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Can carbs cause an ocular migraine?

Commented on January 23, 2014
Created January 17, 2014 at 4:11 PM

I am not prone to migraines so I'm not sure that's what this is. And since there is little to no accompanying pain, it would be a "silent migraine". I'm definitely experiencing some associated fatigue and stomach problems though. Pretty typical silent migraine symptoms, but not very severe.

So here's the thing: this is the second time I've experienced extreme "ocular migraine" type symptoms after a high-carb morning. I used to engorge on carbs for breakfast every morning before paleo but I've always been lean and strong, though not very athletic by choice. My own paleo is relatively high carb, usually 30% or more of calories, but it's also very high fat and I rarely do the carbs in the morning. This has only happened twice after very high-carb, low-fat breakfasts.

My primary symptoms are wiggly lines and a sort of throbbing light at the periphery of my vision on just one side. This comes with partial loss of vision of course, just where the retinal hallucinations seem to be occurring. These symptoms are indeed quite severe, even debilitating. I'm lucky I carpool to work because I wouldn't have been comfortable driving.

Now my head hurts just slightly on the opposite side from the halos/retinal hallucinations. The "ocular migraine" part is mostly gone. It's been about an hour. This is so weird and new to me. I really don't like it!

<Edit>

If you're curious what carbs I ate, it was basically a banana, some plain white rice, and some wasabi flavored nori sheets... Pretty benign but definitely high GI carb sources and low fat, unusual these days.

</Edit>

Medium avatar

(624)

on January 23, 2014
at 05:55 PM

Interesting. I find I consistently lack folate but my b12 is usually high and sometimes off the charts... I've been working to get more folate into my diet. One of the reasons I'm considering lentils.

Cf08ad26759fdd206a2c9f9385080a57

(995)

on January 23, 2014
at 10:01 AM

http://www.headache.com.au/feature-story-archive/175-migraine-sufferers-respond-to-folate-b6-and-b12-supplementation.html

http://www.neurologyupdate.com.au/clinical-news/migraine/folate-stops-migraine

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24040787

(It bugs me how often you see a reference to "folic acid" in food as if it's a natural vitamin. Folic acid is a man-made synthetic chemical.)

I've got the C677T polymorphism.

Medium avatar

(624)

on January 20, 2014
at 07:35 PM

Thanks. It's only happened twice and I have a hard time with doctors so I'm not going in just yet. It's very disturbing though so if I have a repeat occurrence I'm going to take the advice and bring it up with someone over at Kaiser - the only insurance I have.

Medium avatar

(624)

on January 20, 2014
at 07:32 PM

Wow that's definitely sounding like an allergy. Strange that it didn't start until after going Paleo. I love oranges and will literally eat anywhere from 1/2 to maybe 5 whole oranges in a sitting. I try to restrain myself but they make me feel great so maybe my body wants someting in them. It's not vitamin C because I supplement and get plenty from other food sources. Weird...

Medium avatar

(624)

on January 17, 2014
at 10:47 PM

I definitely experienced some fatigue and nausea both prior to and following the retinal issues. Coffee seemed to help a bit, as did a few gulps of kombucha. I'm thinking low blood sugar is probably what I had. Funny because I was going back and fourth thinking about all the glucose I must have produced but then thinking about how it was, after all, a pretty low-calorie breakfast. About 250 compared to my usual 500-600... of which maybe 100-250 is often carbs.

Medium avatar

(624)

on January 17, 2014
at 04:55 PM

Ah, that's why you specified wine... Last night I had rum and citrus flavored vodka with a small dash of unfiltered apple juice.

My usual breakfast is a nibbling of chocolate and macadamia nuts, sometimes with eggs or fruit but not both, and often a bit of kefir or kombucha. I'd say those are just worlds more healthy than white rice and a banana.

Those wasabi flavored nori sheets, though, are flavored with weird stuff. They have no actual wasabi (I think it was mustard instead) and there's some canola a dash of sesame oil, and other stuff I cringe at.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on January 17, 2014
at 04:47 PM

as far as the doctor. If this continues, there are some serious health issues that may be at play (not if it's caused by the carbs, but if that's just a coincidence). So if it keeps up, this may be a time it's worth biting the bullet.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on January 17, 2014
at 04:46 PM

Wine contains histamines. Histamines can cause inflammation which can cause migraines/headaches (sensitivities to histamines will start to show as late as mid-30s in people). Certainly this could, in turn, leave you with similar symptoms. Many people suggest that eating foods high in B-vitamins helps reduce the impact of these headaches. Perhaps you ate foods that were higher in B vitamins than the carb sources you replaced them with?

Medium avatar

(624)

on January 17, 2014
at 04:36 PM

This is just the second time it's happened so severely as to worry me. I can remember something similar but mild and lasting only a few minutes.

Yes, last night (and the past few) was a little stressful, I had an extra drink or two last night (though didn't get "drunk") and my sleep was sub-optimal. Though I blamed the lack of availability of more preferable foods for my carb-heavy breakfast, it does seem to correlate.

I would prefer to avoid the doctor unless this starts happening more frequently.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on January 17, 2014
at 04:29 PM

one other thought. I think you mentioned you enjoy red wine. Does this happen the morning after you drank an extra glass?

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5 Answers

0
Cf08ad26759fdd206a2c9f9385080a57

(995)

on January 23, 2014
at 09:58 AM

I haven't had an occular migraine in months (knock on wood.) For a while, I was getting a couple a week and saw a couple doctors. For me, I believe I traced it back to a folate / b12 issue.

