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3 Weight Loss Methods That Can Worsen Your Migraine

Around the world, there are millions of people who suffer from debilitating migraine headaches. Migraine headaches are caused as a result of certain changes within your brain. The changes can cause severe pain in your head, and many people also experience sensitivity to light, smells or sound. Research has shown that there are many advantages to maintaining a healthy body weight if you are suffering from migraine headaches. However, what many people are unaware of is that there are many weight loss efforts that actually have an adverse effect on your migraine headaches. So, if you have regular migraine headaches and are overweight or trying to lose weight, you need to pay attention to the weight loss tactics you are following as there are many weight loss tactics that can worsen your migraine. Let’s take a look at what these tactics are that can worsen your migraine.

Weight Loss Tactics and Migraine

If you suffer from migraines and are overweight, then losing weight and reaching a healthy body weight can help you manage not just your migraines, but also prevent them from becoming worse over a period of time.

When dealing with a disease that robs you of your energy and time and zaps you of your energy, then maintaining a healthy body weight can seem to be the easier of the options to pick. Obesity is a major risk factor for chronic migraine and therefore, it is very important that people who have episodic migraine to keep their Body Mass Index (BMI) within a healthy range. In fact, research has shown that there is a clear association between BMI and the prevalence of migraine, frequency and also severity.(1)

Losing weight, though, can be a difficult process for people who have migraines, because there are certain weight loss efforts that can actually worsen your migraine attacks, compelling many to simply stop making any effort to lose weight. Some of these weight loss efforts may include: diet, weight loss supplements and certain exercises.

However, there are many weight loss techniques that can actually help you lose weight without triggering your migraine as well.

Weight Loss Methods That Can Worsen Your Migraine

Studies have so far been unable to exactly pinpoint what causes migraines. However, migraine triggers can both be internal as well as external stimuli. Some of the common triggers of migraine include:(5,6,8)

  • Strenuous exercise.
  • Food.
  • Weather.
  • Hormonal changes.
  • Stress.

Just as each individual experiences migraines in a different manner, in a similar manner, different people have different migraine triggers.

Let us take a look at some common migraine triggers that can ruin your weight loss plans and trigger your migraine.

Skipping Meals to Lose Weight(7)

Many people think that skipping meals can help them lose weight. There are also some diet programs that advice you to skip meals to lose weight. However, skipping meals in order to lose weight is NOT a healthy or migraine-friendly method for weight loss. Skipping meals to lose weight is one of the worse weight loss methods that can worsen your migraine and your overall health.(7) In fact, low blood sugar, which results from skipping a meal, is a known migraine trigger. Your brain reacts to the rapid changes in your blood sugar levels with a headache of migraine.

It is recommended that you avoid restricting your calories by too much within a short period of time. If you are following a diet plan that demands you to restrict carbohydrates, then you should limit your carb intake slowly. Or else, you can also opt for replacing simple carbohydrates with whole-grain options instead. Following a sensible weight loss method will prevent worsening of your migraine.

Instead of skipping meals for losing weight, you should try eating five to six small and protein-rich meals in a day, so that it keeps your blood sugar levels steady. Steady blood glucose or blood sugar levels means fewer migraines and you will also have a lesser temptation to overeat or give in to your cravings.

Avoid eating a large amount of sugars and carbohydrates, as these will also cause a rapid spike in your blood sugar and then it will lead to a sudden fall in your blood sugar.
To prevent your blood sugar from going too low and potentially leading to a migraine attack, you should opt for carrying healthy snacks, such as hummus or almonds with you.(2)

Weight Loss Supplements and Fad/Crash Diets

From intermittent fasting to the fad of cabbage soup diet, there are many fads or crash diets that promise that you will lose a lot of calories within a short span of time.

However, this rapid reduction of calorie intake can also trigger a nasty migraine. Weight loss tactics, such as Crash/fad diets can prove disastrous for your migraine and your health. In fact, there are some fad diets that recommend you to eliminate entire groups of foods that provide your body with the essential nutrients it needs. For example, a diet low in carbohydrates can cause constipation and severe headaches.

There are also certain weight loss supplements, such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and forskolin that are known to cause headaches and can worsen your migraine.
Instead of following a fad weight loss diet or taking weight loss supplements, you should rather try eating a well-balanced and nutritional diet. Exercise regularly to lose weight; however, remember to begin at a slow pace to avoid triggering your migraine. Weight loss will ultimately happen if you start consuming lesser calories than what your body is capable of burning during the day.(3)

Exercising Overly Vigorously

Some people may notice that their migraine attacks increase right after they begin a new exercise regime or that you get a migraine after exercising vigorously(9), then chances are that you are experiencing exercise-induced migraines. According to a study published in The Journal of Headache and Pain in 2013, over 38 percent of people end up experiencing migraine after exercise.(4)

Medical experts have still not been able to isolate a cause for exercise induced migraine, but it is likely that it is caused by the changes in your blood pressure during exercise. Therefore, vigorous sports or exercises, such as rowing, running, weightlifting and football, prove to be some common triggers for migraines and may not be the best weight loss method for losing weight when you are suffering from migraine.

Before starting any new exercise or sport, always ensure that you discuss with your doctor before you begin a new exercise regime. Always begin slowly at first. For people who suffer from migraines, low-intensity exercises, such as walking, tai-chi, yoga, swimming, and even cycling or biking can help you achieve movement in your body and thus weight loss, but at the same time, it will also prevent triggering of your migraine as well.

Best Weight Loss Plan for People Who Suffer From Migraine

If you suffer from migraine and you also want to lose weight, then adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes a healthy exercising regime along with smart and healthy food choices will be the best option that will help you avoid migraines and also help you lose weight. Try consuming foods that are rich in riboflavin and magnesium and always keep yourself well hydrated.

Remember that prevention is the best treatment for migraine and at the same time, maintaining a healthy BMI will also keep you well on track for having fewer migraine attacks. When you have fewer migraine attacks, it will automatically also increase your motivation for achieving your goals for weight loss and maintain your overall health as well.


  1. Verrotti, A., Di Fonzo, A., Penta, L., Agostinelli, S. and Parisi, P., 2014. Obesity and headache/migraine: the importance of weight reduction through lifestyle modifications. BioMed research international, 2014.
  2. Migraine, T.T., The Role of Diet in Migraine Headaches.
  3. Sun-Edelstein, C. and Mauskop, A., 2009. Foods and supplements in the management of migraine headaches. The Clinical journal of pain, 25(5), pp.446-452.
  4. Koppen, H. and van Veldhoven, P.L., 2013. Migraineurs with exercise-triggered attacks have a distinct migraine. The journal of headache and pain, 14(1), p.99.
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3857910/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3100409/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20816418
  8. https://medlineplus.gov/migraine.html
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6134860/

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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:January 29, 2020

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