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What Causes Sugar Headache and How To Prevent It?

A headache caused by rapid fluctuations in the blood sugar levels with either excess or too little of sugar is termed as a Sugar Headache. These headaches vary significantly in severity and range from mild to extremely debilitating. In some cases, it also impacts the quality of the life of the affected individual. Thus it is important to understand the various triggers of a Sugar Headache so that adequate treatment can be. [1]

In many cases, foods containing sugar act as a trigger for these headaches. Taking excess of such foods increases the sugar levels causing hyperglycemia and taking very low sugars causes hypoglycemia. Both these conditions tend to cause Sugar Headaches. This article highlights some of the potential causes of Sugar Headaches and what are some of the ways to prevent them. [1]

What Causes Sugar Headache?

What Causes Sugar Headache And How To Prevent It?

The association between hypoglycemia and headaches is well known. Hypoglycemia ia normally seen in diabetics who use insulin in order to keep the blood sugar levels from getting out of control. An individual is said to be diabetic when the body develops resistance to insulin which results in buildup of excess sugar in the blood. This causes a variety of complications and increases the risk for various potentially serious medical conditions. People who consume excess sugar are prone to become diabetic. [1]

An individual who consumes excess sugar at one time and then goes for a period of time without any sugar intake tends to develop a Sugar Headache. This is because of significant depletion in sugar levels resulting in a headache. Sugar has the potential to cause certain hormonal imbalance, especially epinephrine and norepinephrine. A change in the levels of these hormones affects the functioning of the blood vessels in the brain. This ultimately results in a Sugar Headache. [1]

It should be noted here that sugar itself does not cause a headache but it is the change in the levels of sugars in the blood that triggers an episode. There are also certain medical conditions which may cause Sugar Headaches. These conditions include: [1]

Diabetes: This is, as stated, the most common cause of a Sugar Headache. This is because the body loses its ability to naturally control blood sugar levels. This makes the individual prone to frequent bouts of headaches whenever there is a fluctuation in the blood sugar levels. The greater the frequency of the fluctuations the more are the chances of a Sugar Headache. [1]

Thus diabetics who are not able to manage their sugars by taking the medications or injections as prescribed are more at risk for developing frequent Sugar Headache. Additionally, uncontrolled diabetes inflicts significant damage to the blood vessels which further increases the likelihood of Sugar Headaches. Damage to the blood vessels also increases the risk of cardiovascular conditions which also act as a trigger form headaches. [1]

In some cases, in people with diabetes the body starts using fat instead of sugar for energy. This condition is called as diabetic ketoacidosis. This is yet another cause for Sugar Headaches in people with diabetes. People with ketoacidosis also experience mental confusion and syncopal spells at times. [1]

Migraines: This is yet another medical condition that can cause Sugar Headache. Migraine is a condition in which people tend to develop severe headaches as a result of certain triggers which generally include foods or fragrances like perfumes. In some cases, eating sugary foods act as a trigger for onset of migraines causing Sugar Headaches. A study to explore the association of sugar with headaches done in 2006 mentions that even substitutes of sugars like sucralose also can cause Sugar Headaches. [1]

Sugar Withdrawal: Very few people know that sugar is extremely addictive. In fact studies suggest that changes in the brain associated with sugar withdrawal are similar to those seen with addictive drugs. According to studies, high levels of blood sugars cause the brain to produce less dopamine. [1]

Dopamine is linked to mood changes, pleasure, and motivation. It is this change in the dopamine levels due to addictive or recreational drugs that causes the individual to feel high. When an individual stops consuming sugars all of a sudden, then it causes the sugars levels to crash. This ultimately results in a pulsating headache. [1]

Coming to the prevention of Sugar Headaches consuming foods rich in protein is one way of preventing these headaches. Sugar headaches that are mild to moderate in intensity can be treated effectively with over the counter pain medications. Taking rest in a dark quiet room also helps. Diet plays a crucial role in prevention of Sugar Headaches. A balanced diet prevents a fluctuation of blood sugar levels. A diet consisting of avocados and green vegetables can best prevent Sugar Headaches. [1]

Staying hydrated is yet another way to prevent Sugar Headaches. A dehydrated body is more prone to headaches. Diligent exercise not only keeps the body fit but also prevents Sugar Headaches. It also helps to control sugar levels in the body, especially in diabetics. Keeping a headache diary helps in identifying triggers for headaches and avoiding them in turn helps in preventing an episode. [1]

In some cases, if none of the preventive measures work then it is recommended to consult with a headache specialist who can help in formulating a treatment plan to control the episodes of Sugar Headaches. [1]

In conclusion, Sugar Headache is a condition mostly seen in diabetic who either consumes too much or too little of sugar. This causes fluctuations in sugar levels in the body causing headaches. In some cases, consuming sugary foods after a period of fasting can also cause Sugar Headache. Thus it is recommended never to give up consuming sugar Cold Turkey. [1]

There should be a gradual reduction in intake of sugars to prevent fluctuations in blood sugar levels resulting in headaches. In majority of the cases, over the counter pain medications are good enough to treat a Sugar Headache. However, in some cases more aggressive measures need to be taken depending on the triggers or underlying cause of the headaches. Eating a balanced diet and diligent exercise are extremely effective in preventing Sugar Headaches. [1]


Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 3, 2022

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