Headache after Starting a Diet

You start a diet to lose weight, get healthy and to feel better. You don't start a diet for a headache. So, why do the two seem to go together? Several different nutritional factors can contribute to a headache. Since a diet consists of some dietary changes, headaches can happen.

Having a headache while you're on a diet can really dampen your mood and resolution. (Image: millann/iStock/GettyImages)

The Fasting Diet and Headaches

If you get a headache on the first day of eating healthy, it can put a damper on your motivation. But it might not be what you're eating that's the problem. Instead, it could be due to not eating for a prolonged period.

The fasting diet involves intermittent fasting. So you pick a schedule of when you eat and when you don't eat. For some followers, that means not eating for 16 hours of the day; for others, it's not eating for a day a week. Harvard Health Publishing did a review of the diet, noting the complications of not eating and the possible benefits of fasting. While they were skeptical, they concluded that with a healthy diet, fasting will help some populations lose weight. Just make sure to listen to your body. There are those, such as people with diabetes, that will suffer from this meal plan.

A study in the May 2014 issue of Neurological Sciences found that fasting can lead to headaches. So while fasting may be the big diet right now, listen to how your body responds to it. You may find that fasting doesn't work for you. Or you may find that you need to have shorter fasting periods. The key to dieting is figuring out what works for your body.

The Hypoglycemia Headache

Low blood sugar causes hypoglycemia, according to the Mayo Clinic. It can cause several symptoms, from fatigue and shakiness to irritability and headaches.

If your diet requires you to cut out all sugars and carbs, you may find that your blood sugar gets too low. This is a particular risk for those who have hypoglycemia. An article published in August 2016 by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has a solution to this problem.

For hypoglycemia headaches, eat a high protein diet with natural sugars and carbohydrates. Don't skip meals unless you want to feel it later. And moderate your exercise and alcohol intake, while maintaining proper food intake.

Avoid Dehydration Headaches

Your diet and your headache shouldn't have to go together. In fact, it may not be the food that you're eating that's causing the problem.

If your new diet has you increasing your workout load, you'll need more water and electrolytes. A study published in the August 2015 issue of the Journal of Gerontological Nursing found that dehydration leads to headaches. Since exercise increases dehydration, you'll need to increase your water intake.

As noted by MedlinePlus, hydration requires electrolytes. Otherwise, your fluids flush essential minerals for keeping you hydrated.

Stay Off High-Sugar Foods

A diet isn't a headache trigger, but food can be. Whether it's a hypoglycemia headache or a headache from something else, sugar may be the trigger.

A case study published in the Australian College of Applied Physiology in March 2014 found that high-sugar foods could cause headaches. This is due to the spike and crash in blood sugar that these types of foods cause. The good news is most diets exclude high-sugar foods. The problem occurs when extreme cravings lead to sugar binges.

A better option is eating natural sugars and moderating your carbohydrates. Maintain high protein levels to balance any sugar cravings you choose to indulge in.

Don't Eat at Irregular Times

One of the biggest struggles of a new diet can be finding options when you're out and about. It's all too easy to skip a meal when there aren't any options that fit your needs.

Unfortunately, a May 2014 study in the journal Neurological Sciences suggests that irregular meals can lead to headaches. So while keeping to your diet is commendable, skipping a meal isn't the right option.

Instead, you need to plan ahead. Look at the menu at the places you're going to ensure they'll have options for you. If all else fails, pack a snack, so you never have to go without.

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