The best side effect of all

No pain, all gain. source

Today’s guest post is from a very good friend of mine. Andrea Asa Sonnenberg is fun, witty, and a ginge, the triple threat of fabulousness. She’s also a fellow writer for, covering a bevy of  schweet topics, from Women’s Relationship Advice, to Beauty Products, to Parenting, and Celebrity Fashion.   What happens when this hard working mom has a run-in with a doughnut? Only the sweetest epiphany ever–and a side effect she never expected.

I didn’t even have to open my eyes to know I was in trouble. I could feel the searing fingers of pain squeezing around the base of my skull, like a vise, pulsating in a nauseating cadence. The sun was red through my heavy lids, and I knew, I knew from experience, that my morning was going to be miserable. I was going to pay for my previous day’s indulgences.

I was pretty sure this was what a hangover felt like. Never a drinker, I wasn’t entirely sure what a hangover felt like, mind you, but I’d seen them in the movies. They didn’t look fun, and migraines were anything but fun. Nauseating, throbbing, mind-numbing pain. My family was going to be stirring soon, so I didn’t have much choice. I had to get up.

It was all because of a stupid doughnut. My husband had brought doughnuts home the day before, and my kids had inhaled all but one. That one sat on the table, with a single bite out of it, for several hours. I should have thrown it away. All sane people would have. But it looked soooo good. So I ate it. And now I was paying the price.

No one told me that a low carb diet might cure my migraines. Before I’d started low carbing to lose weight, I was having four to five migraine days a week. Every week. I was virtually disabled, as my mother had been disabled with migraines before me. My mother had had teenagers when she was dealing with the misery of her chronic migraines, however. I had very small children. I didn’t have the luxury of knocking myself out with heavy-duty narcotics and hiding in a darkened room. I had to suck down some caffeine, take a Treximet if I was lucky enough to have a spare one, and go about my day, puking whenever I thought I could get away with it.

Fun life. I expected migraines to ultimately kill me. Not through suicide, although people with migraine are more likely to commit suicide, but through migranous stroke. Dramatic? Sure I was. But migraines are not just bad headaches. They are a serious neurological disorder that offer chronic pain and often a multitude of associated symptoms from IBS to depression for their sufferers. The vast majority of the general public and even many in the medical community misunderstand them.

I was on multiple prophylactic medications, nutritional supplements, and prescription triptans (of which I only received nine pills a month) to help end or abort the pain. None of it really helped. My doctor was reluctant to give me narcotics, and I was reluctant to take them. Although I’d trimmed lots of supposed migraine-triggers from my diet, not once had anyone ever mentioned carbohydrates.

So going low carb and finding the delightful side effect was purely accidental. I hadn’t even noticed it at first. I expected headaches during my induction period. The literature told me to, after all. But nothing. Quite odd, really. Not a single headache. Even though I’d been having more headache days than not, it didn’t click with me. Not then.

Not until I’d been low carb for over a month and lost virtually nothing pound-wise did I realize I’d not been having headaches. I’d gotten discouraged about my lack of weight loss, so even though I was feeling better and not having cravings, I cheated. I enjoyed a handful of M&Ms and some tortilla chips and salsa. I even went a little crazy and had pasta for dinner.

And oh, how sick I was the next day with the worst migraine I’d had in weeks. And that’s when the realization kicked in: It was the carbs! I tried to Google to find a link, but mostly what I found was a link between gluten and migraines. Was it the gluten or the carbs? I don’t know. I may never know, and what’s more, I really don’t care.

Since then, I’ve also begun losing weight. Granted, it has taken since March to lose 15 pounds, but I’ve lost it. I feel awesome now. I only have a few headaches a month, and those are almost entirely hormone-related. So whether I continue losing weight or not, one thing’s for certain: I’m definitely losing the carbs for good. No doughnut is worth the certain misery guaranteed to come after.

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  1. suebeehoney says

    I can vouch for this story 100%. I have horrid side effects (I call them "carb hangovers") if I overdo it on the carbs. Bread, potatoes and pasta bring on an immediate reaction (within 30 minutes) of extreme fatigue and lethargy that is very difficult to shake. Not pleasant at all.

  2. I've never been prone to real migranes, but i empathise with those who do. I'm bipolar (LC helps a lot) and it infuriates me when people claim to have migranes and only have headaches, Its not right and it belittles the very real suffering of those who have true and devastating cronic migranes.

  3. This makes total sense. I always figured migraines and epilepsy have something in common, and now they are also treating epilepsy with low carb diets with great results.

  4. Kate and Chris says

    As a carb hangover sufferer I can verify that they are indeed a bit like an alcohol hangover. I've suffered a few of those as well. Since going low carb (January 26, 2011) I've only lost around 20 pounds, but I've never felt better. I don't suffer from migraines, but I used to get a lot of headaches which I don't get now unless I have one of the two (or both at the same time-they tend to go hand in hand) hangovers mentioned above. I used to think I had arthritis, but I no longer have any joint pain unless I overdo the exercise. I have a history of hypothyroidism on both sides of my family so I think that might be part of the weight loss issue. I suppose I'll have to get over my latrophobia (fear of doctors) and get it all sorted out.
    Thanks for your story. I get discouraged reading about all the people who have gone low carb and the weight just melts off. It's good to know there are others who are happy to have discovered the source of their health issues and find that to be reason enough to stay the course.

  5. Jamie aka Carbarella says

    I have maybe had ONE migraine in my entire life, and it was the worst experience ever. I can't imagine what people go through with these daily. They're debilitating.

    My husband used to have horrible migraines when he had MSG, aspartame, and nitrates. Once we found out what caused them, he's been without them for years. The key is learning the triggers.

    It's so wonderful to hear so many of you have really beat migraines.

    It also bums me out thinking about how many more suffer and medicate rather than change their lifestyles to delete whatever's causing the problem.

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