Headaches are a common problem that everyone experiences at some point or another. For some people, headaches are a constant interference with their lives. An imbalanced diet is a potential cause of headaches. Even migraines, which are more severe than regular headaches, may be related to diet and protein consumption. You should seek medical treatment if you experience headaches even if you believe your protein intake is a contributing factor.
A balanced diet and frequent meals help keep your blood sugar levels steady, which reduces chances of getting headaches. A lack of protein is a frequent cause of food-related headaches, according to the Northeast School of Botanical Medicine in Ithaca, NY. Eating snacks that are high in protein can help relieve headaches, as does making sure you do not miss a meal.
Studies show a relationship between migraines and protein. The "New England Journal of Medicine" published a study that showed that people with low blood sugar, known as hypoglycemia, experienced worse migraines in relation to how low their blood sugar was. Patients who substituted their high carbohydrates diet with a high protein and sugar-free diet saw an improvement in migraines. In the medical journal "Headache," a study was published that showed that 118 patients on a high-protein, low-carb diet who ate six times a day were able to keep their blood sugar levels up and saw at least a 75 percent improvement in migraines.
Anemia and Headaches
A particular type of protein called intrinsic factor is necessary for the absorption of vitamin B-12. A lack of this protein can therefore cause a vitamin B-12 deficiency. A lack of vitamin B-12 in turn causes anemia because the body is not able to produce enough healthy red blood cells. This usually makes you tired because enough oxygen is not getting carried throughout your body due to the lack of red blood cells to carry the oxygen. Headaches are a symptom of a low red blood cell count. A deficiency in intrinsic protein may be caused by an inherited condition, surgical removal of the stomach, pernicious anemia or other diseases. Your doctor can tell you if are anemic or have a vitamin B-12 deficiency.
Although eating more protein may help you reduce or prevent headaches, eating a lot of protein from animal sources is likely to cause migraines, according to homeopathic physician Alexander Mostovoy, M.D. When your body digests proteins, any detrimental hormones or antibiotics injected into the animals before slaughter gets released into your body. The breakdown of protein also causes the production of nitrogenous wastes and other toxins. Mostovoy recommends a low-protein diet from vegetable sources. A nutritionist or physician can assist you with making dietary modifications.
- Northeast School of Botanical Medicine: An Herbalist's View: Headaches (pdf)
- American Yoga Association: Yoga & Headaches
- National Headache Foundation: Hypoglycemia
- Foods That Heal: Chapter 79: Migraine (and Lesser Headaches)
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Intrinsic Factor: Overview
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Pernicious Anemia