Huel causing migraine like effects :(

Hi there, just wanted to write up my experiences of Huel here as some similar posts were useful for me when I started using it.

I am 36, F, 55kg 165cm, do aerobic exercise once a week or so, fitness is better than average but not great. I have suffered migraines all my life, but recently they have become much more frequent (1 per week) and much more debilitating. They usually start with a mild, asymmetrical head pain that grows over about 4-6hours until it is unbearable and all I can do is lay in a bed writhing around trying to block it out somehow. Prior to it I often get light sensitivity and blurry vision, uncontrollable yawning and loss of appetite. Afterwards I get depression, fatigue, insomnia and upset digestion. So pretty typical migraines.

I cut out the obvious triggers - caffeine, alcohol, chocolate - but was still getting them frequently. I often get them after exercise or when not eating well, so I hypothesised that the trigger might be either something else in my diet or changes in blood sugar. To test this, I did try an elimination diet last winter, cutting everything back to mostly just rice and certain veg, which DID help the migraine, but I once I started reintroducing foods the migraines returned over a couple of months, and I was not able pin down any one food as a culprit. I also lost a lot weight and the diet wasn’t sustainable for me as I couldn’t get motivated about what I was eating - I often ended up not eating instead of eating well.

Like a lot of people, my diet is crap. I don’t get very motivated about healthy eating and mostly just end up eating a lot of convenience food to keep me going, which can’t be good for me. So a couple of weeks ago I decided Huel might be a good test diet, as it would give me a stable blood sugar level as well as controlled set of ingredients - if I could get migraine free on Huel it would allow me to reintroduce other foods more stably. I also get bad eczema as well as a lot of general lethargy, so I hoped it might improve that as well.

I was skeptical about Huel at first, but I actual found it to be quite pleasant when mixed up well, even though I am not a huge fan of artificial sweeteners. I also found it to be very convenient and satisfying - no more worrying about crap for lunch, I could just down some Huel and not think about it. I got into a routine of blending up for the next day the night before, and had worked out a good formula for myself.

4-5 scoops (approx 600- 750 cal) + 500ml milk (soya,coconut, cow, about 200-250cal) + topped up with water, maybe blended with fruit.

This gave me about half my calories for the day, then I could eat what I wanted for a proper meal in the evening and maybe snack on fruit during the day (I checked the calorie counter suggested by Huel which suggest I should eat about 1700/day based on my stats.). My digestion seemed to improve, despite me getting a “popcorn” smell in my urine which other people seem to have had.

However, this was not to last :frowning: . Everytime I drank Huel, after about 10-20 minutes I started to get weird sensations, which reminded me of the early signs of migraine, most notably blurry vision, visual auras, eye strain, yawning, and mild headache. They would disappear after an hour or so, often leaving me feeling tired, wiped out and a bit down, but strangely I did not get a full blown migraine. It seemed fairly consistent, and the effect became more pronounced over the two weeks I was using Huel, and sometimes the visual auras became so bad I had to stop what I was doing completely as I couldn’t see. It didn’t seem to matter what I was doing or when I had the Huel, or whether it was mixed with water or any kind of milk, or whether it was original or unsweetened - 10-20 minutes after drinking it I began the weird sensations migrainous sensations began. I also really struggled to sleep, often taking hours to fall asleep despite being extremely tired and getting about 4-5 hours per night, which was making me feel even worse - something pretty typical after having a migraine. In those two weeks I did not, however, develop a full blown migraine with severe headpain as I had been. They were obviously migraines, but somehow different to before.

So yesterday I stopped using Huel, and went back to eating pringles and cheese sandwiches and hooray, no migraines. In fact last night I finally slept well (11 hours!) and I am feeling very good this morning. Seeing as Huel was working for me in other ways and I have spent a lot of money on it now, I may try it again in a week or so, to check that there isn’t any other possible cause I am missing. But considering how predictable the migraine effects were after drinking the Huel, I am doubtful I will find anything different in round two.

I am not sure what is causing the migraines in the Huel (tip - it doesn’t seem to be the Sucralose as I have tried unsweetened), or why they follow a different pattern that my normal migraines (more auras, less pain, daily rather than once a week), but it does seem to be that in me there is a strong correlation between drinking Huel and getting one. If anyone has any advice or thoughts on this, it would be much appreciated. If not, this is just for info for any other migraine sufferers out there looking into Huel.

TLDR - I started using Huel to help improve migraines, it seemed to make the worse (and different).


I don’t mean to be patronising, but have you been to a doctor about this?

Something definitely doesn’t seem right if your body is reacting better to crap foods than Huel.

I have seen doctors in the past repeatedly about these issues. The main way to reduce migraine occurrence is to avoid triggers, which is why I have been trying to clean up my diet. If I were to go to a doctor now and say “Huel was triggering migraines”, they would most likely go “Great, don’t drink Huel then”.

So while it’s clear to me that there is something about Huel that I am reacting to, without being able to pin it down to a single ingredient it doesn’t help me. There is nothing obviously about Huel that would cause migraines, certainly nothing that would stand out to a GP.

Have you tried other types of diet e.g. a keto diet, paleo etc? It’s a shame the elimination diet didn’t work out. Did you avoid processed foods and sugar when reintroducing foods?

I get migraines too, around 2-3/year which typically result in me throwing up 3-5 times after which they start to subside. I still haven’t found the cause. I suspect it might be when the weather pressure drops e.g. goes from a nice sunny dark, to dark, stormy and thundery.

I’m pretty sure food doesn’t trigger mine, unless I do something stupid like not eat all day then have a load of sugar.

Hmm, I’ve got a thought you could potentially test out, I’ve heard MCTs (medium chain triglycerides) can cause headaches/migraines, or at least I’ve heard anecdotal reports of this, a quick goggle search will show you I’m not crackers. However there are no studies to back up what others have reported, so take this for what it is, anecdotal.

So, if that is the case since Huel has some added, then if you tried eating something with MTC oil or coconut oil then you’ll be able to isolate if that’s what’s causing it.

I’d assume it’ll be due to MTC’s creating ketones etc, and thus a headache I’m a small amount of people anyway. We’re all different.

This is what I’d try anyway, good luck! :slight_smile:

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I started taking Huel in August 2017, several months after I went vegan, and all of a sudden, after adding Huel to my diet, I started getting migraine headaches, which I’ve never had in my life. Not connecting the two, I went to see my doctor and he decided to do an MRI, which came back with no answers. I stopped drinking Huel in December 2017 after my blender broke. Since then, I can’t remember the last time I had a migraine. Thinking nothing of it, I started drinking Huel again this week (May 2018) and by the 2nd day of taking it, I got a severe migraine. This is definitely no coincidence. I use the unflavored gluten free, and never any more than one serving a day. I flavor it with instant coffee and add a little brown sugar, which replaces my 1 to 2 cups per day of coffee. Unless the company come up with a solution that resolves the headaches/migranes, I won’t be using Huel again.

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What type of migraine was it e.g. what were the symptoms?

The headache started out light with slight nauseousness and feeling weak around 1:00 pm, with all symptoms intensifying over the next couple hours, until I had leave work at 4:00 pm to go home and lay down. I had taken 3 aspirin around 3:00 pm , but it didn’t help. The symptoms subsided around 6:30 pm.

I had been drinking the Huel slowly over the course of several hours, starting at 8:00 am that morning, up until about the time I started feeling nauseous, leaving approximately a 1/4 of the huel serving unconsumed.

Thank you for you concern!