Have you ever eaten sugar or something very sweet and suffered a headache afterward? If you have ever had such an experience, you may be blaming the sugar as the cause of the headache or may be wondering if the sugar could be the culprit.
Our body chemistry relies on sugar. Too much or too little sugar can cause problems including headaches. This is due to the fact that sugar has a direct effect on the brain and nervous system.
Eating too much sugar can cause increased fluctuations in your blood sugar levels which can trigger a headache. Some people are prone to these types of sugar-triggered headaches.
Maintaining proper sugar levels in your diet can prevent future headaches and some health conditions like diabetes.
In this article, we will take a look at how too much intake of sugar can cause headaches.
How can too much sugar cause headaches?
Sugar has a direct effect on both your brain and nervous system. Headaches that are caused by sugar have a lot to do with your blood glucose level.
Your body gets energy from glucose when it enters your bloodstream after you take in sugar. A proper balance of blood sugar levels is very important. Your body maintains a proper level of blood sugar by breaking down glucose with the help of the hormone insulin.
Glucose levels fluctuations can affect the brain more than any other organ in the body. The rise and drop of glucose levels can result in a headache. The headaches caused by glucose and your brain are also related to hormones activated by sugar levels.
Also, low blood sugar can lead to a range of symptoms including headaches and muscle pain. People who take insulin have a higher risk of having low blood sugar levels.
Headaches can have several causes, you may be interested in our previous article where we discuss 15 different causes of headaches and how to treat them.
How much sugar does a person need?
In general, a person should maintain a blood sugar level between 70-120 milligrams per deciliter. This number may change if you have diabetes or another health condition.
The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than six teaspoons of sugar a day and men consume no more than nine teaspoons (source).
What happens if I take too much sugar?
Eating too much sugar can cause an occasional sugar-related headache. Some conditions, like diabetes, may also make you more likely to experience sugar-related headaches. This is because you may have an increased risk for hyperglycemia.
You may also be interested in this article “Does eating too much sugar cause diabetes?”
Hyperglycemia is a condition caused by having a blood sugar level that is too high. This happens when your body is unable to break down glucose efficiently with insulin. Your blood sugar may rise above 180–200 mg/dL.
Experiencing a headache may be an early sign of blood sugar that is too high. Headaches associated with hyperglycemia may start out mild in nature and get worse as your blood sugar rises or maintains a high level.
You can experience symptoms like frequent need to urinate, frequent thirst, blurred vision, and fatigue if you have hyperglycemia.
What happens if my sugar intake is low?
Not consuming enough sugar can cause occasional headaches. Hypoglycemia is a condition that can be caused by taking very little sugar than required.
Hypoglycemia is a condition caused by not having enough sugar in the bloodstream. Hypoglycemia occurs when your blood sugar levels dip below 70 mg/dL.
This can happen after skipping a meal or going a long period without eating. A person with diabetes may experience hypoglycemia frequently, as the body cannot control blood sugar levels on its own. This can be worsened if you are taking prescribed insulin.
Reactive hypoglycemia can be experienced. Reactive hypoglycemia is a rapid drop in your blood sugar after eating a meal. This occurs within four hours of eating.
An example of reactive hypoglycemia is when you eat simple sugars, such as white sugar. This raises blood sugar fast and then insulin overproduces, causing a rapid decline in blood sugar.
Low blood sugar may cause a general headache or even a migraine. Headaches that occur due to hypoglycemia are often described as a dull, throbbing pain at the temples. You may also feel nausea with a headache or migraine caused by hypoglycemia.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia include weakness, sweating, sleepiness, pale skin, anxiety, mood swings, confusion, lightheadedness, and so on.
Is it possible to get a sugar hangover?
Eating a lot of sugar in a short amount of time may cause rapid changes to your blood glucose levels. That can lead to symptoms that some people describe as a “sugar hangover,” including headache, upset stomach, difficulty focusing, shakiness, tiredness, mood swings.
Who is prone to sugar headaches?
Migraine sufferers are prone to getting headaches from sugar, however, not all migraine sufferers have the same triggers. One common trigger of migraines is sugar or anything sweet.
Diabetes is a disease where the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or cannot use it correctly. This causes blood sugar levels to rise in the blood.
Not everyone with diabetes will experience headaches; however, those who have trouble managing their fluctuating blood sugar levels may develop headaches. The more the blood sugar levels fluctuate, the more likely these headaches will occur.
People who consume too much sugar
People who eat sugar on a consistent basis are prone to getting headaches from sugar. This can even lead to an addiction.
A high intake of sugar over some time can cause changes to the brain that are similar to addictive drugs. Therefore, if someone who usually consumes a lot of sugar suddenly stops consuming it, their body and brain can go into withdrawal and cause a headache.
Sugar headache diagnosis
Your glucose levels will be tested by a doctor or qualified health professional if they suspect that your headache is caused by sugar intake.
These tests may involve fasting, or eating a meal and then test your blood sugar level. Your doctor will also ask about your daily habits, health, symptoms
An isolated headache may just need general treatment. This may include over-the-counter medications, homeopathic remedies, or stress reduction.
Immediate treatment of hypoglycemia should include increasing your blood sugar levels quickly. You can do this by drinking juice or a sugar-based soft drink, or eating a piece of candy.
If your symptoms have not improved after 15 minutes, consume more sugar. If symptoms continue to persist after trying to raise your blood sugar, call your doctor.
Chronic headaches caused by sugar should be treated according to the advice of your doctor. If you have frequent hypoglycemia, you may need to have meals at regularly scheduled times and eat foods without simple carbohydrates, like white sugar.
You may also need to adjust your eating schedule to eat more frequent small meals throughout the day.
Sugar-related headaches caused by diabetes require a more in-depth treatment plan.
The takeaway from this article
Eating too much sugar or even too little sugar can cause headaches. Some people are very prone to sugar headaches and if you are one, then you need to watch your sugar intake.