September 13, 2022

Eight Tips to Get Rid of Hunger Headaches

Headaches — including huger headaches — have plagued humans as long as we’ve been around. The earliest mention of them dates to 1550BC! Of course, we’ve found better ways to cope with them than our ancient ancestors. After all, the Neanderthals couldn’t cruise over to their local pharmacy for aspirin.

Today, we are a lot more savvy about headaches and their causes. Some types (like migraines) can be serious health concerns. Others (like a headache from not eating), have a straightforward cause.

That doesn’t mean their symptoms aren’t really unpleasant. Pain that cradles the front and side of your head is no fun. When nausea, tension in your head and neck, dizziness and sweating go along with your headache, you want to feel better fast.

Fortunately, a hunger headache will usually go away within 30 minutes of eating. Even better, there are easy things you can do to stop getting a headache from not eating.

Keep your blood sugar in the sweet spot.

A hunger headache is your body’s not-so-subtle way of telling you it’s running on empty. Since your brain is in charge of your body, it delivers the painful message. So, if you skipped breakfast and grabbed a bag of chips from the vending machine for lunch, expect your head to rebel.

Eating healthy meals at regular intervals delivers the fuel your body needs to keep your blood sugar (blood glucose) levels in check. Every cell in your body needs sugar to work properly. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) is a symptom of diabetes, too. Talk with your doctor if you have a hunger headache often to rule out a health issue.

Try this tip: Eat small meals more often. Choose fresh, whole foods instead of processed foods loaded with preservatives and added sugars.

Feed your head.

You may think your stomach is picky. Your head can give it a run for its money. It’s odd to think of your head having an appetite, but it does. So, what kind of food does your head like? It turns out your head craves healthy fare.

Keep it happy by noshing on fresh, raw fruits and veggies (cooked ones without added fat or sugar are OK, too). Brown rice and whole-grains are its favorite form of carbohydrates. Nuts and seeds always hit the spot — especially as healthy in-between-meal snacks. Proteins that slowly release their energy keep your body fueled with a steady stream of nutrients. Choose fresh meats and fish.

Try this tip: Be a snacker. Always keep a piece of fruit, string cheese or nuts with you so you can give your body a burst of healthy fuel to fend off a headache from not eating.

Power up with protein.

Protein packs a powerful defense against hunger headaches. Proteins that slowly release their energy are especially helpful. Not only do they make your body feel full longer, they keep it fueled with a steady stream of nutrients. Meat and fish are a good source of slow-release protein. Just be choosy about the ones you choose.

Your ballpark hotdog and favorite pepperoni pizza might taste delicious, but your head may cringe. Both have nitrates — an additive that can cause headaches. As a whole, stay away from cured, smoked and dried meats. And while cheese is a great source of protein, some aged cheeses cause headaches in some people. Feta, parmesan and Swiss are a few.

Try this tip: Give your body a healthy protein boost. Enjoy a cold glass of milk or a dollop of cottage cheese with fruit and crackers. Spread peanut butter on celery sticks or apple slices.

Drink more H2O.

Water is your body’s BFF. In fact, most of your body is made up of water. Your brain is73% water. When you skimp on water, the blood vessels in your brain shrink. Ouch! No wonder your head rebels with a gnarly hunger headache.

Most guidelines say you should drink at least eight, 8-ounce glasses of water a day. The exact amount depends on your weight, age, activity level, all the things around you in your daily life at home and at work and any health issues you may have. Talk with your family doctor to see how much water you should drink each day to help fend off hunger headaches.

Try this tip: Drink water throughout the day — even if you’re not thirsty. Once you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated.

Keep track of your caffeine buzz.

Millions of us count on caffeine to power through work deadlines, keep up with our kids, and have enough go-power to make it through our busy days. But along with delivering a coveted energy boost, caffeine dilates the blood vessels.

When you skip, lower or cut off your body’s caffeine fix, your blood vessels go through caffeine withdrawal. They constrict in protest and make their unhappiness known. If you regularly drink two or more cups of caffeine a day, you may feel this type of hunger headache on days when you don’t imbibe.

Try this tip: If you want to cut back or kick your caffeine habit altogether, don’t do it cold turkey. Slowly cut how much caffeine you eat or drink over a few weeks so your body can adapt to less caffeine.

Spend more time with your pillow.

If you’re not eating well, chances are you may not be sleeping well either. Skimping on shut-eye might not seem like a big deal, but it is. We already reviewed how eating healthy protein helps keep hunger headaches at bay. Yet, if you don’t get enough sleep, you could be undermining your good efforts.

Lack of sleep can make constant pain and headaches worse. Create a good pre-sleep ritual so your body gets the rejuvenating Zzzs it needs to help your body heal and be healthy.

Try this tip: Go to bed at the same time each day. Cut caffeine at least six hours before bed, keep laptops, TVs and phones out of the bedroom and set your thermostat on the cool side.

Think fast before fasting.

Your body is sensitive to changes in eating habits — and that includes fasting. Intermittent fasting for weight loss and maintenance is growing in popularity, so it’s no surprise headaches from intermittent fasting, too. It’s normal to feel hungry during periods of fasting. Still, if your hunger pangs come with a side of head pain, rethink your approach.

Leading up to your fast, stay away from caffeine and drink more water. When you do eat, don’t binge on unhealthy foods because you’re hungry. Choose healthy foods that give your body the fuel it needs to work well.

Try this tip: Make the meal before your fasting period count. Eat complex carbs and slow-release proteins to help carry you through your fasting period.

Talk to your doctor.

Hunger headaches aren’t serious. Still, if you often get headaches that don’t go away after taking over-the-counter pain relievers, tell your doctor. Whether you bring it up during your annual wellness check, or make a doctor’s appointment just to talk about it, ask if there could be a medical reason you get headaches.

Also, let your family doctor know if you have sudden or severe headaches along with other symptoms like:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Vision loss

Try this tip: Stay on top of all your wellness checks. It’s the best way to make sure health issues are found early when they can be treated more easily.

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