Getting a “brain-freeze” from eating ice cream is a common enough phenomenon to have a nickname for the cold-causing headache. But a less known cause of headache is sugar. What if it isn’t the cold of ice cream making your head hurt, but the sugar?
It’s a little known fact that what you eat, including sugar, can contribute to headaches and migraines. Symptoms of too much sugar include headache, migraine, confusion, nausea, sweating, faintness, and hypothermia.
Some headaches are caused by constricting the flow of blood to the brain, causing a lack of oxygen. The constriction can be caused by sudden changes in blood glucose levels, which is carried through the body along with oxygen. Usually insulin keeps everything moving smoothly, but during a headache blood flow becomes forced and pain ensues.
Sugar consumption doesn’t directly cause headaches, but overconsumption of sugar can. Many people enjoy as many as 355 calories a day from sugar when closer to 100 to 150 calories from sugar is advised. By lowering your sugar consumption, you can also lower the risk of a sugar headache.
Simple sugars, like candies, sweets, pasta, and bread, are used immediately by the body and enter the bloodstream quickly. Complex carbohydrates, like whole grains and vegetables, enter the bloodstream more slowly.
Unless you have a sugar intolerance, you don’t have to skip carbs altogether. You just need to eat more complex carbs to prevent the sudden spike and fall of glucose levels in your bloodstream.
If you find that you crave sugar and sweets on a regular basis, try to retrain your brain to hit your sweet spot with complex carbs, like berries instead of cake, so that your blood sugar levels don’t spike and cause headache pain. Enjoy a hearty salad rather loading up on pasta.
Similarly, make carbs only a small part of any meal, like a side of pasta to accompany your main dish. By limiting your intake of sugar, you can avoid spikes in your blood sugar that can cause headaches. Other ways to avoid unwanted sugar and carbs is to read food labels more carefully.
But, it’s not just ingesting large amounts of sugar that can cause headaches and migraines. If you are prone to headaches or migraines, not having enough sugar in your bloodstream can also cause a headache. Unusually low blood sugar levels can be caused by eating irregularly, skipping meals, and fasting.