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Migraines and Headaches Community
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Avatar universal

Headache after eating

I get intense, throbbing headaches 2 hours after eating food.  The more sugar content, the more intense the headache, and the longer the headache lasts.  If I eat something like a snickers bar or a piece of cake, the intensity is debilitating and the pain can last for days.  Just about anything with more than a few grams of sugar gives me a headache.  I've dealt with this since I can remember, and I've been physically and mentally drained for most of my life (ie, if I can go 2 or 3 days a month without having some kind of head pain, I'd be ecstatic).  

Here's some extra information:
I'm very underweight.  I am about 5' 10" and I weigh 120 ~ 125lbs.  The most I've ever weighed was 135, and I had to work very hard lifting weights at the gym for months to reach that weight.  I have about 5% body fat.

My mom is diabetic (type II) and her parents were diabetic (needed insulin shots, so type I?)

My half-sister has Grave's Disease.

I've been to the emergency room a few times because of headaches, but my blood sugar is always "normal".  MRI's have shown nothing abnormal.

I yawn incessantly after eating - especially during the afternoon.  I can yawn 20+ times a minute for over an hour depending on how much I eat.  After the yawning stops, the headache usually starts to kick in.

I wake up and have to go pee at least 1 to 3 times a night.

I've wasted lots of time and money seeing internists and specialists.  No doctor has ever run a test outside of standard "blood work", which shows my blood sugar as being "normal".  Every doctor is eager to treat the symptom, but the best "cause" I've heard is that "headaches just happen to some people".  The diagnosis is always given about 5 minutes after I say that I have headaches, and then I'm sent off to the pharmacy to pick up the latest prescription migraine medication.  I'm very frustrated by this.

Any recommendations?
63 Responses
Avatar universal
Forgot to mention, my upper thighs and quads cramp up a lot during times where I am suffering particularly bad.  I also have very poor flexibility in my legs.  I took a physical and got 5/5 on everything except flexibility, which I got 1/5 on.
Avatar universal
Hi,

Sudden rush of sugar after meals is known to trigger headaches in some people. Make sure to balance the sugar in your meals with proteins and fats to avoid the post meal headaches.
Also make sure to drink lots of water after meal and during the day.
Headaches after meals can also occur if one is allergic to some food additives, this also needs to be looked into.

Hope this helps!
768044 tn?1294227036
Have you tried going on an elimination diet? They are awful to deal with and very boring. But, you can find migraine triggers that way. Do it only under the advice and care of your doctor. So, before you start, go to your doctor and ask them about starting an elimination diet to find migraine triggers in what you are eating. Your doctor will then give you a lot of information on how to start doing this and what you will have to do.

You absolutely must do this under a doctors care because it is dangerous to do so otherwise since it requires that you eliminate quite a lot of different types of food from your diet, which can be quite dangerous, ESPECIALLY if you MIGHT have diabetes (just because you haven't tested positive for diabetes yet, doesn't mean that you don't have it, because it is in your family history... you could have the genes that put you at risk for diabetes, just because they haven't been "turned on" yet doesn't mean that they won't ever "turn on", and just because the tests haven't shown your diabetic doesn't mean that you aren't either... sometimes tests are wrong, it's rare, but it can happen).

The elimination diet might help you discover what you are eating (other than sugar, because the sugar might be a red herring) that is triggering your headaches.

You might also want to buy a blood glucose monitor and strips (although this usually isn't covered by medical plans, just to warn you) and start testing Yourself. Test the moment you wake up and then before meals and 30 minutes after meals. Record all of your test results for a month and take them into your doctor for your doctor to look at. Your daily results (that show all the different lows and peaks) might reveal something that the "average fasting" result that you get done at the doctors office or hospital isn't showing.

In the meantime... just don't eat sugar!! I know that sounds awful, but you'll feel so much better! If you know sugar makes you feel bad, don't eat it!

When I was a teenager, sugar made me feel very similar to the way you are describing (just minus the headache). I would get so tired after meals that I sometimes fainted. When I stopped eating sugar and "white things" (white rice, white pasta, white bread) and replaced everything with whole-wheat this and that, and made sure that most of my meals were focused on protein (i am a vegetarian, so most of my protein consisted of tofu, veggie-meats and edemame), I stopped feeling tired all the time and I stopped passing out after meal-time! My mom is a diabetic too.

