What is Migraine Sugar Craving and How Do I Stop It?

sugar migraine

The relationship between sugar and migraine is complex and can vary from person to person. While sugar itself is not a direct cause of migraine, it may contribute to triggering attacks in some individuals through various mechanisms. Migraine sugar cravings may also be related to migraine symptoms. Sugar cravings can be both a trigger and a symptom in the context of migraine. The role can vary from person to person.  Migraine sugar cravings may be associated with migraine triggers, prodrome symptoms, hormonal influence, and blood sugar fluctuations. It’s essential to recognize that triggers and symptoms can be unique to each individual. While sugar is a common trigger for some, others may not experience any correlation between sugar consumption and migraine attacks.

Craving Sugar with Migraine

Craving sugar during the prodrome phase of a migraine is a common experience for some individuals. The prodrome phase typically occurs hours to days before the onset of the actual migraine headache and is characterized by subtle symptoms that can serve as warning signs. The prodrome phase is a premonitory phase that occurs before the onset of the actual migraine attack phase. Some individuals report experiencing symptoms during this phase, and sugar cravings can be one of these symptoms. If you find yourself craving sugar as a warning sign before a migraine attack, it can be considered a symptom of the prodrome phase. Here is a great post explaining the phases of migraine.

Why Do I Crave Sugar Before a Migraine Attack?

The exact reasons why some people experience sugar cravings before a migraine attack are not fully understood, and they can vary from person to person. However, several factors and theories may help explain this phenomenon:

  1. Blood Sugar Fluctuations: Migraine is often associated with changes in blood sugar levels. Some individuals may experience drops in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) before a migraine, which can lead to cravings for sugary foods as the body tries to quickly raise blood sugar levels.
  2. Serotonin Levels: Serotonin, a neurotransmitter, plays a role in regulating mood and can also be involved in migraine development. Some people may crave sugary foods because they temporarily increase serotonin levels, providing a mood boost. However, this is often short-lived, and the subsequent drop in blood sugar can contribute to headaches.
  3. Hormonal Changes: Hormonal fluctuations, particularly changes in estrogen levels, are known to trigger migraine attacks in some individuals. Hormones can also influence cravings for certain foods, including sugar.
  4. Stress and Emotional Factors: Stress and emotional factors are common migraine triggers. Some individuals may turn to sugary comfort foods in response to stress or emotional distress, and this behavior can coincide with the onset of a migraine.
  5. Dietary Triggers: Certain foods, including those high in sugar, are recognized as potential triggers for migraines in some individuals. The body may signal a craving for these trigger foods before a migraine episode.

10 Tips to Help Stop Migraine-Related Sugar Cravings

Managing migraine sugar cravings involves making lifestyle and dietary changes to help reduce the likelihood of triggering migraine.

  1. Maintain a Regular Eating Schedule:
    • Ensure you eat regular, balanced meals throughout the day.
    • Skipping meals or going for long periods without eating can trigger cravings and potentially lead to migraines.
  2. Stay Hydrated:
    • Dehydration can contribute to headaches and cravings. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay well-hydrated.
  3. Include Protein in Your Diet:
    • Protein-rich foods can help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce cravings.
    • Include sources of lean protein such as poultry, fish, beans, nuts, and tofu in your meals.
  4. Choose Complex Carbohydrates:
    • Opt for complex carbohydrates with a low glycemic index, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, to help regulate blood sugar levels.
  5. Limit Caffeine and Alcohol:
    • Both caffeine and alcohol can trigger migraines in some individuals. Limit your intake of these substances to see if it helps reduce your cravings.
  6. Reduce Stress:
    • Practice stress-reducing techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.
    • Chronic stress can contribute to cravings, so finding ways to manage stress is crucial.
  7. Get Adequate Sleep:
    • Lack of sleep can trigger migraines and increase cravings for sugary foods.
    • Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.
  8. Identify Trigger Foods:
    • Keep a food diary to identify specific foods that may trigger migraines for you. Common triggers include chocolate, aged cheeses, and certain additives.
  9. Gradually Reduce Sugar Intake:
    • Instead of quitting sugar abruptly, try reducing your intake gradually. This can help your body adjust and minimize cravings.
  10. Consider Professional Guidance:
    • If your migraines and sugar cravings persist, consider seeking advice from a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian. They can provide personalized recommendations based on your specific situation.

It’s important to note that individual responses to dietary changes vary, and what works for one person may not work for another. Experiment with these suggestions and observe how your body responds. If you have specific dietary concerns or health conditions, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice.

Does Chocolate Trigger a Migraine Attack?

I have a sugar addiction. Sugar seems to be a trigger, but the more I have documented my cravings, the more I realize the cravings are a symptom of my migraine. I crave chocolate before a migraine. Cravings for sugar and eating distract my mind from the impending doom….migraine hell. I used to eat dessert, then woke up with a migraine attack thinking the chocolate was my trigger. The more research I’ve done, the more I have come to find out that cravings before a migraine are not the trigger but the symptom of what is coming. Everyone is different, and these are all lessons I’ve learned over my long relationship with migraine. For some individuals, consuming certain foods, including those high in sugar, can trigger migraine attacks. If you consistently experience migraine attacks after consuming sugary foods, sugar can be considered a trigger for you.

