Other Common Migraine Triggers In Sugary Foods
Sometimes people may erroneously assume the triggering factor in their food choice was sugar. When it was actually something else in the sweet treat. Sugary foods are often combined with other ingredients that are considered common migraine triggers such as nuts, chocolate, food colorings and certain dried foods.
Determining migraine foods triggers can be very tricky especially when you have frequent attacks. From observation, some people have a handful of common foods that are triggering. So, eliminating one food at a time often does not yield results. For example, they may avoid chocolate while continuing the eat nuts and protein bars while being sensitive to all three foods. It can be quite frustrating especially since many well-meaning experts suggest avoiding suspected foods one at a time.
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Fluctuating Blood Sugar Levels
When we eat food, our body gets to work on digesting and absorbing the meal. Assuming our digestive and endocrine systems are working properly, there is a normal, healthy rise in blood sugar followed by a gradual decline. Blood sugar is kept in a range that allows our body to have enough fuel to provide the brain and all organs of the body to perform vital functions.
For some people, the ability to regulate blood sugar is impaired. Blood sugar levels may climb too high in response to sugars and other high-carbohydrate foods. Their body may sense this elevated blood sugar and respond with a surge in a hormone called insulin to try to reduce the elevated blood sugar. The surge sometimes results in blood sugar getting too low. This can cause sugar headache for those who are prone to it.
The migraine brain is often described as being hyper responsive to normal, benign stimulation. A person who is not prone to headache or migraine attacks may be completely unaware of the ups and downs of their blood sugar whether they are normal fluctuations or not. Contrarily, the person predisposed to migraine may be triggered by the inconsistencies and abnormalities in blood sugar. In this theory about sugar and migraines, the body is sometimes unable to maintain blood sugar in the proper range. This causes the brain to respond with pain as a warning signal that something is wrong.
A leading experts opinion
3 steps to take to avoid sugar and migraine episodes
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Is It A Trigger Or A Warning
We know that the brain of someone with migraine likes balance, like regular sleep and meal patterns. We also know that migraine can be triggered by alcohol and the menstrual cycle. The evidence for other triggers, such as exercise, eating chocolate and bright light, is less certain.
It can sometimes be difficult to tell if something is really a trigger, or if what youre experiencing is an early symptom of a migraine attack.
Studies have found that sometimes what you may think is a trigger is actually to do with the premonitory or warning stage of a migraine attack.
During this stage, you may get symptoms such as changes in your mood or emotions, cravings for certain foods, and being more sensitive to light, sound or smells.
These symptoms can lead to you think that something is triggering your migraine attack. For example, at the beginning of a migraine attack, you may start to crave sweet foods. You may then eat some chocolate to satisfy the craving. When you then get a headache, you may think that eating chocolate was the trigger. But actually you were starting to have a migraine attack when the cravings started and the cravings were the warning sign.
The same could be true for other triggers. If you are more sensitive to light in the warning stage, you might think bright lights are a trigger. If you are more sensitive to smells, you might think certain scents are a trigger.
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How Do I Treat An Episode Of Hypoglycemia
The American Diabetes Association recommends the 15-15 rule for an episode of hypoglycemia:
- Eat or drink 15 grams of carbs to raise your blood sugar.
- After 15 minutes, check your blood sugar.
- If its still below 70 mg/dL, have another 15 grams of carbs.
- Repeat until your blood sugar is at least 70 mg/dL.
If you have symptoms of hypoglycemia but cant test your blood sugar, use the 15-15 rule until you feel better.
Note: Children need fewer grams of carbs. Check with your healthcare provider.
Coeliac Disease And Gluten Sensitivity
Coeliac disease is a serious condition where a persons immune system reacts when they eat gluten and causes damage to the lining of their gut. When this happens, they have symptoms such as diarrhoea, bloating, vomiting and stomach cramps. There can also be serious complications if it is not treated, such as anaemia. There is no cure for coeliac disease and people with it need to avoid gluten all their life.
