Migraines, Mood, and a High Fat Ketogenic Diet


Since I know many of my readers are not on Facebook and, therefore, do not participate in our Zero Carb group Principia Carnivora, I wanted to share something I posted there that I have recently discovered for myself on this Zero Carb path…

When I first began a Zero Carb diet a year and a half ago, I ate a LOT of fat. But as time went on, I came to the conclusion that ALL of the fats I was using to achieve these high levels were not compatible with my body. I tried butter, ghee, tallow, lard, heavy whipping cream, and coconut oil. All dairy fats give me migraines. Coconut oil is high in salicylates and cause severe low blood pressure and other negative symptoms. All rendered fats make me extremely nauseated. Even eating too much cooked fat attached to a steak will make me nauseated. But if I eat the beef fat raw, I can eat much more without experiencing this horrible nausea. This is the main reason I am currently eating all of my meat completely raw (as homemade ground beef). In spite of the nausea from the cooked and rendered fats that was eating in my early Zero Carb days, however, I did experience a noticeable decrease in my chronic migraines headaches (as long as I avoided all dairy).

At the beginning of April (2016), I did a 16-day water fast. This was the second long water fast I have done since beginning my Zero Carb journey. The first one was about 8 months ago and it made a noticeable improvement in my tolerance for histamines. I was finally able to eat conventional beef sold in Costco or Safeway, as long as I bought if fresh and ate it that day. After this second 16-day water fast I did a month and a half ago, I found that I could tolerate even more raw fat in my ground beef than I could before the fast. But the quality of the fat must be very good. It cannot be outer skin fat which is oxidized and rancid. This kind of fat makes me very sick. Rather, it must be the good thick internal fat like that attached to Ribeye or New York Strip Loin.

It has been a challenge to source enough good quality beef fat to meet my needs. I am still trying to figure this out. If I could buy my meat in bulk without having to worry at all about histamines forming as I work my way through it, then I would be able to buy whole packages of New York Strip Loin from Costco which very affordable are extremely fatty (more fatty and better quality that their Ribeye in my experience). But I cannot go through all the meat fast enough to keep the histamines low enough fir me to tolerate. I need more money and pack of dogs to share it with so that we can plough our way through it in just a few days. 😂

Anyways, the main thing I wanted to share in this post is that since my recent 16-day water fast in April, I have been able to increase the percentage of fat in my diet from about 70% to 80% or more without experiencing any of that horrible nausea. It is hard to calculate exactly, but thevground beef I make for myself is about 2/3 lean to 1/3 fat or what would be called 65/35 by a butcher. So say… 12 oz of lean to 6 oz of fat. It might be a little more protein and a little less fat, but this give you the idea.

Since doing this, I have noticed two very important benefits. I am not as prone to migraines as I was when eating more protein and less fat, and my mood is much more stable now than it was on less fat. I am far less irritable and impatient with more fat in my diet. I feel both physically and mentally calmer. My conclusion is that more fat is definitely better for my brain. I am not saying this is ideal for others, and I am really not an advocate of eating too little protein on a Zero Carb diet. And if you are trying to lose weight, too much fat might prevent this from happening.

But, as my own experience is showing, some people might need to eat more fat for therapeutic reasons, even for conditions that are not life threatening like brain tumors or epilepsy. One woman in our Facebook group has stated that it was the high levels of saturated animal fat in her own Zero Carb diet that killed the off the tenacious Lyme bacteria in her body. The more fat she ate, the better she felt; though it still took time to eliminate the Lyme bacteria from her body completely. She, too, eats 80% or more of her calories from fat. 18 years later, she continues to thrive.

My point in sharing this story is to, once again, demonstrate that there is no one-size-fits-all Zero Carb diet. It has taken me a long time and lots of experimenting to figure out what truly works for me and for my body to become a cooperative component in the process. So, if you are having trouble figuring out what percentage of protein to fat is best for you, or what types of meats and other animal foods and fats are best for you, please don’t give up! I know someone who feels great at only 55-60% fat. We are all a bit different and unique in our needs. Just keep experimenting until you find something that feels good and works for you.

~Esmée La Fleur

For help and support, please join us in the Zero Carb Facebook group “Principia Carnivora.”


40 thoughts on “Migraines, Mood, and a High Fat Ketogenic Diet

  1. When I was a kid my parents owned a bar in Chicago. We used to serve a dish called Hakapater (sp?). It was a fresh round steak, ground three times by the butcher fat and all, with a raw egg thrown in and served on good Jewish rye bread with salt and pepper and chopped raw onion. We moved to California and people would think we were crazy when we described the dish.


