worked with her to put her on a keto diet in June and she has improved dramatically, although she is also on Verapamil and a vitamin regime. She temporarily went off the diet at a wedding and immediately noticed a shadowing effect of an impending cluster headache.
Please note: The keto diet may not be for everyone. There are some contraindications (e.g. diabetes) to the keto diet, and you can Google them. If needed, please check with your health care provider before trying it. Since most doctors know very little about nutrition, they may try to talk you out of it.
For those of you who are interested in trying this food plan and are unfamiliar with it, the diet is roughly 75% fat, 15% protein and 10% carbs. The study used 10 grams of carbs per day for the first month and 20-30 grams of carbs for the second and third months. This is a pretty drastic change from the way that most people currently eat, so perhaps 50 grams of carbs per day is a good starting point if you don't want to go lower than that.
Ketones are a source of caloric energy used by the brain, heart and muscles similar to glucose (sugar). They are produced in the liver as a by product of fat metabolism when insulin and blood sugar are low. Insulin spikes after we consume high carb/sugar foods and drinks, which is bad for the body.
No need to count calories. Eat until you are content, or better yet, stop eating when you are 80% full. The good news is that you will stay full longer on a fat based diet than a carb based diet, so chances are that your appetite will not require you to eat every few hours. A carb diet is like building a fire with leaves and pine cones. There is an initial burst of flames (energy) but the fire dies out very quickly. In order to keep the fire going, you need to constantly add more leaves and pine cones (in other words, keep eating more carbs). A fat based diet is like building a fire with wooden logs. The fire burns for a long time without having to add to it.
The human body can store about 2,000 kilocalories of carbohydrates and about 40,000 kilocalories of fat. The goal of keto is to burn the fat stores that we all have, as a form of energy. But we can't get to the fat stores if we are eating muffins, donuts, bagels, etc. and drinking sugared drinks, and the body is working hard just to manage the extra sugar in our systems.
As you are transitioning to a ketogenic diet, some people go through the "keto flu". You may not feel so great at the beginning, but after a few weeks, will really notice the difference. Even if it doesn't help with cluster headaches, there's a very good chance that you will have more energy, more mental clarity, lose some weight and see other favorable outcomes.
Here are some references for you:
Keto food list: https://www.marksdailyapple.com/keto/shopping-list/
Keto recipes: dietdoctor.com
Thought leaders in the keto world: Jeff Volek, Steve Phinney, Jason Fung, Tim Noakes, Mark Sisson (marksdailyapple.com). Feel free to google them and/or watch their videos on You Tube.
Good luck and I hope this helps you!