In a society where nearly everyone gets headaches the question “can low blood sugar cause headaches” is not without merit.
Currently in North America 5% of women and 3% of men get headaches daily. 41% of women and 40% of men get episodic tension headaches within the span of a year. This is like nearly every second person suffers from head pain.
Migraines, one type of headaches, are more common than asthma and diabetes combined. What’s the cause? Can low blood sugar play a role?
Definitely it can. It also can contribute to many other symptoms, which you may not expect. Download the chart below. It will guide you through unexpected hypoglycemia symptoms. The chart is meant to be posted on the fridge as an easy reference chart.
Headaches are not difficult to treat
Headaches have been one of the most troublesome problems for patients as well as neurologists alike. Headaches seem to be chronically recurrent and many people believe they are difficult to treat.
Yet headaches are not as difficult to treat as one may believe. Unfortunately, discovering causes underlying the headaches is a process that eludes most doctors and patients alike. It is because many doctors discount the possibility that food, its quality and timing may have a profound effect on how we feel. But without knowing what causes it, the pain will only recur.
What causes headaches?
Without understanding the cause the sufferers can do only one thing: use painkillers. Not surprisingly painkillers remain the mainstay for headache treatment.
Why not painkillers?
Most people stick to painkillers, because they do not know what else to do. Yet, painkillers do not seem to be the best solution for many headache sufferers. Even headache sufferers themselves state so.
9 out of 10 people think painkillers take too long to start acting, do not relieve all the pain, and sometimes do not even work at all[i]. Besides, like all the drugs, painkillers cause side effects whether they be short-, or long-term.
The biggest problem with the painkillers however, is not their slowness and unreliability, but their inability to prevent headache recurrence. Besides their unreliability, painkillers such as diclophenac have been shown to be devastating to the environment. An entire population of vouchers has been erased in India after it fed on cattle treated with diclophenac. The anti-environment side of medication is one of the reason why you MUST find out the reason for your pain, treat the underlying causes and prevent its recurrence.
Can low blood sugar cause headaches to begin with?
A very conservative estimate suggests that 22% of all headaches[ii] seem to be related to fasting or dropping blood sugar. Low blood sugar headache can be induced by prolonged periods of non eating or by skipping meals. In real life hypoglycemia-related headache can be started by several commonly encountered circumstances like
- stress, overwork, adrenal fatigue
- hidden food allergies,
- high glycemic index meals and snacks,
- systemic Candida
- caffeinated beverage, and even medication.
Each and every one of the above circumstances can potentially start a headache in a susceptible, but totally unsuspecting individual.
Low blood sugar – minor nuisance or a big problem?
The problem with experiencing low blood sugar is bigger than previously thought. Frequent episodes of pronounced hypoglycemia affect the brain and are associated with increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
A brain that is repeatedly deprived of glucose will eventually stop working properly. So you have just one more reason to prevent and properly treat low blood sugar headaches. Remember, painkillers do not raise blood sugar hence do nothing to reverse hypoglycemia or stop dementia risk[iii].
Low blood sugar headache – what’s it like?
How can you tell that you have a low blood sugar and not any other type of headache? Low blood sugar headache may look like a tension headache although seldom anyone would confuse it with a migraine.
Hypoglycemic headaches do not present with an aura, like some migraines, or concentrate on one side of the head. They do not have a sharp or aggressive quality of pain of a typical migraine, but they are non-pulsating and feel diffuse in nature.
Low blood sugar headaches are dull, nagging, aching and usually concentrate around the forehead or top of the head. The headache may be accompanied by weakness, lassitude, nausea, dizziness and drowsiness, other typical low blood sugar symptoms.
How to treat low blood sugar headache
Eating a meal or a snack may be the best home remedy for this type of headache however, you will need to eat right at the onset of the headache or even better, before it starts.
In practice it means that if your headache mysteriously keeps on showing up just before you leave work at 4 pm you may want to have a snack at 3 or 3:30 pm.
Do not wait too long to eat. In many cases eating when the headache is already well advanced would have little effect on the pain. This is where diligence and proper food timing really pays off. Map your headaches and keep a log. It may be that just changing the time of your meals may make your mysterious headaches just as mysteriously disappear, putting your question “can low blood sugar cause headaches” to rest.