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Can Sugar Give You a Headache? Dr. Scott Says Yes

  [ 17 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ]
By Dr. Scott Olson, ND* • • December 8, 2010

Does eating sugar give you a headache?

The sugar headache, otherwise known as the Holiday Headache (because we eat so much sugar on Easter, Halloween, Christmas and other holidays) has a lot in common with a hangover headache but it strikes any time of year when we overdo sugar.

While most have experienced a sugar headache at some time in their lives, it is not well known in medical circles.

It might even surprise you to learn that the exact causes of all headaches are a bit of a mystery. Migraines and cluster headaches are thought to be vascular (having to do with blood flow) but how blood changes create a headache is unknown; the same is true of the sugar headache.

I view the sugar headache as a toxicity or dehydration event, and while it might be an annoyance it could also be the sign of something more dangerous.

Let’s look at dehydration and toxicity and see how they might cause a headache.

Sugar Dehydration

Dehydration is a common way to get a headache and sugar can lead to dehydration. Eating too much sugar dehydrates your body in two ways.

Dilution: When you eat too much sugar, your body has to dilute that sugar to keep it from harming your body. This means that water is being pulled from all parts of your body to balance the large amount of sugar in your blood stream. While this water-pulling effect happens all over the body, it is your head that suffers the most.

Urination: One of the ways that your body has of getting rid of excess sugar is to dump it in your urine. This is especially true of diabetics, who have to go to the bathroom a lot.


The other way to think about sugar is to consider it a toxic event. While your body runs on glucose (a simple sugar) it was never meant to have a ton of simple sugars running around in the blood.

If you look to nature, you would find that there are almost no foods that contain the high amount of sugar you would find in a soda or piece of cake. If natural foods do contain a high amount of sugar it is often bound up and hard to get to (like in a sugar cane).

The only way to get a large amount of sugar into your body is to have that sugar processed before you put it in your mouth. Processed sugar or processed grains both act like sugar in your body, and this is toxic to the very blood cells that carry the sugar throughout the body. (I explain this at length in my book Sugarettes.)

Something Worse?

Sugar headaches can also be a warning. If you get sugar headaches often, you might just be diabetic or pre-diabetic.

The best way to find out if you are diabetic is to go and see your doctor and have them run some blood tests, but here are the typical symptoms of diabetes:

Excessive urination: As I mentioned above, sugar acts like a diuretic and will spill sugar and water into the urine. Having to urinate a lot is often one of the first signs of diabetes.

Excessive thirst: Since diabetics are losing a lot of water (see above), they are often thirsty all the time.

Excessive hunger: Everyone has periods of time when they are hungry, but diabetics are hungry all the time (with strong cravings for carbohydrates, sweets and sugar). This is one of the strange things about diabetics: They have a lot of sugar in their bodies, but it is not being used by the cells so they are hungry all the time.

Sugar Headache

The reasons why sugar gives you a headache are many and not readily understood. But you don’t have to wait for a reason to stop the pain in your head.

You can stop your sugar headaches and give sugar the boot by trying my 30 Sugar Free Days Program [“30 days to change your life forever”]. During the program, you will learn about foods that act like sugar and what you can do about your cravings.

Make sure you understand that sugar is doing more harm to your body than just giving you a sugar headache. Take this opportunity to learn from your headache that you shouldn’t be putting large amounts of sugar in your mouth and you need to make a change.

* We have reproduced this article with the kind permission of nutrition researcher/writer Dr. Scott Olson, ND, from his educational & motivational website, OlsonND. Dr. Scott’s recent book on sugar addiction – Sugarettes – lays out the research on sugar & refined starches, and their role in many health problems.

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