There have been studies into the link between coeliac disease and migraine. There is no evidence to suggest that coeliac disease causes migraine. It is thought that if people with coeliac disease and migraine follow a gluten-free diet, this may help with both of their conditions.
Gluten sensitivity is when a person has a bad reaction if they eat gluten. They may have similar symptoms to coeliac disease, but there is no damage to the lining of their gut or the risk of serious complications that can happen with coeliac disease.
Gluten is found in foods that contain wheat, barley or rye. These include pasta, bread, cakes, some sauces and most ready meals.
One of the symptoms of gluten sensitivity is headache. But there is no evidence that gluten sensitivity causes migraine. However, if you are sensitive to gluten, you may find that if you eat food containing gluten, it makes migraine attacks more likely or the symptoms more painful.
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Why Does Sweetness Cause Such Pain
Shakespeare probably pondered this as he was writing Romeo and Juliet. And just as he was perplexed by the joyous agony of true love, we wanna know why sugar is such a wiley b*tch sometimes.
First of all, when we say sugar as in, Good god, this sugar headache makes me regret my choice to eat a sleeve of Oreos in one sitting were talking about added sugar. Added sugar is just what it sounds like, its sugar thats added to foods.
Why does this matter? Well, many foods have naturally occurring sugars, like fruits and dairy. When you eat a piece of fruit or some plain Greek yogurt, youre getting some sugar, but the fiber or protein in the food helps balance the effects of the glucose.
When you eat something with lots of added sugar , the lack of fiber, protein, or other good stuff with nutritional value means the sugar hits your bloodstream, causes a spike in glucose, also known as blood sugar, and off you go to headache town.
Radical dips and spikes in blood sugar are the main cause of sugar headaches. Your body actually runs, not on Dunkin, but on sugar .
We need a steady supply of glucose for energy and our brains in particular need glucose to make sure the body can function. When theres a sudden change in glucose levels, our brains are the first to feel the effects.
Can Sugar Cause Headaches
Eating too much or too little sugar can lead to headaches. This is because how much sugar you consume impacts your blood sugar levels. For example, eating too much sugar can cause your blood sugar to become too high, which is called hyperglycemia.
“With high blood sugar, small amounts of swelling can happen in and around blood vessels and surrounding brain tissue, which can cause headache,” says Evan Barnathan, MD, a family physician at Central Maine Healthcare in Maine.
Additionally, high blood sugar is often accompanied by dehydration, which may trigger headaches.
On the other hand, eating too little sugar can cause blood sugar to become too low, which is known as hypoglycemia. When your blood sugar is too low, your body turns to alternate sources of energy from fat and protein, called ketones. The process is called ketosis, and it can lead to headaches, too.
For most healthy individuals, their bodies are able to regulate blood sugar levels and keep them within normal levels, even if they eat a big piece of cake. But those with diabetes aren’t able to effectively regulate blood sugar, so what they eat will have a bigger impact.
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When Your Blood Sugar Is Low
The headache that comes with a mild or severe low blood sugar can feel like your skull is cracking apart its brutal. And often times, the headache will linger long after youve treated the hypoglycemia and your blood sugar is back up to a safe range.
As mentioned earlier, your brain requires that second-by-second delivery of glucose in order to think and function. Some of the symptoms that come with some low blood sugars like a lack of coordination or sudden confusion are perfect evidence of what it looks like when your brain is struggling to function when that gas tank of sugar is low.
In one way, you could think of your headache during a low blood sugar as your brains way of trying to get your attention begging you to give your body the fast-acting carbohydrates it needs to recover.
Food And Eating Habits
Despite the constant recommendations to eat healthfully when you have diabetes, its not necessarily easy to change your eating habits. No one is perfect! But when it comes to your food choices or how and when you eat, its worthwhile to focus on a) trying to get into an eating routine and b) making healthful food decisions most of the time. Youll reap a host of benefits by doing so, including more stable blood glucose levels, reaching and staying at a healthy weight, a lower risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, and, yes, fewer headaches. What and how you eat can be directly responsible for headaches, especially migraines. Typical triggers for migraines include:
Too much or too little caffeine Alcohol, especially red wine, whiskey, Scotch, and champagne Aged cheeses Nitrates and nitrites, found in cold cuts, hot dogs, sausage, and bacon Monosodium glutamate Foods or drinks containing aspartame, a nonnutritive sweetener Citrus fruits
Other culprits: skipping or delaying meals, and not drinking enough fluids.
