Losing weight can be such a pain in the…head. Research conducted by the National Headache Foundation, diet-related issues play a role in an astounding 30% of all migraines! From low blood sugar to caffeine withdrawal, the many subtle diet tweaks we make while trying to slim down can bring on that throbbin’ noggin. Here is why dieting makes your head ache, and how to ease the pain.
You need food
Caloric restriction can cause hunger headaches. Don’t let yourself go too long without eating or let yourself feel too hungry. It’s a good idea to eat at least every four hours. Try light snacks between meals, such as peanut butter and crackers or a handful of carrots and some almonds.
You haven’t eaten in a while
Spacing your meals too far apart or eating at irregular intervals causes a dip in blood sugar levels, which essentially drives your body into “starvation mode.” This triggers a flurry of hormones and brain chemicals similar to your body’s response to stress, which can bring on headaches. Once you get some food in you, your headache along with other symptoms like weakness, shakiness, and low energy should go away. You should wait no more than four hours between meals.
You are dehydrated
Dehydration is a common headache trigger. Many experts don’t know the exact reason why, but believe it may have to do with the narrowing of blood vessels in the brain, which also reduces the brain’s supply of blood and oxygen. Not getting enough electrolytes in your diet may also contribute to dehydration headaches.
Other than causing headaches, being dehydrated can actually undermine your weight-loss efforts. Sometimes your body confuses thirst with hunger, which can lead to overeating.
You are using artificial sweeteners
Some people may be particularly sensitive to artificial sweeteners such aspartame, which can lead to headaches. Aspartame might be in diet drinks as well as foods. A great substitute is to use honey in your coffee or tea instead of artificial sweeteners.
Caffeine intake has changed
If you have ditched the soda or coffee as part of your slim-down plan, you might be going through caffeine withdrawal. A good portion of people who have cut back on caffeine experience headaches and other unpleasant symptoms.
It might help to not cut caffeine cold turkey. Instead, try to gradually decrease your caffeine intake. Caffeine isn’t a diet devil, but it’s often consumed as part of sugary sodas or coffee drinks loaded with extra calories from sugar and milk.
Stressed a little?
Not only can stress trigger eating binges or make it hard to stick to a diet, but it can also bring on headaches. When you’re under the gun, your body releases a flurry of chemicals like adrenalin or cortisol in response to the stress. In addition to giving you the instant energy you need to fight stress, these chemicals also make the blood vessels in your brain contract, which can result in headaches.
Try taking a mind-clearing stroll around the block, and step away from the situation to take a few cleansing breaths.
Use these tips, and the intensity and frequency of the headaches will likely decrease!