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Skipping Meals? It Could Be the Source of Your Headaches

Skipping Meals? It Could Be the Source of Your Headaches

Skipping meals is a growing problem in this country. More than a third of Americans say they’ve skipped meals to help afford their bills; many others breeze by mealtime due to busyness. Another group of folks willingly forgo meals in the name of weight loss. 

We at Nebben Physical Medicine in Clarksville, Tennessee, understand that you might skip meals during the day for many reasons (intentional and unintentional). But we also see how it can harm many areas of your health.

It’s one of the more common reasons our patients see us for chronic headaches and migraines. Here’s a closer look.

The hunger headache

There are a few reasons why your head hurts when your system doesn’t have the food or drink it needs, but the main culprit is low blood sugar. 

Once your blood sugar levels dip past a certain point, your body releases hormones to send off alarm bells to tell you it’s time to refuel. 

Those alarms can sound like a rumbling stomach or feel like a pounding headache. That’s because the hormones your body sets loose tighten the blood vessels in your body, which can set off a headache. 

You may also have a headache because you’re dehydrated. The thin layers of brain tissue tighten and press on your pain receptors when you haven’t had enough to drink. (That’s why headaches are so common with hangovers.) 

Similarly, if you’ve suddenly cut out caffeine, your blood vessels may enlarge and increase blood flow to your brain, causing a headache. 

The bottom line is that depriving your body of anything sets off a slew of symptoms. 

How to tell 

Headaches are rarely one-size-fits-all, and there’s more than one type. So, how do you sift through your symptoms and know whether your headache stems from skipping meals? Consider this checklist. A hunger headache usually triggers:

Since hunger headaches are usually a symptom of low blood sugar, you may also notice dizziness, fatigue, stomach pain, a cold feeling, and/or shakiness. 

Usually, these symptoms come on gradually and get worse the longer you go without food. After getting some food in your stomach, you should start feeling better after 30 minutes. 

How to treat

You can usually squelch a hunger headache with a snack. A small cup of coffee, tea, or water may help with a dehydration headache or caffeine withdrawal. 

The good news is hunger headaches are easy to prevent. We recommend having small snacks and drinks on hand if you can’t manage (or afford) to eat larger meals throughout the day. Trail mix, granola bars, and a reusable water bottle are among the cheapest and easiest options. 

If you want to cut back on caffeine, we recommend you do so gradually by drinking “half-caff” coffee, slowly reducing your intake, or drinking tea, which tends to be lower in caffeine. Expect to cut back on caffeine over a week or two rather than cold turkey. 

When all else fails

If you thought you had a hunger headache, but your symptoms won’t go away, or you have headaches more than a few times a week, come in for an evaluation.

Our headache specialists thoroughly review your symptoms and your medical history and can create a customized treatment plan to help you address your headaches and migraines. 

We usually recommend chiropractic care, physical therapy, massage therapy, trigger point injections, and lifestyle changes to reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches. 

When you’re ready to kick headaches for good, call our friendly staff or use our online booking tool to schedule a consultation today.


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