Sugar: Tiny in Size; Big on Taste
Sugar is one of the most important components of our diet. However, it is necessary to balance our sugar intake to an absolute must level as having too much or too little of sugar can cause several health problems, such as headaches. Sugar is linked with our nervous system and brain, and fluctuations in sugar intake can cause headaches.(1)
Hence, it is important to know about optimal sugar intake, causes of headaches from sugar fluctuations and tips to manage it.
Headaches from Blood Sugar Fluctuations: The Science Behind It
With our increasingly hectic way of life, it becomes extremely difficult to keep a tab on our daily sugar intake. Every time we munch down some delicious brownies, we wish to cut on some calories the following day, but it seldom happens given our voracious appetite for desserts, which never gets satiated. While we tend to consume much more than the recommended daily intake of sugar, we are alarmed only when it actually affects us. Headaches from sugar fluctuations are just one of those warning signs – so it should make us more health conscious when we suffer from these types of headaches.
It is important for us to know the normal blood sugar levels, so as to aim for them. The optimum level of blood sugar is 70-120 mg/dL;(2) however, this number changes with amount of food taken, age, in people suffering from health conditions or diabetes.
Blood glucose levels either too high or too low can cause headache(3,4) Glucose enters our blood stream following sugar consumption. This glucose is broken down by insulin in our body which helps to maintain the blood glucose levels. If the blood sugar level suddenly increases or falls below the required limit, it can inflict considerable brain damage. This can result in headaches from sugar fluctuations.
Considering this, we need to understand the two commonest conditions that can cause sugar fluctuations. Headaches from sugar fluctuations can be managed well only if you are aware of these two conditions and take every precaution to prevent and treat them.
Hypoglycemia Resulting in Headaches
Hypoglycemia is one of the commonest conditions that cause headaches from blood sugar fluctuations. Hypoglycemia is triggered by the lack of adequate sugar levels in our bloodstream and is characterized by dip in blood sugar level to 70 mg/dL.(5) Fasting, having long gaps in between meals and effect of blood sugar lowering medicines are some of the causes of hypoglycemia,(6) which in turn triggers headache from this fluctuation in the sugar levels.(9)
Migraines and headaches from sugar fluctuations; mainly hypoglycemia is commonly seen as following symptoms.
- Shakiness and weakness.
- Mood swings and anxiety.(7)
- Confusion and sleepiness.(7)
- Sweating and pale skin.(7)
- Heart palpitations.(7)
- Blurred or double vision.(7)
- Changes in consciousness levels.(7)
Hyperglycemia Triggering a Headache
Hyperglycemia is a condition caused by high sugar levels in our blood stream, as the body loses its capability to break down glucose by insulin. In such a scenario, your blood sugar level might even topple over 180-200 mg/dL. High blood sugar or hyperglycemia too can result in frequent bursts of headaches. Such headaches may be mild in nature initially and keep on worsening with the blood sugar level reaching dangerous heights. Some other hyperglycemia symptoms are blurred vision, frequent thirst, fatigue and frequent urination.(8) Headaches from blood sugar fluctuations can be dangerous in cases of hypoglycemia too.
Headache From a Sugar Hangover
A sudden consumption of excess sugar, especially during festive occasions, can bring massive volatility in the glucose level of your body. This paves the way for a “sugar hangover,” which too is one of the causes of headaches from sugar fluctuations.(9) It is associated with symptoms, such as shakiness, headaches, mood swings, upset stomach, tiredness, nausea, lightheadedness and difficulty in focusing.
Tips to Manage Headaches from Sugar Fluctuations
It is important to manage headaches from blood sugar fluctuations. Frequent headaches associated with sugar intake need to be dealt with properly after consulting a medical expert. High blood sugar levels for longer periods or untreated diabetes can cause severe health problems.
Here are some of the effective tips to manage headaches from blood sugar fluctuations.
- Plan Your Diet Ahead: Plan a healthy diet and limit your sugar intake to avoid headaches from blood sugar fluctuations. Put an upper ceiling on your sugar intake as gulping down on big helpings of sugar can shoot up your blood sugar level.
- Do Not Skip Meals: Giving big gaps in between meals and skipping them altogether can actually be very detrimental to your health. This can cause your sugar level to drop significantly. Make sure you do not remain empty stomach for long as that can drop your blood sugar levels and increases the risk of headaches from blood sugar fluctuations.
- Lots of Water (9): Drink plenty of water. It helps to regulate the system and prevent dehydration, which in turn helps to maintain blood sugar balance.
- Quit Smoking, Alcohol & Caffeine: Cut down on smoking. Bring down the level of alcohol and caffeine. It increases the risk of poor sugar metabolism, which can result in more blood sugar fluctuations.
- Sleep More; Stress Less: Take as less stress as possible, manage your stress well and get enough sleep. Excessive stress tends to cause hormonal imbalance and affect sugar metabolism. Prolonged stress and lack of adequate sleep can increases the risk of headaches from blood sugar fluctuations.
- Exercise Regularly (9): Exercise boosts metabolism and improves hormonal balance, with well-maintained blood sugar levels. This too can prevent headaches from blood sugar fluctuations.
Just like nicotine, sugar is also considered as a highly addictive substance.(9) After all, we can rarely think about enjoying that lip-smacking ice cream if served with an unsweetened version. So, if you are thinking of reducing the sugar intake, then make sure to take baby steps at a time.(9) If you are consuming high quantities of sugar, then try replacing the same with a pinch of lemon juice or other sweetened fruits.(9) In this way you can indulge in the sugary goodness without having to bear the brunt of its negativity.
If these tips to manage headaches from blood sugar fluctuations do not help much or if you have discomfort, it is better to seek medical advice. You shall also need to share details about your lifestyle habits, such as exercise, smoking habits, alcohol intake and diet followed with your concerned physician. Inform your doctor about the symptoms, which you have experienced and the frequency of headaches linked with lack of or excess sugar intake.
Timely diagnosis and treatment of headaches from blood sugar fluctuations can help prevent further complications. Blood glucose tests, regular monitoring and appropriate medicines with a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle can help manage the condition better.
Headaches from blood sugar fluctuations are a very common occurrence. But in most of the cases we fail to link it with the underlying hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia, which might be creating a breeding ground for the painful bouts of headaches. If headaches keep on recurring, seek medical help and try to maintain a healthy lifestyle to give a tough fight to such sugar induced headaches.
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