How your low carb diet is making your headaches and migraines worse.

How your low carb diet is making your headaches and migraines worse.

The back story

Popular health influencers, self proclaimed Tik tok doctors, gym bros and even that random neighbour have all at one point preached the gospel of “Low carbs” and a protein-packed diet instead.

I hate to break it to you but this is all a lie, or perhaps it is safer to say that this is not the complete truth especially for people who are prone to headaches and migraines.

What is true and what isn’t?

While it is true that Carbohydrate rich diets today is one of the contributors to the high obesity rate all over the world, it should be noted that the real culprits here are not “Carbohydrates” as a whole but rather “unhealthy carbohydrates”. Most of the foods that provide us with carbohydrates in our every day lives are highly unhealthy. They are usually low in fiber, over-processed and lack essential nutrients. Chips, burgers, pastries, you name it, are all over processed foods and are definitely the unhealthy carbs.

The good and bad Carbs?

It is not impossible for me to name over a hundred bad carbs so lets just focus on  providing a non-exhaustive list of The good carbs that you shouldn’t run away from(but consume in modesty) especially if you suffer from Migraines and headaches

Here are some examples of healthy carbohydrate-rich foods:

  • 1. Whole grain bread
  • 2. Brown rice
  • 3. Quinoa
  • 4. Oats
  • 5. Sweet potatoes
  • 6. Barley
  • 7. Buckwheat
  • 8. Bulgur
  • 9. Whole wheat pasta
  • 10. Whole grain couscous
  • 11. Millet
  • 12. Lentils
  • 13. Black beans
  • 14. Chickpeas
  • 15. Kidney beans
  • 16. Edamame
  • 17. Amaranth
  • 18. Farro
  • 19. Spelt
  • 20. Wild rice

Obviously, this list is a non-exhaustive one but these few listed foods are rich in complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making them excellent choices for maintaining a balanced and healthy diet.

More on bad carbs…

These common sources of carbohydrates A.K.A Bad carbs are densely packed with calories.  Take a look at these examples;

1. Mini Bagels: A small-sized bagel weighing around 60 grams can contain approximately 200-250 calories, similar to the calories found in a medium-sized serving of cooked rice.

2. Small Croissant: A petite croissant weighing about 40 grams can contain around 150-200 calories, comparable to the calories in a small serving of mashed potatoes.

3. Sweetened Breakfast Cereal: A small bowl of sweetened breakfast cereal, around 30 grams, can contain as much as 120-150 calories, equivalent to the calories in a small banana.

4. Mini Muffins: A small-sized muffin, roughly 50 grams, can contain approximately 200-250 calories, similar to the calories in a small serving of pasta salad.

5. Rice Crackers: Just a handful of rice crackers, about 20 grams, can contain around 80-100 calories, comparable to the calories in a small serving of cooked quinoa.

6. Just a handful a potato chips, roughly 15-20 grams can contain around 100-150 calories, equivalent to the calories in a small banana and a tablespoon of peanut butter

7. A single serving of an energy drink, typically around 250ml, can contain as much as 100-150 calories, equivalent to the calories in a small portion of grilled chicken breast.


This doesn’t mean that carbohydrates can be wiped off out diets all together. Carbohydrates play an important role  in the level of Serotonin in the brain.


Serotonin is a neurotransmitter primarily known for its role in regulating mood, appetite, and sleep. However, it also has effects on various physiological processes, including blood vessel function and blood pressure regulation.

Serotonin is made in the brain from Tryptophan which is an amino acid.

Well if you remember you basic health science, amino acids are made from proteins. Hence, you might argue that a more protein-packed diet is needed for producing more Tryptophan and consequently, more serotonin in the brain. It doesn’t not work this way.

When you eat a protein rich food, several amino acids are metabolized in the body and our friend Tryptophan is only one of them. In fact, it is one of the weakest amino acids made in the body.

For this Tryptophan to be absorbed into the brain, it needs to “compete” with several other amino acids. But since Tryptophan is “weak” it is poorly absorbed by the brain in the presence of other amino acids, the brain does not get enough of it an hence, less Serotonin is produced.

Importance of Serotonin in Regulating Migraines:

  • Regulation of blood flow in the brain
  • Modulation of pain sensation
  • control of inflammation in blood vessels
  • Balance of mood and emotions
  • Regulation of sleep patterns

However, with a  carb diet, there is an increased release of insulin which clears most of the other Amino acids from the system giving Tryptophan an easy access to the brain where more serotonin is produced.

In essence

The aim of this article is not to discourage the consumption of Protein diets or to encourage the excessive consumption of carbs but to debunk the Myths that “Carbs are bad for you”. Oh have you ever heard of a balanced diet -that thing doctors keep ringing in our heads? Yeah, that is what we need. Because just as much as we need proteins, we also need carbs (The good ones!) and every other nutrient that make a balanced diet truly balanced. So Go Carbs, Go!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *