The human body functions most optimally as a body in balance. If something tips the scales, even if it’s just your blood sugar level, there’s usually a corrective response. At times, that response can be accompanied by a sugar headache.
This headache can be caused by both, a lack, or an excess of sugar in your system. While you can’t avoid sugar, since it’s a vital component of your body, managing it is essential to avoid headaches.
What Causes a Sugar Headache?
Sugar-related headaches can be caused by too much or too little sugar in your blood. Hence, any deviation from the normal 70-120 mg/dL of sugar in your blood can cause this issue to arise.
This is a recurring problem for average Americans, since American adults consume 22 teaspoons, and children consume 34 teaspoons daily. That’s well above the daily maximum recommended by the American Heart Association (9 teaspoons).
Hypoglycemia-Not Having Enough Sugar in Your Bloodstream
If your blood sugar level dips below 70 mg/dL, hypoglycemia occurs. This most likely happens if you skip a meal, or go hungry for a long period of time. Diabetics can experience hypoglycemia, and a resultant sugar headache frequently. Taking prescribed insulin can often exacerbate the situation.
You may also experience a rapid drop in blood sugar levels after a meal; this is called reactive hypoglycemia. It occurs usually within 4 hours of a meal, and when you eat simple sugars, like table sugar (sucrose). This causes the body to rapidly produce high doses of insulin, causing a sudden drop in blood sugar.
This can lead to low blood sugar headaches, or worse, migraines. Other symptoms of hypoglycemia include lightheadedness, nausea, and heart palpitations.
Hyperglycemia-Having Too Much Sugar in Your Bloodstream
Having a blood sugar level above 200 mg/dl results in hyperglycemia; the body is unable to break down excess sugar. This often causes headaches too; they may start mild in nature, but can worsen as blood sugar levels rise.
Symptoms of hyperglycemia include fatigue, frequent thirst, frequent need to urinate, and blurred vision.
What is a Sugar Hangover?
Eating too much sugar can also result in a state some like to call a ‘sugar hangover’. Symptoms include mood swings, nausea, shakiness, and a headache.
How Can You Treat a Headache from Sugar?
If you experience chronic headaches after eating sugar, you should go with your doctor’s advice. They may put you on a scheduled meal cycle and a strict diet. However, if you’re diabetic, sugar-related headaches may require further treatment and more in-depth examinations or by utilizing a migraine dairy.
For simpler problems, a simpler remedy can work. Hypoglycemia can be treated by ingesting a high-sugar treat including candy, or fruit juice. Conversely, for hyperglycemia, over the counter medications may work to reduce headaches.
If symptoms don’t subside after you’ve taken medication, or administered your doctor’s advice, you should call your doctor immediately.
How Can You Prevent Getting a Headache After Eating Sugar?
As with most health problems, maintaining a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting ample sleep is a perfect solution. Try moderating your caffeine and alcohol levels and reduce, or completely give up smoking. As with any addictive substance, sugar can upset the balance of the human body. That doesn’t just affect physical, but also mental health.
If the human body is brought back to a healthy routine, it will stop experiencing a headache after eating sugar. However, cutting off sugar completely may not be the best course of action. It may cause withdrawal symptoms in some people. To avoid that, you may need to adopt a more methodical approach to wean yourself off a high sugar diet.
What is Sugar Withdrawal?
If you have ever given up sugar after maintaining a high sugar diet, you’ll know it feels bad. Sugar affects the brain’s reward system by releasing dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. That’s the area of the brain associated with response to addictive drugs.
It’s natural that sugar does this, since it boosts energy, and is also sweet, so it feels good to eat. However, these effects are also indicative of addictive behavior. Sugar also causes endogenous opioids to be released in the brain which leads to a sugar rush. This can cause the body to crave sugar in the future.
As with any addictive material, eating too much sugar on a regular basis alters your brain and increases tolerance thresholds. Hence, giving it up can lead to withdrawal.
Symptoms of Sugar Withdrawal
You may experience a depressed mood or anxiety as a result of sugar withdrawal. You may experience changes in sleep patterns and cravings as a result of your body’s cravings for dopamine. You may also find it difficult to focus or even experience insomnia. You may also experience dizziness, nausea, fatigue, or a sugar headache.
Sugar withdrawal symptoms can last from a few days to a couple of weeks depending on each case. Your body slowly adjusts to a low sugar diet when you give it up and thus, symptoms lose intensity.
How to Cut Back on Sugar Without Experiencing Withdrawal
Instead of completely cutting off sugar, it’s better to taper off and reduce sugar from your diet gradually. Here are some simple methods to do it:
- Drink Water instead of sweetened drinks. Try drinking water instead of drinking fruit juices or carbonated beverages.
- Eat an Omelet for Breakfast instead of sugary cereal or a doughnut. Try putting in some vegetables in your omelet to make it even healthier. You can also fry up or boil an egg if that suits you better.
- Avoid Dessert when you can. This will slowly get you off your sugar diet and make a decent bump in your sugar intake every day.
- Choose Sugarless Snacks instead of sugary treats. Reach for a protein bar and avoid a chocolate bar or an ice-cream cone.
Sugar has been repeatedly proven to be a source of ill health, not just headaches, by various studies. It’s better to break up with it for good. Following this routine will help you avoid a headache from sugar when you’re trying to quit.