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Why You Might Have a Sugar Headache (and Don’t Even Know it)

sugar headache
Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / pasja1000

You might be suffering from sugar headaches without even knowing it. Read on to find out which types of sugar headaches there are, their causes, and how to deal with them.

First cultivated by the indigenous people of New Guinea in around 8000 BCE, the native sugar cane was chewed raw to extract the sweetness from the plant. Since then the plant has spread around the world, and while in today’s world it is taken for granted — it was once one of the world’s most valuable commodities.

Too much sugar can stack up more calories in your diet, cause cavities and make you feel tired and anxious. But sugar isn’t all bad — in the short term it can give you a much-needed energy boost and make you feel good by releasing the feel-good chemical dopamine. Many of our much-loved fruits and vegetables contain natural sugars, that are very healthy for you in moderation.

In this piece, we will look at how sugar might cause headaches, what the signs are, how to cure them and how much sugar we actually need.

Are Sugar Headaches Real?

Could your headache be caused by your sugar levels as opposed to screen time?
Could your headache be caused by your sugar levels as opposed to screen time?
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / lukasbieri)

Can sugar cause headaches? Yes, adding sugar to your diet can cause a spike in blood sugar levels, which in turn can produce a headache.

They are not uncommon — but are usually produced by a sudden consumption of sugar after not eating sugar for a while or eating too much of it at once.

What is A Sugar Headache?

A sugar headache can be caused either by too much sugar in the blood (hyperglycemia) or too little sugar in the blood (hypoglycemia), also known as a ‘sugar withdrawal headache‘. Eating too much sugar can also trigger reactive hypoglycemia, as your body fights to stabilize the levels of sugar in the blood — also known as a ‘sugar hangover‘.

A hyperglycemia-induced headache tends to be milder but can worsen as blood sugar levels rise or remain at high levels. On the other hand, a headache as a result of hypoglycemia produces a dull, throbbing pain occurring on one side of the head. This can last anything from a few hours to a few days and can also occur when you haven’t eaten enough.

Who Is Prone To Sugar Headaches?

Could diabetes be the cause of your headaches?
Could diabetes be the cause of your headaches?
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / stevepb)

Those who have diabetes are prone to sugar headaches as their blood levels quickly fluctuate. But diabetes is not the only cause of these headaches, so monitor your diet before jumping to conclusions.

High blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) can also be caused by too much sugar or refined carbohydrates in your diet which make your blood sugar levels spike quickly, whereas low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) can be caused by too few carbs in your diet. If you tend to binge on a bar of chocolate and then feel bad and stop eating sugar or carbs for the rest of the week, you might even suffer a hyperglycemia headache first, followed by a sugar-hangover.

How To Cure Sugar Headaches In The Moment?

Here’s how to treat a sugar headache:

  • Drink water
  • Try over-the-counter painkillers or homeopathic remedies.
  • Eat foods to restabilize your blood levels.
  • Rest. 
  • Reduce stress.

Eating foods with a low glycemic index (GI) can help stabilize your blood sugar levels and avoid both types of sugar headache. Typically, these foods are rich in protein, fibre and complex carbohydrates, for example oatmeal, chia seeds or flax seeds as well as different types of legumes. Vegetables in general are a safe bet if you want to avoid a sugar headache, both from too much as well as from too little sugar in the bloodstream.

How To Avoid A Sugar Headache

By getting more balance in your life you can also prevent sugar headaches.
By getting more balance in your life you can also prevent sugar headaches.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Fotorech)

Avoiding a sugar headache doesn’t have to be complicated. After all, you only need to make sure that your blood sugar levels stay stable. Watching what you eat, getting enough sleep for your body to metabolize the sugar intake you do have, drinking more water, avoiding headache-inducing habits like caffeine, drinking or smoking, and adding more exercise into your diet can help you do that. For instance, one of the many benefits of a vegan diet is that it could reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.

If that doesn’t change anything — you might want to check with your doctor for the underlying reason behind the headaches.

How Much Sugar Do We Actually Need?

While we can all agree that many of us consume too much sugar, and our bodies can survive and thrive without it, you don’t necessarily have to completely cut sugar out of your diet. In fact, there is space for it in a healthy diet: Some natural sweeteners are healthy if consumed in moderation and can make snacks like DIY granola bars, or our 3 ingredient energy bars a real treat. Even a homemade cough syrup can benefit from honey as a sweetener.

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