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Headache Caused by a Change in Diet

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author image Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.
Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.
Headache Caused by a Change in Diet
A woman with a headache holding her head with pills on her other hand. Photo Credit Brad Killer/iStock/Getty Images

If a change in your diet causes nutrient deficiencies – or dehydration – headaches can occur. But if you’re eating a well-balanced diet and you’re still experiencing chronic headaches, talk with your doctor to help determine the cause, which could be a medical condition. Altering your diet by eating healthier likely won’t cause a headache – but lowering the quality of your diet could.

Fluid Drop

If you suddenly decrease your fluid intake and become dehydrated, headaches can occur. Signs you’re dehydrated may include thirst, dry skin, dizziness, fatigue and dark-colored urine, according to MedlinePlus. MedlinePlus also notes that on average, adults need about 3 quarts -- which is equivalent to 12 cups – of water each day. Your total water intake includes the water in foods and beverages, such as fruits, vegetables, juices and milks.

Too Few Carbohydrates

Drastically cutting your dietary carb intake is a common cause of headaches. A study published in 2008 in "Nutrition and Metabolism" reports that the majority of study subjects who followed a low-carbohydrate diet containing fewer than 20 grams of carbs daily experienced headaches and constipation. Therefore, aim to consume a minimum of 130 grams of carbs per day -- which is the recommended dietary allowance for carbs, according to the Institute of Medicine. Healthy sources of carbs include whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and low-fat milk.

Vitamin D Connection

Some research indicates that vitamin D deficiency may be related to headaches. A 2010 review published in the “Journal of Headache and Pain” reports that getting too little vitamin D may increase your risk for head pain and that headaches are generally more common during seasons with less available sunlight -- which is a common source of vitamin D. Therefore, reducing or eliminating vitamin D-rich foods – such as fish, milk, yogurt, egg yolks and vitamin D-fortified orange juice and breakfast cereals – in your diet could lead to headaches.

Magnesium Deficiency

Reducing magnesium-rich foods in your diet may also cause headaches – even migraines. According to a 2012 review published in the “Journal of Neural Transmission,” up to half of migraine sufferers may be deficient in dietary magnesium. Therefore, include magnesium-rich foods – such as nuts, seeds, legumes, soy, spinach, milk, yogurt and magnesium-fortified breakfast cereals – in your diet regularly to help avoid getting headaches.

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