Headache during fasting or keto diet is one of the main problems which people face. Many of them even leave it due to unbearable discomfort especially women. We had covered the list of problem faced in another article with the remedies. Just to recollect that headache and acidity are the two main problems with people transitioning from sugar burning to fat burning. Let us understand why we get headaches.
The short version
Brain is the largest consumer of energy in our body. Even while sleeping, the brain remains active. It however has to rely entirely on blood glucose for energy. Which is why there are not one but two huge arteries going into the brain to supply oxygen and nourishment.
So any drop in blood sugar will deprive the brain of energy causing headaches. Large spikes in blood sugar are triggered by insulin. If you are consuming a high carb diet or consuming food with high glycemic index, an empty stomach will lead to a headache.
When you begin with intermittent fasting or keto diet, the first few weeks might cause headaches during the transition till your body fully adapts to fat burning for energy.
Energy mechanism of the body
The food we eat is broken down into tiny bits and digested in the stomach. The small intestine release glucose directly into the blood stream. Cells require energy to run and that is provided by blood glucose.
But glucose cannot enter the cells straightaway. The cells require insulin hormone to unlock the cell walls to allow glucose to enter the cells and energise it. Much of the blood glucose is used by the cells and the remaining goes to the liver to be stored as fat or energy reserves. Fat stored in the liver is called glycogen. Once the blood sugar level drops down, the glycogen stored in the liver is converted to glucose and released in the blood. This is called fat burning for energy.
Weight gain and high carb diet
The most common explanation give to us is that the more fat you eat, the more fat you will get. Fat is made the vilian for gaining weight. Almost everyone will advise you to have low fat and low calorie diet and do lots of exercise. But these people do not understand the basic mechanism of how the body gains weight.
Whatever we eat gets converted to many things one among them is glucose which is send into the blood stream by the small intestine. Liver is the refrigerator of our body and absorbs the excess glucose from our blood and stores it as a fat called glycogen. This is the compulsion for the liver. Blood glucose has to be maintained at a certain level all the time. Glucose spikes up in the blood after a meal also has to be brought down.
Carbohydrates convert almost completely to sugar. This is finally converted to glucose. High carb diet releases large amount of glucose in the blood. Once the cells have absorbed glucose and the liver is full, the body has no choice but to store the excess blood glucose to fat and store it around the waist as visceral fat. This process is done by the liver.
Prolonged consumption of carbs ans sugars also puts your pancreas in an overdrive producing insulin. No one really know how and why but slowly insulin starts losing the ability to unlock cell walls. This is called insulin resistance. The cells keeps signalling the liver and pancreas that they are hungry for energy. The pancreas create more insulin but the insulin cannot open the cell walls. This leads to a situation where there is too much of insulin but it is not entering the cells and keeps getting stored as fat. This endless loop continues till your body finally gives up and you become diabetic.
There are two main reasons for headaches.
- Too fast transition into intermediate fasting and keto diet
- Mistakes in diet and food patterns
Transition into Intermittent Fasting and Keto Diet
People adopt a keto diet to lose weight and regularise blood sugar levels. Keto diet also helps in improving insulin resistance. Most of the benefit comes from Intermittent Fasting. Combined with a keto diet, becomes a powerful tool which provides instant results in weight loss and many other bio markers. Most of the people take up this diet when the situation has already gone bad.
But the urge to change a bad situation to good one is so strong that many people rush things too fast. Before your body is able to transition to fat burning your body and mind is going to rebel. After spending so many years consuming carbs, body is used to getting instant energy. Our whole day requirements are met though consuming carbs and sugars. Brain gets used to getting instant energy. But as soon as the sugar level drops, your body will crave for food and instant energy. Even though you are not hungry, your mind will begin playing hunger games.
How to prepare for a transition – To feel full between two meals, have enough of fat at the end of the meal. Carbs are going to make you feel hungry, so avoid them. Vegetables and protein take time to digest, so you can feel full for a longer time. You can begin with three or four meals a day like usual. Slowly delay the breakfast time and start with early lunch. Dinner time can be fixed at 8pm. However whenever you feel hungry or discomfort, you should eat a quick bite or prepone your meal.
Carbs make you feel hungry. So try to avoid them as far as possible. Replace them with vegetables. Have at least two types of vegetables per meal. Avoid all kinds of processed food and check the labels carefully. Make a list of foods which are high on the glycemic index. Corn and potatoes are not vegetables, hence can be avoided. Have sufficient amount of nuts for nutrition.