  2. Great article, but I have a quick guestion….did you see the notice I sent about the Costco meats that are tenderized. there maybe be listeria (?) present, especially if eaten raw !!?


  3. Thanks so much for posting this for your non-Facebook members, Esmee!
    I am a chronic migrainer who is hoping to taper off my prophylactic medication [amitriptyline]. This is really helpful.

    Thanks again for posting this very interesting and informative piece; it’s much appreciated!


  4. Update from Susanna: I have two meals a day now of 100 g beef or oily fish, with a sauce/soup of 25 g butter, 25 g coconut oil, 50 g coconut milk, 1 egg yolk, and a pinch of salt. The coconut milk and the egg yolk emulsify the fats and mask the taste of butter and coconut oil. I still have aversions to both plain butter and plain coconut oil. I drink five-six times a day: 1/2 liter of water with 1 tbsp mct oil, 1 tbsp goat milk kefir, and 1ml each of salt, B8, and collagen. Macro nutrient wise, my diet now is low protein, 50 g per day, high fat with just under 230 g a day, and low carb with around 5 g a day. In calories, around 2.125-2.250 per day. Following this diet, I don’t crash, meaning I don’t need to sleep during the day. It’s working for me now, and I’ll see where this goes as I carry on. I don’t fast on a regular basis now, I eat every day. I might throw in a day or two of fasting once or twice a month in the near future. This spring I re-carbed for a couple of weeks, mostly using rice and root veggies, and I found that carbs don’t make me feel good. Carbs made me bloated, hungry, and moody. I feel much happier in the steady ketogenic diet.


    • Thanks for the update Susanna. I would caution you from keeping protein that low for too long. You may lose lean body mass over time. You need 1 gm of protein per lb of lean mass or 2 gm of protein per kg of lean mass, especially if you are on a Zero Carb diet. I am 5’6″ and the lean mass for my height is 100 lbs., so I eat a minimum of 100 gm of protein each day. We have been have a lot of discussion about this in Principia Carnivora and now Jamie Moskowitz’s new group Keto Saved Me, it is really a shame that you are not here to participate in them with us. Jamie has created charts to help us determine our optimal protein needs that are really helpful to folks. The key is to eat enough, but not too much, of both protein and fat.


      • Thank you. If I lose lean body mass over time, do you think that would be bad for me? All I need my muscles to do is basically walk, talk, inner muscles for digestion and breathing and such things, and to move my arms and fingers. I don’t run much and I don’t lift heavy things. I want to be lean, but I don’t want to be weak. I have a feeling swimming would be good for me, I might try that. Aside for lean body mass loss, do you see other potential issues with a low protein diet, healthwise? I would join you and Jamie in the groups if I could handle facebook better.


        • Yes, definitely. Your bones are part of your lean body mass. Protein helps keep bones strong and healthy. Muscles contain mitochondria which are the energy powerhouses of the cells. The more you have, the more body fat you can burn for energy. Andrew has stated many times that if he did not have cancer to think about, he would eat more protein.


          • Thank you. I will add more protein and see what happens. I can double the egg yolks and I can also eat the whites. There is a bit of a money issue so eggs will have to be enough for now when it comes to having more protein, I can afford to eat 6 eggs a day, so that will bring my total protein up to about 90 g/ day. I appreciate your feedback. I took a look at Jamies fb page, it looks lovely. I’ll read the posts there, it’s convenient for me that the page is open to non fb members.


          • That sound’s good. For people who have excess body fat they want to lose, Jamie recommends a 1:1 ratio of fat to protein in grams. In other words, for every 1 gram of protein, eat 1 gram of fat. Some people need to eat even less fat than this. The more fat you eat, the less fat body fat you burn for your energy needs. But if a person is of normal healthy weight, then they will likely need more than 1 gram of fat for every gram of protein. So, your protein needs stay constant, but your fat needs change based on your own body fat percentage and your activity level. Because you are not very physically active, you may not need 2 grams of fat for every 1 gram of protein. If you find yourself gaining unwanted body fat, then adjust the fat grams downward, but do not change the amount of protein. If you go to my Facebook page Zero Carb Zen, read the post by Jeff Cyr titled “I WAS WRONG” which is attached to a picture of bacon and eggs. I think you will find it very interesting.


          • Thank you. I have not gained, so far. Today with 100 g of protein was great. I haven’t found exactly what caused my tiredness/crashing in the past, but I have found what doesn’t. I can eat 100 g of protein and 200 g of fat per day now (2.220 calories) and keep on going, so that’s what I’ll do for now. I read Jeffs text, but I didn’t see what the wrongness was- Perhaps recommending something to others might be it. Every individual finds what works for him or her.


