How to Prevent Headaches Caused by Weight Loss

  • Migraine attacks along with other types of headaches commonly occur when losing weight.
  • Although the link between weight loss and headaches isn’t clear, experts theorize that it may be due to the narrowing of blood vessels in the brain which is triggered by certain diets and lifestyle habits.
  • Eating meals irregularly is one common headache trigger because it greatly lowers blood sugar making the brain respond with a migraine.

Headaches are quite common while dieting or on a weight loss program.  Losing weight can even prove to be more difficult for people who have migraines because certain diets, supplements and exercises can trigger migraine attacks.  In fact, a National Headache Foundation study suggested that 30 percent of all migraines including less severe kinds of headaches are caused by weight loss-related issues.  

Here are 6 helpful tips to lessen the severity and frequency of headaches while dieting.

1. Avoid limiting your caloric intake by too much too soon

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Skipping meals or eating irregular meals to lose weight is a common headache trigger. The brain reacts to extremely low blood sugar levels with a migraine or headache. But once you fuel up, your headache including other symptoms like weakness and a drop in energy levels, disappear.

Useful Tip: Spacing your meals too far apart causes a dip in blood sugar. Rather, schedule your meals no more than four hours apart. To keep your blood sugar steady, eat small and frequent low-sugar meals, never skip breakfast or miss meals, and eat healthy snacks in between such as peanut butter and crackers, carrots, hummus and almonds, to appease hunger.

2. Drink lots of water

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Dehydration is another common trigger for weight loss headache. Though the reason isn’t clear, experts think it may be due to the narrowing of blood vessels in the brain, which in turn, decreases the brain’s supply of blood and oxygen. Not getting enough electrolytes may also stimulate dehydration headaches. According to research, being dehydrated can also sabotage weight loss because the body may mistake thirst for hunger, which can result in overeating.

Useful Tip: Your body is already dehydrated once you start feeling thirsty. So, stay hydrated often by drinking 80-100 oz. of water a day, with every meal and between meals.

3. Stay away from artificial sweeteners

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While aspartame and sucralose may be tolerated by many people, they can trigger headaches in some people, according to a study at the University of Washington, Seattle. Aspartame can be found in several foods as well as sugar-free beverages.

Tip: If artificial sweeteners are causing your headaches, keep a food log to record patterns. Research says the fat-releasing properties of honey makes it a healthier sweetener for your tea or coffee.

4. Gradually reduce caffeine intake

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Caffeine withdrawal, which is characterized by headaches, irritability and tiredness, is a common side effect when ditching your coffee or other caffeinated drinks. CNN Health experts say that about half of people who curb caffeine consumption do experience headaches and other awful symptoms.

Tip: Don’t cut caffeine abruptly. Try instead to slowly lower your intake. While losing weight, one cup of a caffeine drink daily is okay and choose skim milk over flavored syrups and whipped cream.

5. Manage your stress

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Besides triggering eating binges, stress can also induce headaches. Chemicals like adrenaline or cortisol which are released by the body to provide energy needed to fight stress causes the blood vessels in your brain to contract, hence, causing headaches.

Tip: Reduce stress and burn fat by exercising regularly, doing something relaxing such as taking a stroll to clear your mind, taking deep breaths, taking a nap, reading a book, doing meditation or yoga. Schedule enough time to unwind every day.   Plus, try not to add weight loss to your stress sources. Congratulate yourself for small accomplishments instead of worrying about every single ounce.

6. Don’t over exercise

If you’re a newbie in exercise or have worked out too much, headaches may occur due to changes in the brain’s blood vessels, says the Mayo Clinic.

Tip: Before starting a workout, always warm up to prepare your body for action, and cool down at the end. Do not overexert yourself.

Source: Reader’s Digest

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