Cranberry juice is promoted for its many health benefits. Cranberries are naturally high in cell-protecting antioxidants, including vitamin C. According to The University of Maryland Medical Center, cranberries prevent urinary tract infections and may defend against inflammation and viruses. However, the high sugar content in cranberry juice triggers headaches in some individuals. For most headache-sufferers, however, cranberry juice actually reduces symptoms. Its effects on raising blood sugar and improving circulation make cranberry juice worth considering for headache pain management.
There are several headache classifications, all with specific associated symptoms. Tension headaches cause soreness in your head and neck, usually related to emotional stress. Chemical reactions in your brain cause cluster headaches -- localized, intense pain. Migraines involve pulsating head pain. Migraines may be accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to noise and light. Depending on your diagnosis, your doctor will suggest appropriate treatment and prevention methods, including lifestyle changes and medication.
Depending on the root of your symptoms, sugar can either cause or relieve a headache. For some people, high sugar intake triggers migraines. However, if your headache is the result of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, a swig of cranberry juice can be an instant fix. Your brain depends on glucose as a primary fuel source. When blood sugar levels drop, you may start to feel symptoms of lightheadedness, head pain and altered consciousness. Cranberry juice contains simple sugars that spike blood glucose levels, providing quick relief.
Along with low circulating blood sugar, reduced oxygen flow can also cause headaches. In May 2011, "Food and Function" published a study examining the effect of different fruit juices on arterial blood flow. Along with blackcurrant, blueberry and grape, cranberry juice helped relax coronary arteries in pigs, encouraging blood flow. In humans, cranberry is associated with reduced inflammation and improved cholesterol profiles. The combination of these benefits supports cranberry juice intake for enhanced circulation and oxygenation of body tissues, including your brain.
Headaches are caused by a variety of factors in different people. The National Headache Foundation recommends keeping a headache diary to identify your personal triggers. Make note of the weather, your diet, exercise, stress and sleep habits to pinpoint the cause of your symptoms. Headaches severe enough to affect your daily life may require prescription medication. If you take aspirin for headache relief, avoid cranberry juice, as it increases your risk of bleeding. Staying adequately hydrated is important for headache prevention. Drinking cranberry juice in moderation, along with several glasses of water, is likely beneficial against most headaches.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Cranberry
- Food and Function: Fruit Juice-Induced Endothelium-Dependent Relaxations in Isolated Porcine Coronary Arteries: Evaluation of Different Fruit Juices and Purees and Optimization of a Red Fruit Juice Blend
- National Headache Foundation: Headache-- Frequently Asked Questions
- National Headache Foundation: Hypoglycemia