          • I had my food all in one meal today. Making two meals a day just seems like too much trouble to me. So far so good, I’m feeling good and strong, no sleepiness (1 hour after the meal). So it looks like I can handle 100 g protein with 160g fat in one sitting. The meal was: 100 g beef, 100 g sardines, a 6 egg omelette minus 4 yolks that I used to make a sauce: 50 g butter, 50 g coconut oil, 50 g coconut milk, herbs, 4 yolks, 15 g of protein from powders: collagen and whey (50/50). The remaining 40 g of fat is from the mct oil that I add to my water, 3 tbsp a day. I’m also adding 3 tbsp of goat milk kefir, a little low-salt, a little inositol, and a little wheat grass powder. (3 liters of water per day, 1/2 liter per drink.) I’ll keep you updated on how it goes.


          • I had my one meal first thing in the morning, and it was good. All day I have felt free, going about my day and having my drinks. I’ll try the morning meal out for a week or two and then evaluate.


          • That situation sounds either stressful or peaceful, depending on how you feel about it. I felt stressful this morning over how long it took me to prepare my meal. I want to wake up and have my meal as soon as possible. I came up with an idea to try out for tomorrow: I’ll prepare the meal tonight as far as possible. Next morning I’ll have fewer steps to take, basically just warming my meal. I’ll give it a try. 🙂


  5. Esmee, I am not on the Facebook group, but I do follow your site very regularly. This post is surprising for me to read, but its also very comforting to know that I am not alone in not being able to eat “dairy fat.” I too have tried it all – ghee was the closest I got to being able to digest the fat, but it still didn’t work. I went zero carb for awhile. Been back and forth, but where I am at now is “raw meat and fruit only.” I dropped meat for awhile and just ate eggs but wow has that given me some serious allergy symptoms. Cooking meat has proven to be bad. I have read that cooking even at low temps can kill up to 89% of the B12 (?). Whether that is true or not, raw meats settles better with me. I added fruit back in because its gotten my digestion working again, as it wasn’t working at all – I mean like 0%. No bowel movements for over a week. I would consider that very bad. With raw meat and raw fruits, everything is working in my body. I am drinking very minimal amounts of water, since im getting water from fruit. I am not trying to rein on the ZC parade here, as I really want it to work for myself, but fruit is seeming to help. As you said at the end of your post, there isn’t a one size fits all and everyone needs to find what works for themselves.


    • Everyone needs to experiment and figure out what works best for them. I can tell you, however, that it is not unusual for people following an all meat diet to only have bowel movements every 10-14 days. There is nothing abnormal about that as long as you are not experiencing any pain or discomfort. There is much less waste on an all meat diet than there is on a diet that includes fiberous plant foods. If you truly are constipated on an all meat diet, then it may mean you need more fat. What percentage of fat are you eating in your raw meat? Are you eating raw ground beef? But it sounds, perhaps, like you may have been having other problems with your digestion besides this which you have not detailed? I personally cannot touch fruit anymore as it messes with my brain chemistry something awful; I get very irritable, impatient, easily frustrated, short tempered, etc. with even the smallest amount.


      • Hi Esmee, good to know about the bowel movements. I know about less waste. No pain that I would have other than I could feel the meat move from my stomach into my intestines and it would hurt…..my belief was that the food was not broken down enough in the stomach. For me, using salt gets my HCL/stomach acid going really good and usually makes me feel better in general.

        As far as issues with my digestion, yes: I have IBS, had Crohn’s and many other issues with digestion. Thats usually been my biggest issue with my body, but I have experienced everything from the brain/mental stuff, to skin issues, numbing/tingling in limbs, neurological issues, etc.

        The fat in meat? I would say anywhere from 85/15 or 80/20. I will eat grass fed meats but most of those in the stores near me are too lean, not a lot of fat. They look marbled, but the fat looks real thin. Its really, really rare to find meat with a lot of fat in the stores. But I usually go with grain fed, USDA because its fattier, compared to grass-fed. I have not noticed any symptoms from eating grain vs grass fed, myself. I don’t eat ground beef raw. I have eaten pork raw, not chicken raw. I dont like the texture of chicken even cooked haha.

        In regards to fruit, I would say about 2 years ago I would eat a piece of fruit, didn’t matter what kind, and I would feel like my blood sugar and insulin would shoot through the roof. I stopped eating fruit for a long time, for the reasons you mentioned as well. But since adding fruit recently back into my diet, I don’t experience any of that. The thing I think I experience negatively every now and again is acid reflux but thats only if I eat too much citrus fruits. But I can certainly relate to you and anyone else that has experienced issues to eating all sorts of foods other than meat.

