How I Beat Both the Myths of Diet Difficulty and Migraines at the Same Time

Photo by John Schaidler on Unsplash

Several years ago I had to come to terms with the fact that I have some COPD as a result of years of smoking. While quitting the cigarettes certainly helped my breathing, that effect was gradually lessened as a result of the slow but continuing progress of the disease.

Long before that I had worked with a personal trainer who taught me to be comfortable in any gym in the world. Over time she had, and still is, quite an expert on diet and nutrition and is convinced that inflammation can be found at the root of many illnesses, including my COPD. She began to nag me to drop wheat from my diet.

Ellie is an excellent nag — she just kept it up because she wanted to help me. One day I blew up and agreed to drop wheat for 10 days. In my mind I was going to accomplish two things, get her off my back and prove her wrong. I went to my kitchen to identify the wheat and almost wept there was so much of it. None the less, I figured out how I could eliminate it for the next few days, and figured I’d fill in the rest of what wheatless stuff I needed on my next shopping trip.

It only took 3 days

It took just three days for me to realize Ellie had been totally right. My breathing was easing and the only thing I’d changed was dropping wheat. I was briefly furious — I don’t like being wrong any more than you do. To this day I’m not sure if it’s modern wheat or the gluten. In fact, to make my life simpler I dropped most grains and found I can live without them quite nicely.

Paleo came next

She introduced me to Mark’s Daily Apple and I discovered the Paleo diet or way of eating. It didn’t feel like a diet because I rarely felt I was deprived of anything I truly wanted to eat.

I hoped I’d lose weight, but that just didn’t seem to happen and I actually gave up on that and learned to love my body at 198 pounds. I did increase my exercise which my body has always loved and figured I’d be in plus clothes forever. I even stopped weighing myself and thought about getting rid of my scale but didn’t.

I’d had migraines since I was 12

My first migraine headache was when I was 12. My parents and I were starting a trip and I didn’t tell them about the awful pain in my head because I didn’t want to spoil the vacation. Eventually it passed. Little did I know that was the beginning of years and years of migraines, one that actually hospitalized me. They shaped my life in many ways.

One day I read that a ketogenic diet helped some people get rid of or significantly reduce migraine headaches. The paleo way of eating isn’t far from the keto way of eating so I began to drop the carbs.

Keto solves two problems

Sometime in my second or third week of eating keto I had a migraine EXCEPT it simply wasn’t as bad as most of mine had been. I was cautiously hopeful.

I got more serious about keto. There’s a ton of information on the web and I’ve found I really like the keto thread on In the beginning I fiddled around trying to determine if I was in ketosis with urine test strips. I never got a consistent reading and give that up as a bad job. The fewer carbs I ate, the less frequent and less painful my migraines became. I stuck with it mostly. If I’m craving a cookie I eat one… if I eat more than one or two or start eating them regularly, my migraine pain increases. Freedom from pain is a great motivator for leaving carbs behind.

Maybe 90 days into eating keto, as the weather shifted from southern California summer to fall, it got chilly enough for me to want a pair of jeans for the day. (Okay, I’m an admitted weather wuss.) As I slipped into them I realized my body had changed — the were loose around the waist! I quickly got on my scale and discovered I’d unknowingly lost almost eight pounds!

I’m a winner!

I fell into some real success:

  • I’m wheat and gluten free and my breathing is easier.
  • I follow the keto way of eating and never feel like I’m on a diet or deprived, well almost never. Occasionally I splurge on popcorn. My breathing is easier and my migraines almost non-existent.
  • I’ve lost 35 pounds without trying which also makes my breathing easier and although the weight loss has slowed it hasn’t stopped.
  • Let me repeat, my migraines are almost non-existent. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that.

Would this work for you? I have no idea, I’m pretty sure it won’t work for everyone. But maybe it will for you or maybe some version of gentle experimentation will solve some problems for you. It can’t hurt to try.

My lung doctor is thrilled, and doesn’t mind keto a bit. My primary care physician told me I could only stay on keto for ‘several months.’ I’d already been on it almost a year when she said this so I ignored her. While I take my doctors seriously I also believe the ultimate decisions are my responsibility — mileage varies and you should listen to your own intuition about this.

Live well and abundantly,

Anne Wayman —

Writer, life and writing coach, book ghostwriter, Grandmother, Buddhist. Liberal who listens to the other side, political

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