Do you experience a headache when you skip a meal? Skipping meals is never a good idea. Not only can it cause fatigue, decreased focus, and a low energy level, some people experience headaches when they miss a meal. What causes a headache from not eating – and how can you prevent them?
Cause of Headache from Not Eating: Low Blood Sugar
Skipping meals can cause blood sugar drops, which trigger headaches in some individuals. When blood sugar levels drop too low, the body responds by pumping out hormones that raise sugar levels higher – so cells can get more energy. These include epinephrine and norepinephrine, two hormones that constrict blood vessels in the brain – and also trigger a headache. How does a low blood sugar headache feel? They’re usually dull and most prominent around the temples, although the characteristics can vary from person to person.
Not surprisingly, skipping meals can trigger migraine headaches in people predisposed to them. Eating meals irregularly and loading up on foods that are high in simple carbohydrates cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels that can bring on headaches in migraine sufferers. With migraine headaches, it’s not only important what you eat, but how often you eat it.
Another Cause of Headache from Not Eating: Dehydration
What you eat, and what you drink, or don’t drink, can contribute to low blood sugar headaches. Dehydration commonly triggers headaches in children – and can do it in adults too. Why is dehydration a cause of headaches? No one knows for sure. One theory is that lowered pressure due to lack of water stimulates pain receptors that line the covering around the brain called the meninges. This triggers a low blood sugar headache.
Ever wonder why so many people have a headache after a night of drinking alcohol? It’s dehydration triggering those pain receptors on the meninges again. Remember, alcohol is a diuretic, which increases fluid loss. It’s tempting to reach for a cup of coffee to offset that hangover headache, but coffee is a diuretic, which contributes to fluid loss. It’s better to stick with water – and lots of it.
Low Blood Sugar Headaches: How to Prevent a Headache from Not Eating
Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day and include a small amount of protein and complex carbohydrates. Stay away from simple carbohydrates such as desserts, white potatoes, white rice, and white bread that are rapidly absorbed and trigger rapid drops in blood sugar levels. Always eat breakfast before leaving the house in the morning and limit caffeine. Caffeine withdrawal can be a cause of headaches too. Eat wisely and frequently to prevent a headache from not eating.
Medipedia.”Dehydration and Headaches”
Merck Manual. Eighteenth edition. 2006.