Chocolate May Contribute to Migraine Onset In Sensitive Individuals

Chocolate is a common trigger for migraine in some individuals, but it’s important to note that not everyone with migraine will be affected by chocolate. Migraine triggers can vary widely from person to person, and chocolate is just one of many potential triggers.

  1. Tyramine: Chocolate contains tyramine, a naturally occurring compound found in certain foods. Tyramine has been associated with triggering migraine in some people.
  2. Phenylethylamine: Another compound found in chocolate, phenylethylamine, may contribute to changes in blood flow and could potentially trigger migraines in susceptible individuals.
  3. Caffeine: While chocolate itself contains relatively low levels of caffeine, some individuals are sensitive to caffeine and may experience migraines as a result of consuming it. Dark chocolate tends to have a higher caffeine content than milk chocolate.

It’s important to recognize that chocolate triggers migraine in a subset of people, and for others, it may not be a trigger at all. Migraine triggers are highly individual, and they can include a variety of factors such as hormonal changes, stress, lack of sleep, certain foods, and environmental factors.

If you suspect that chocolate is a trigger for your migraine, consider keeping a detailed headache diary. Record the foods you consume, including chocolate, and note when migraines occur. This information can be helpful when discussing your symptoms with a healthcare professional, such as a neurologist or headache specialist. They can guide managing migraines and help identify specific triggers for your case.

What is a Sugar Withdrawal Headache?

Although sugar doesn’t seem to be a direct trigger, sugar withdrawal headache is. Because of my sugar addiction, I get sugar withdrawal headaches, making it difficult to quit. A drop in blood sugar or sudden rise usually triggers a migraine attack for me. I need to be cautious not to drink too much coffee or overeat sugar to keep my body consistent. Significant increases, drops, or changes in blood sugar give me a headache. By gradually reducing my sugar consumption, I hope to lessen migraine symptoms.

Sugar withdrawal headache refers to the headaches or migraines that some people experience when they significantly reduce their sugar intake or eliminate it from their diet. This phenomenon is thought to be related to the body’s adjustment to changes in blood sugar levels and neurotransmitter activity.

When you consume a lot of sugar, it can lead to fluctuations in blood sugar levels, causing your body to release insulin to regulate glucose. If you suddenly reduce your sugar intake or eliminate it, your body may need time to adapt to these changes. During this adjustment period, some individuals may experience symptoms commonly associated with sugar withdrawal, including headaches.

Here are some potential reasons why sugar withdrawal could lead to headaches:

  1. Changes in Blood Sugar Levels: Abruptly reducing sugar intake can result in lower blood sugar levels, leading to hypoglycemia. This drop in blood sugar may contribute to headaches.
  2. Caffeine Withdrawal: If your sugar consumption is closely tied to caffeinated beverages or foods, cutting back on sugar may also mean reducing your caffeine intake. Caffeine withdrawal is known to cause headaches.
  3. Neurotransmitter Changes: Sugar consumption can affect the release of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin. Sudden changes in sugar intake may influence neurotransmitter levels, potentially triggering headaches.

Tips for Sugar Withdrawal Headaches

If you’re experiencing sugar withdrawal headaches, it’s important to make dietary changes gradually and ensure that you are maintaining a balanced diet.

  • Gradual Reduction: Rather than quitting sugar abruptly, consider reducing your intake gradually. This can help your body adjust more smoothly.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, as dehydration can contribute to headaches.
  • Eat Regular Meals: Ensure that you’re eating regular, balanced meals to stabilize blood sugar levels.
  • Include Protein: Incorporate protein-rich foods into your diet to help regulate blood sugar levels.

If your headaches persist or are severe, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice. They can help determine the cause of your headaches and provide guidance on managing dietary changes and potential withdrawal symptoms.

Sugar Cravings and Migraine

It’s essential to keep in mind that the relationship between sugar cravings and migraine can be complex and may involve a combination of factors. Additionally, triggers can vary widely from person to person. If you notice a consistent pattern of sugar cravings before migraine attacks, it may be helpful to keep a detailed diary of your diet, stress levels, sleep patterns, and migraine occurrences. This information can be valuable when discussing your symptoms with a healthcare professional, such as a neurologist or a headache specialist, who can provide more personalized guidance and treatment options.

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Sarah Rathsack

Sarah tells stories of My Migraine Life. Living life through Migraine consists of advocacy, treatment, prevention, and searching for health and happiness in a positive honest way. Her kids, husband, dog, family and friends motivate her to make a difference in the Migraine World.

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  1. Debbie on April 24, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    Great post – made me laugh – my craving – the grandkids!!!

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Carol on May 14, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    Wow I could have written this. Sugar is my vice too. I know it will trigger migraine and have weaned myself off several times to come to a holiday or birthday saying I can I one piece and guess what.. yep

  3. mymigrainelife on May 14, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    It’s a daily struggle for me!

  4. omydaisy on January 21, 2018 at 9:19 pm

    I love sugar! I never connected migraines with sugar, but now I will definitely be paying attention! I am addicted to sugary coffee…it’s a problem. Or Cheese danishes.

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