        I can tell you that as far as plants/vegetables go – that really isn’t smart do eat. Plants are not meant to be eaten period. It wouldn’t make sense to eat plants as a human first walking the earth. However, it makes sense to pick a ripe colored piece of fruit and kill another animal in sight – that makes sense to me. Anything else is just fluff and really doesn’t make sense. I like to live and eat by logic. I have read Owsley Stanley’s comments again and again and I noticed that he too even ate some fruit. He mentioned using lemon juice on regular occasion. I understand it wasn’t like eating handfuls of fruit each day, but the citrus and enzymes in the lemon juice help break down the protein/meat in the stomach, gets the enzyme juices flowing. It works with me and Owsley probably just liked how it made him feel – who knows.

        I know I could definitely eat beef every damn day and not think twice about it, but either im lacking the enzyme production currently to break the meat I eat down, or my body is telling me it needs produce/fruit/other enzymes to help the process.

        You might also find this interesting but through a period I was just eating meat and water, I was having digestive issues so I stopped drinking water. I just eat “raw fruit for water” and meat. Reason being, the water in the fruit is loaded with molecules, which the body can absorb better. While eating meat and just water, I would urinate very often and urine burned. Which I suspect was an electrolyte issue. My body wasn’t retaining any minerals or water in my bodies cells. But when I was just eating fruit and no water added and meat, my digestion started working again like nothing happened. the pain from the meat passing from my stomach into my intestines went away.

        Now, if I could only figure out how to eat meat without the fruit? I would do it, so I could enter back into ketosis and lower the carbs.


        • Josh – this is all really, really fascinating. I appreciate you taking the time to explain things in greater detail. I have found that I do not digest whole pieces of beef chuck roast very well at all, but I do much better with it if I grind it. It might be different if I ate a softer cut like ribeye. How much meat do you eat for a meal, and how many meals a day (both now and previously on an all meat diet)? How much fruit do you need to eat with your meat for it to help your digestion? Do you eat it with the meat, or before or after? Are you saying that you drink no water at all, ever, now that you have added fruit to the mix? Thanks, Esmée


          • Hi Josh and Esmée, thank you for this interesting and open discussion. I have found in the past that kiwi fruits pass through my digestion with speed. I haven’t tried them now for over a year. I might try kiwi fruit again soon, after reading this discussion.


          • Thanks Esmee. I have never shared this with anyone online or anyone in person, other than a couple people because 1. they don’t understand and can’t relate and/or 2. they think I am nuts. I am definitely not either. I am more in tune with my body and present and feel mentally and physically that things are not right.

            So I will tell you that ribeye/rib roast/prime rib and top sirloin digest the best for me, if I eat plain (with no fruit/water or anything). The only bulk fat that I have access to is through a lady I work with, grass-fed pork lard. It doesn’t taste great, but its fat and I will cook with it if I do. Or eat like a tsp at a time , or otherwise I will take a tsp of coconut oil (preferably raw/unrefined).

            I have eaten as much as 3 lbs of meat in a day, if that was all I was eating. Another issue I have with just eating meat is I am constantly hungry. Even after some months of ZC, my metabolism I don’t think converted over to burning fat/meat, because 1. I didnt lose weight (i am not that big anyways) and 2. after eating a meal of meat/fat, my legs would be sluggish and my head. So since eating those larger portions in a meal and a day, I would lower it to 4 oz in a sitting, giving my body time to digest it and that still didn’t help much as far as hunger goes. It helped reduce the other symptoms and the cramp/pain i would get from the meat moving from stomach to intestines. As you can tell, I am very much in tune with my body and how I feel when I eat. I really don’t try to get overwhelmed. I try to eat in relaxed state.

            As far as eating fruit to help digest? It wouldn’t need to be much. For example, a couple pieces of pineapple, usually bowel movement within 10 minutes. If I take a tsp of coconut oil (even though this technically isn’t considered a fruit), coconut oil really works (probably the best for me). I will squeeze a lemons juice into a small glass and drink it – that really works as well. Watermelon has worked too. I do have a tendency to sit and overeat. That can be a big problem when it comes to eating meat or anything else, but with fruit, the more I eat, the more stool and easer bowel movements I have. I really like the fact when eating ZC that there isn’t much bowel movement at all because 1. I don’t have to go to find a toilet as much 2. safe on toilet paper and 3. I know my body is absorbing most of the meat (I have heard over 97% of meats protein, whereas plants and produce are about 60-70%) – I will mention this more below). But the downside is any toxins/chemicals in the meat are getting recycled again and again through the body, mainly liver, kidneys and gallbladder which can be a bad thing. There is a definitely a Catch 22 with this all: something works well, but then there is a downside.

