‘Keto has given me my life back’

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Karen suffered from debilitating cluster headaches for more than 16 years. Despite trying multiple treatments for the condition, nothing made the excruciating headaches go away.

But when Karen tried the keto diet, her cluster headaches were gone after two weeks. And they haven’t come back since, which is truly remarkable.

“Keto has given me my life back,” Karen says.

Here, Karen shares her full story, which we’ve edited lightly for length and clarity.

Karen’s keto journey

My name is Karen. I’m 41 years old and live in a rural area of Virginia.

I’ve had cluster headaches for 16 and a half years. Consider yourself fortunate if you don’t know what a cluster headache is. The name “headache” is a misnomer because these attacks of pain are far more intense than a “headache.”

Cluster headaches can be described as one-sided, excruciating pain in or around the eye that lasts anywhere between 15 minutes to three hours. Unlike migraines, it’s impossible to stay still when a cluster headache hits, and patients often pace and bang their head to distract from the pain.

In the first 15 years, my cluster headaches were episodic, which means that I only got short “clusters” of headaches (generally in the spring). Long, headache-free periods then followed.

About a year and a half ago, my cluster headaches turned chronic, meaning that they never went away. I had anywhere from just two or three to up to ten attacks per day, nearly every day. My life felt reduced to nothing but pain, and I began to struggle with anxiety and depression. I felt like I wasn’t living, just existing in a state of fear waiting for the next attack.

Over that year and a half, I tried every medicine or treatment I could: acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, meditation, steroids, monthly injections, magic mushrooms, a vitamin regimen, lidocaine drops in my nose, and more medications than I care to remember.

I even spent two weeks in a hospital in Chicago, getting a host of infusions to try to get my headaches under control. The best treatment I found was high flow oxygen. The oxygen made the pain stop within a few minutes of starting to breathe it in, but it only stopped the attacks. It did not prevent them from happening.

About three months ago, I went to my primary care provider (who’s been very supportive in helping me fight these headaches) and told her I wanted to try the keto diet. I had read a clinical study out of Italy that demonstrated an incredible success rate treating chronic cluster headaches with this way of eating.

My doctor was all for it and suggested that in addition to keto, I also try intermittent fasting. She lent me her copy of Dr. Jason Fung’s The Complete Guide to Fasting.

I was not so sure about fasting. I’m a farmer, and my job is physically demanding. I was worried I wouldn’t have enough energy to do my work. But my doctor encouraged me to give it a try.

I read the book as soon as I got home and immediately dove headfirst into keto and 16:8 intermittent fasting. I use electrolytes in my water while working on the farm anyway, so I never experienced the keto flu.

The first couple of days of fasting were challenging, but I toughed it out. And with time, it became easier. I used to be always hungry and thought about food all day. I was astonished at how fast my cravings disappeared and how much my relationship with food changed.

It took about two weeks to see any improvement. After that, the cluster headaches stopped. I have not had a full-blown attack in over two months. I still have daily pressure behind my cluster eye that feels like a weak shadow of the cluster attacks. It’s just enough to remind me to stick to my diet.

Keto has given me my life back, and I’m no longer afraid. I’ve been able to wean off all but one medication. And I’ve lost 30 pounds (14 kilos)! Keto is not about weight loss for me, but after all the adverse side effects I got from the medications, weight loss is an excellent keto side effect.

I’m so thankful for finding keto and intermittent fasting. I rarely have cravings or a desire to cheat. But when I do, I remind myself that keto is better than clusters. The prospect of never again experiencing that horrific pain again makes staying keto a breeze.

Comment

Congrats on your success and getting your life back! Your headaches sound miserable, something no one should have to go through. We are thrilled to hear that you found the right lifestyle to help you get your life and health back. Keep up the great work!.

Best,
/ Dr. Bret Scher

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