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Warning Signs Of Low Blood Sugar
Hypoglycemia can cause both short- and long-term complications. Know the signs so that you can treat the condition as soon as you’re aware of it.
As a person living with diabetes, you know how important it is to reduce blood sugar when it is too high, a phenomenon called hyperglycemia. But blood sugar that is too low, or hypoglycemia, is equally critical to avoid.
“Hypoglycemia happens when the amount of blood glucose drops to a level that’s too low to sustain normal functioning,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDCES, who is based in Sparta, New Jersey. “In most people, this is defined as a blood sugar level at or below 70 milligrams per deciliter .”
Hypoglycemia is common among people with type 2 diabetes, according to a review published in June 2015 in the journal PLoS One. Individuals with the condition had an average of 19 mild or moderate episodes of hypoglycemia per year and nearly one severe episode per year on average, according to the researchers. Low blood sugar was particularly common among those taking insulin.
This decrease in blood sugar levels can cause both short-term complications, like confusion and dizziness, as well as more serious issues, including seizures, coma, and, rarely, death, according to the American Diabetes Association .
Hypoglycemia is usually the result of a too-high dose of insulin or a change in diet or exercise habits, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
If You Have High Blood Pressure
Considering that nearly two-thirds of people with diabetes struggle with high blood pressure, its very likely contributing to your headaches. This is especially important to discuss with your doctor because very few people with high blood pressure actually have symptoms.
High blood pressure can easily go undiagnosed and untreated. Consequences of long-term high blood pressure include:
- Severe damage to your heart
- Severe damage to your arteries
- Increased risk of stroke and blood clots
- Difficulty sleeping
- Risk of sleep apnea
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Toomuch Sugar Can Cause Low Sugar
When you eat carbohydrates, your body converts the carbs to glucose, which is the medical term for sugar. Glucose travels through your body to be used as energy.
“High glucose itself is not the problem,” says Michael Doerrler, DO, assistant professor of neurology and a headache specialist at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago. “When you load up on sugar, your body produces more insulin to use up the sugar. Your blood sugar can drop rapidly. This is called reactive hypoglycemia.”
As he explains, “anything that upsets the delicate balance of the brain can trigger a headache and other low-sugar symptoms.”
Low sugar can cause a migraine headache, and it also may be why some people with migraines crave sugar just before or during a migraine attack, according to The Migraine Trust. Migraine headache symptoms include intense and throbbing pain on one side of the head along with nausea and vomiting, according to Harvard Medical School.
For people who don’t get migraines, a low-blood-sugar headache can cause a dull, throbbing headache on both sides of the head over the temples, according to the National Headache Foundation.
Get Those High Blood Sugar Levels Down
High blood sugars arent random they are the what happens where theres an imbalance of any combination of food, activity, medications, stress, and hormones.
If you have type 1 diabetes and persistent high blood sugar levels, its definitely time for a tune-up of your insulin doses and how you dose insulin for the food you eat. High blood sugars in type 1 diabetes mean one very simple thing: youre not getting enough insulin. While making nutritional changes can eventually lower blood sugar levels, the most important thing right now is make sure youre getting adequate insulin.
Our insulin needs change throughout our entire life dont resist making changes with your healthcare team.
For patients with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, it can be very daunting to start a diabetes medication after your diagnosis, or if other approaches arent working. Remember, for many people with type 2, diabetes is a progressive disease which means your bodys ability to properly produce and use insulin is going to decrease over time.
Starting a diabetes medication is the most important thing you can do to not only reduce your headaches, but also to save your eyes, your kidneys, your stomach, and your feet! Dont let shame or fear of starting a medication get in the way of doing what you need to do right now to get your blood sugars down to a safer level.
No diabetes diet needs to be 100% perfect.
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