Fasting for Post-Traumatic Brain Injury Headache

Fasting for Post-Traumatic Brain Injury Headache
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What effect do fasting and a plant-based diet have on TBI and migraines?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

An uncontrolled and unpublished study purported to show a beneficial effect of fasting on migraine headaches, but fasting may be more likely to trigger a migraine than help it. In fact, skipped meals are among one of the most consistently identified dietary triggers of headaches in general. In a review of hundreds of fasts at the TrueNorth Health Center in California, the incidence of headache was nearly one in three. But TrueNorth also published a remarkable case report on posttraumatic headache.

The CDC estimates that more than a million Americans sustain traumatic brain injuries every year, and chronic pain is a common complication, as in like three-quarters suffering such an injury. There are drugs, of course, to treat it. There are always drugs. And if that doesn’t work, surgery—cutting the nerves to your head to stop the pain.

What about fasting and plants? In a highly debilitating condition, difficult to manage, a 52-year-old woman presents with unremitting, chronic post-traumatic headache. And when I say chronic, I mean chronic—pain for 16 years—but who then achieved long-term relief following fasting, followed by an exclusively plant-foods diet, free of added sugar, oil, or salt.

Before then, she had tried drug after drug, after drug, after drug, after drug with no relief, suffering in constant pain her entire life. She started out in constant pain, but then, after the fast, the intensity of the pain was cut in half, and though she was still having daily headaches, at least there were some pain-free periods. Six months later, she tried it again, and eventually her headaches were mild, under 10 minutes, and infrequent. And she continued that way months and even years later.

Now, of course, it’s hard to disentangle the effects of the fasting from the effects of the whole food plant-based diet she remained on those ensuing years. You’ve heard of analgesics (painkillers). Well there are some foods that may be pro-algesic (pain-promoting), such as foods high in arachidonic acid, which includes include meats, dairy, and eggs. So, the lowering of arachidonic acid, from which our body makes a range of pro-inflammatory compounds, may be accomplished by eating a more plant-based diet.

So, maybe that contributed to the benefit in the fasting case, whereas many plant foods are high in anti-inflammatory components. So, in terms of migraine headaches, more plant foods and less animal foods may help. But you don’t know until you put it to the test.

The researchers figured a plant-based diet may offer the best of both worlds; so, they designed a randomized, controlled crossover study where those with recurrent migraines were randomized to eat a strictly plant-based diet or to take a placebo pill. And then, the groups switched. During the placebo phase, half said the pain got better; half said the pain remained the same or got worse. But during the dietary portion, they almost all got better.

During that first block, the diet group experienced significant improvements in headache number, pain intensity, days with headaches, and a reduction in the amount of painkillers they needed to take. In fact, it worked a little too good. Many individuals were unwilling to complete the study by returning to their previous diets. Remember, they were supposed to go back to their regular diets and take a pill instead, but they felt so much better they were like, “no way, José.” And we’ve seen this with other trials, where those trying plant-based diets felt so good, they often refused to abandon them, screwing up the study. So, plant-based diets can sometimes work a little too well.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Video production by Glass Entertainment

Motion graphics by Avo Media

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

An uncontrolled and unpublished study purported to show a beneficial effect of fasting on migraine headaches, but fasting may be more likely to trigger a migraine than help it. In fact, skipped meals are among one of the most consistently identified dietary triggers of headaches in general. In a review of hundreds of fasts at the TrueNorth Health Center in California, the incidence of headache was nearly one in three. But TrueNorth also published a remarkable case report on posttraumatic headache.

The CDC estimates that more than a million Americans sustain traumatic brain injuries every year, and chronic pain is a common complication, as in like three-quarters suffering such an injury. There are drugs, of course, to treat it. There are always drugs. And if that doesn’t work, surgery—cutting the nerves to your head to stop the pain.

What about fasting and plants? In a highly debilitating condition, difficult to manage, a 52-year-old woman presents with unremitting, chronic post-traumatic headache. And when I say chronic, I mean chronic—pain for 16 years—but who then achieved long-term relief following fasting, followed by an exclusively plant-foods diet, free of added sugar, oil, or salt.

Before then, she had tried drug after drug, after drug, after drug, after drug with no relief, suffering in constant pain her entire life. She started out in constant pain, but then, after the fast, the intensity of the pain was cut in half, and though she was still having daily headaches, at least there were some pain-free periods. Six months later, she tried it again, and eventually her headaches were mild, under 10 minutes, and infrequent. And she continued that way months and even years later.

Now, of course, it’s hard to disentangle the effects of the fasting from the effects of the whole food plant-based diet she remained on those ensuing years. You’ve heard of analgesics (painkillers). Well there are some foods that may be pro-algesic (pain-promoting), such as foods high in arachidonic acid, which includes include meats, dairy, and eggs. So, the lowering of arachidonic acid, from which our body makes a range of pro-inflammatory compounds, may be accomplished by eating a more plant-based diet.

So, maybe that contributed to the benefit in the fasting case, whereas many plant foods are high in anti-inflammatory components. So, in terms of migraine headaches, more plant foods and less animal foods may help. But you don’t know until you put it to the test.

The researchers figured a plant-based diet may offer the best of both worlds; so, they designed a randomized, controlled crossover study where those with recurrent migraines were randomized to eat a strictly plant-based diet or to take a placebo pill. And then, the groups switched. During the placebo phase, half said the pain got better; half said the pain remained the same or got worse. But during the dietary portion, they almost all got better.

During that first block, the diet group experienced significant improvements in headache number, pain intensity, days with headaches, and a reduction in the amount of painkillers they needed to take. In fact, it worked a little too good. Many individuals were unwilling to complete the study by returning to their previous diets. Remember, they were supposed to go back to their regular diets and take a pill instead, but they felt so much better they were like, “no way, José.” And we’ve seen this with other trials, where those trying plant-based diets felt so good, they often refused to abandon them, screwing up the study. So, plant-based diets can sometimes work a little too well.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Video production by Glass Entertainment

Motion graphics by Avo Media

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