In the end, my doctor diagnosed me with "hypoglycemia" which is "low blood sugar" which is why it was so important for me not to eat tons of sugar (oddly enough)... because too much sugar would just make me crash. I needed to eat lots of little meals throughout the day with lots of whole-wheat carbs and LOTS of protein in each meal, and I needed to get my sugar from whole fruits instead of sugary pop and candy. Part of what helped my doctor figure that out was the fact that after meals... my blood sugar would read lower than it did prior to the meal! When I started eating properly, my blood sugar would stay within a healthy range.

Anyway... that's my story. As for you, I would for sure talk to your doctor about an elimination diet if you think that your headaches are directly related to food. And, if you really think that this is could be a diabetes thing, then yeah, buy a blood glucose monitor (or try to get one for free by asking the pharmacy if the companies are giving them out for free at any point or have any coupons... they do that sometimes) and the strips to go with them (which you can never get for free and health plans never seem to cover even if you ARE diabetic...) and test yourself for a month just to make sure.
449909 tn?1233413497
This is unusual headache and one may have to think outside the box. So keep us posted.

You said after eating sweet food you have headache. Does that mean if you don't eat anything sweet at a meal you can avoid a headache?

Also, did you have your teeth checked by a dentist? Some teeth can be very sensitive that sugar can trigger severe pain felt as headache.

Best rgds,

Dr.Thomas Antony
Avatar universal
@marileew

I've been experimenting with various foods for about 2 years now.  I first determined that chocolate candy bars (twix, snickers, etc...) were causes.  However, after completely eliminating chocolate bars, I still would get intense headaches, but there was improvement in the intensity of the headaches.  I then started looking at foods that contained ingrediants that chocolate bars had (namely, high fructose corn syrup), and removed those from my diet.  This drastically cut down on the intensity of headaches.  However, I still had headaches on a regular basis varying from extremely intense, writhing pain to a dull ache.  

On a whim, I decided to eliminate corn starch and modified food starch.  This further reduced the frequency and intensity of headaches, but I still had them quite often.  By this point, I'm eating things like plain white or brown rice, potatoes, steak, etc... with no seasonings or sauces.  My headaches were reduced in intensity, but I still had them.  Then, I had the chance event of eating half of a potato and feeling fine, and a few days later, eating an entire potato and feeling absolutely miserable.  Then it dawned on me that the amount of starch/sugar I was ingesting played a direct role in the headaches.

If I eat about half the recommended serving size for a low-starch/low-sugar meal, I'm generally okay as far as pain goes, but I'm really hungry for most of the day.  I know that I could eat small snacks, but most snacks have some sort of refined sugar, which tends to make me feel lousy and causes a dull pain at the least.

@tomsant

Interesting suggestion, and brings a new meaning to "sweet tooth"!  I do in fact have teeth that are very sensitive to hot and cold.  The dentist used to be unbearable for me...  If for some bizarre reason this turns out to be the cause of my headaches, what solution could exist?

Some additional information:

If I eat any and all that I want, I have extremely bad digestion problems... for lack of a better description, I have non-stop diarhea.

The only thing I've found that makes my headaches go away is to take 2 or 3 advil.  That makes the "throbbing" non-existant.

I was really hyperactive as a child, and had focus problems.  Eventually, the hyperactivity was replaced with head pain.  The only "headache-free" time in my life that I can recall was when I was on the wrestling team in high school, and I suspect it was because I did strenuous excersize daily (ran for an hour, did lots of cardio, etc...).  Soon after quitting, the headaches resumed and I lost about 15 lbs.  
768044 tn?1294227036
About the "snack food"... when snacking, just don't eat typical snack food. eat a small meal instead. so... if half a potato doesn't trigger a headache, but a full potato does... then eat half a potato and then an hour later eat the other half... so, lots of small meals throughout the day. think like 6 or 8 small meals through out the day. so, although you are technically "snacking" you aren't eating snack food... you're eating healthy foods with low sugar content that will provide you with the nutrients you need to stay healthy. also, if you find that eating half a potato and then the other half later is still triggering the same headache... then, eat half a potato and find another half of something to eat an hour later that doesn't trigger your headaches when you eat it in a small portion. i know that for me, eating too much of the same type of food over and over again can begin increasing the trigger effect of that food. if i only eat chocolate, cheese, or drink tea (common migraine triggers) very rarely, they very rarely trigger migraines... but, if i start including them as daily parts of my diet, they start triggering migraines every single time i eat them. if i mix up my diet to include lots of variety... then i can sometimes get away with some of the softer cheeses in my diet and the occasional cup of tea....
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