High-Protein Diet Headaches from Weight Loss Surgery

Why do we get headaches when we transition from a diet rich in processed carbohydrates to a diet rich in protein? Many weight loss surgery patients ask this question.

There are actually several reasons for headaches when following a high-protein, low-carb diet. More importantly, there are several little things we can do to relieve headaches:

First, when we transition from a processed carbohydrate diet to a high-protein diet, as recommended by most weight-loss (bariatric) surgery doctors and dieticians, we increase our intake of tryptophan. A short list of tryptophan-rich foods includes cheese, meat, nuts, and soy. Tryptophan ingestion releases serotonin in the brain, which is considered a vasoconstrictor: it constricts blood vessels. In modest amounts this helps us feel good; but in larger quantities than we are used to, it causes headaches.

To balance the increase in tryptophan (an amino acid – a good thing) intake we should include appropriate complex carbohydrates in our weight loss surgery eating rhythm: 2B/1B (2 protein bites/1 carb bite). Here are some smart food choices for your weight loss surgery diet:





bean sprouts






green beans





olive oil




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Next, we must be absolutely sure to supplement our diet with essential vitamins and minerals, and on this list I personally include herbal supplements that centuries of human use have shown to be beneficial to our health and well-being. Please review the list of supplements:

Feverfew: 200-300 milligrams daily

Ginger: 1500 milligrams taken in 3 (500 milligrams) daily doses

Magnesium: 1,000 milligrams per day (WLS post-ops are known to be magnesium deficient)

Calcium with vitamin D: 1,000 milligrams daily

Vitamin B6: 50-100 milligrams daily

Vitamin B complex as prescribed by your doctor, oral, sublingual, or injected

If you wake up in the morning with a headache, I encourage you to take a serving of Emergen-C. I strongly believe that Emergen-C is healthy for us because in a single dose you get 60 mg of magnesium, 200 mg of potassium; 60mg sodium; calcium carbonate 50mg; (your electrolytes); in addition to vitamin B6 and B12; vitamin C, niacin, thiamine, zinc and some others. Our little gastric bypass and gastric band stomachs can absorb this supplement quickly and it is not difficult or painful to take. If you haven’t tried Emergen-C, please do. As a note, continue your regular vitamin regimen when taking Emergen-C. Use this water-soluble product for just a little extra nutrition.

If your headaches are chronic and you suspect something other than the high-protein diet from weight loss surgery, keep a headache diary in an effort to identify the cause of your headaches. Dr. Alex Duarte suggests tracking these things:

Diet: diet and food allergy is the most common cause of headache.

Hormones: Fluctuating levels of hormones are known to cause frequent headaches.

Weather: Changes in barometric pressure and other weather conditions can trigger headaches.

Stress – Frequent cause of headaches.

Change in routine: Disruption of regular routine (such as a change in diet) is known to cause headache.

Dental problems or endodontic surgery have been known to cause headaches.

Sensory stimuli: sight, smell and hearing can cause headaches.

Hypoglycemia causes headache.

Herbal remedies for headaches are, in my opinion, more effective and less harmful than over-the-counter chemical remedies. Try supplementing your diet with feverfew, ginger, ginkgo biloba, chamomile, capsaicin, and/or valerian.

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