Medium avatar

(624)

on January 23, 2014
at 05:55 PM

Interesting. I find I consistently lack folate but my b12 is usually high and sometimes off the charts... I've been working to get more folate into my diet. One of the reasons I'm considering lentils.

Cf08ad26759fdd206a2c9f9385080a57

(995)

on January 23, 2014
at 10:01 AM

http://www.headache.com.au/feature-story-archive/175-migraine-sufferers-respond-to-folate-b6-and-b12-supplementation.html

http://www.neurologyupdate.com.au/clinical-news/migraine/folate-stops-migraine

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24040787

(It bugs me how often you see a reference to "folic acid" in food as if it's a natural vitamin. Folic acid is a man-made synthetic chemical.)

I've got the C677T polymorphism.

0
Medium avatar

on January 18, 2014
at 07:56 AM

@Methodician

The short answer is yes.

Migraine is a genetic syndrome for which there is no cure and this one syndrome manifests in many ways.

Actually, "ocular" migraine is a misnomer because it has nothing to do with the eye, it has to do with the brain. It's called a "migraine aura" and it can either be followed by a migraine headache or keep recurring without head pain.

ALL migraines have origin in the brain, regardless whether they manifest as visual field "squiggly lines", scintillating crescent or pounding headache. The underlying problem is the same.

Many migraneurs suffer from Tension-Type headaches - it's all a spectrum.

ANY trigger that leads to migraine headache for an individual CAN trigger migraine aura.

If such visual episode lasts less than 25-30 minutes, the most likely explanation is migraine syndrome.

What one wants to rule out ASAP is anything of retinal origin, so ophtho evaluation is a priority. Neurology should follow closely if all's OK from ophtho perspective.

Medium avatar

(624)

on January 20, 2014
at 07:35 PM

Thanks. It's only happened twice and I have a hard time with doctors so I'm not going in just yet. It's very disturbing though so if I have a repeat occurrence I'm going to take the advice and bring it up with someone over at Kaiser - the only insurance I have.

0
3491e51730101b18724dc57c86601173

(8395)

on January 18, 2014
at 02:37 AM

I've had an increase in migraines since starting paleo, but with a definite trigger--oranges. It' not a blood sugar drop, because even a single bite of orange is enough, and the migraine doesn't occur until about 24 hours after.

Last week I ordered a salad at a restaurant that came with some very small orange slices, about 4. I forgot to ask for them to leave the oranges off. So I gave the orange slices to my husband. I suppose the lettuce had a little bit of orange residue, I didn't think about that. And had an occular migraine 24 hours later.

I don't know why this sensitivity showed up since going paleo, but it is definitely a food allergy.

Medium avatar

(624)

on January 20, 2014
at 07:32 PM

Wow that's definitely sounding like an allergy. Strange that it didn't start until after going Paleo. I love oranges and will literally eat anywhere from 1/2 to maybe 5 whole oranges in a sitting. I try to restrain myself but they make me feel great so maybe my body wants someting in them. It's not vitamin C because I supplement and get plenty from other food sources. Weird...

0
F8df5d493f7054575f04b3f53a2544e1

on January 17, 2014
at 10:40 PM

Ocular migraines are not like regular migraines. I get them also and have never had a true migraine. Sometimes they are squigely lines. Other times, everything looks like I am looking through a kaleidoscope. And then sometimes, i just have blank spots in my vision-- No headache but sometimes nausea and tiredness. Ocular migraines usually occur when you have a sudden drop in blood sugar. As you know, eating high carbohydrates often causes a sudden drop in blood sugar a few hours later. Although there are some other causes, in my experience, low blood sugar is the main cause. This is from WebMd:

Ocular migraine prevention

The first step to preventing migraines is to avoid triggers. These often include:

  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Hormonal birth control pills
  • Exercise
  • Bending over
  • High altitude
  • Dehydration
  • Low blood sugar
  • Excessive heat

Dietary triggers - such as caffeine, alcohol and artificial sweeteners - can cause other types of migraine, but they seem less likely to trigger ocular migraines.

Medium avatar

(624)

on January 17, 2014
at 10:47 PM

I definitely experienced some fatigue and nausea both prior to and following the retinal issues. Coffee seemed to help a bit, as did a few gulps of kombucha. I'm thinking low blood sugar is probably what I had. Funny because I was going back and fourth thinking about all the glucose I must have produced but then thinking about how it was, after all, a pretty low-calorie breakfast. About 250 compared to my usual 500-600... of which maybe 100-250 is often carbs.

0
3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on January 17, 2014
at 04:28 PM

My understanding is that migraines are an inflammation response. So I would assume that, a food allergy, not a macro would be more likely responsible.

Other things I could think of. How was your sleep/stress? Maybe after a bad night's rest -- or a late night work session -- you simply prefer a carb-heavy breakfast (thus the carbs are more correlatory).

Have these happened recently? or are they pretty wide-spread temporally? If these two incidents have happened recently, I would definitely suggest getting checked by an ophthalmologist to see if there is an underlying issue that is causal.

Medium avatar

(624)

on January 17, 2014
at 04:36 PM

This is just the second time it's happened so severely as to worry me. I can remember something similar but mild and lasting only a few minutes.

Yes, last night (and the past few) was a little stressful, I had an extra drink or two last night (though didn't get "drunk") and my sleep was sub-optimal. Though I blamed the lack of availability of more preferable foods for my carb-heavy breakfast, it does seem to correlate.

I would prefer to avoid the doctor unless this starts happening more frequently.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on January 17, 2014
at 04:29 PM

one other thought. I think you mentioned you enjoy red wine. Does this happen the morning after you drank an extra glass?

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