            So the 60-70% of fruit/veggies/produce being absorbed….one benefit I think to increasing this number and/or giving your body more time to absorb the nutrients is by not drinking water/fluids on top of it, which is what I do. The fruits have water, even some fat and the fiber which helps push it through the digestive system. So no need for water. The last thing anybody wants, from what I know is, is for food or fluid to pass too quickly through the body. If it passes to fast, your body may not be absorbing all that it needs. But obviously too slow and you can get backed up and constipation, toxins build etc.

            I can’t force any of my knowledge and experience on anyone, because we are all different. But there are some things that I stand by that humans: 1. need to eat meat 2. should not eat plants of any sort (all vitamins and minerals can be obtained by meat and fruit) and 3. fruit – but the question here is how much and/or how little? Perhaps just squeezing some fruit juice on meat while eating like Owsley did is enough? IDK.


          • Well, there are a few things that come to mind here Josh. The main one is that 3 lbs of meat is a lot of meat and the fact that you still feel hungry tells me that you are not eating enough fat to create satiety. If you were able to eat more fat and less lean, I think your digestion of the meat would be different. I am 5’6″ and my protein prequirement is 100 gm a day which is about 1 lb of meat. The remainder of my calories I get from fat. It is best to try for a 1:1 ratio of fat to protein in grams, which is 70% fat by calories. I need a certain amount of fat to be able to digest the protein. Second, pork fat can be a big problem for some people, causing indigestion and reflux. If coconut oil work for you, that might be a better choice. But for me, the fat must be from beef (perhaps lamb would work too, it is just pricy and I don’t like the taste), and I can eat much more fat if I eat it raw.


          • Oh and I missed the water question (I try to answer these because I know its frustrating for readers to not get answers :)). Water I will “sip” maybe once or twice a day, if I am just eating fruit. When I say sip, I don’t mean even an once of water. I mean a little bit just enough to wet the whistle. But its usually at night before bed or if I wake up and mouth is dry or something. During the day, I will just reach for a piece of fruit. If I dont have fruit and I have salt, I will put a pinch in my mouth and within seconds my saliva is going my mouth is watery, so no need for water sip.


  6. Esmee, I wanted to share this with you and the readers. I have been researching this for some time, but its “sequential eating” and “food combining.” I think it explains the successes of a zero carb eating regiment but also its downside. The one thing I have learned, as well, is “mono eating” and allowing enough time for one type of meat/food to digest before ingesting another one. I know this just seems like “more crap on the pile”, but this research has been backed by science and case studies. Owsley had also mentioned in the lowcarber forum the story of the solider with the wounded stomach. Well, that’s true, it was Dr Beaumont and Alexis St Martin was the soldier. But Dr Beaumont studied St. Martins stomach for YEARS, watching how foods digested. And foods sit in the stomach as “layers”. The foods that are easiest to digest should be eaten “mono” before ingesting harder to digest foods (like meat and fats). This is a link to an article that I think explains it very well:


    The reason I wanted to share this is for other ZCers and your yourself to perhaps try. Wouldn’t be that hard to eat just “one meat” at a time. The logic I see behind this is even cooking with coconut oil and meat or meat and butter could cause food combining issues, which I know you have mentioned you have had.

    Let me know what you think. Thanks.


    • I have followed food combining practices for over 20 years. I first learned about it through Norman Walker and Herbert Shelton. Yes, it is essential for my own proper digestion. I eat only one food: beef. This makes my life incredibly easy and ensures the best possible digestion. I know many folks who can mix and match different meats, and even add dairy and eggs to their meats, but that would make me very ill. We are all a bit different, but I think one of the reasons an all-meat diet produces so many profound healing benefits is because most people following it do eat just one food at a time. And they never mix carbs and proteins since carbs are not part of this way of eating.


      • “I know many folks who can mix and match different meats, and even add dairy and eggs to their meats, but that would make me very ill.”

        Yes, I am this same way. If I eat beef with bacon, or beef with butter/ghee…..extreme stomach pain within 30 minutes, guaranteed. I feel like vomiting. I have been researching online to find others regarding this very issue, of combining meats and haven’t found much. Thanks for letting me know you can’t do it either, makes me feel better :). Hopefully anyone else that can’t combine meats can share so here.


        • Just for fun and curiousity, I experimented with frying an egg without added fat: I put parchment paper (cookie paper) on my pan, and then fryed an egg on it. No food combining. 🙂


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