Eating usually helps to reduce dizziness by boosting blood sugar. Feeling lightheaded after eating a meal or snack can have many potential underlying causes. Most causes are treatable.
Read on more about dizziness after eating, the causes, and the treatments.
Several different conditions and underlying causes have the potential to cause dizziness after eating. Sometimes, you may simply stand up too fast after sitting a long time. This sudden shift in fluid volumes and blood flow can cause temporary dizziness.
Postprandial hypotension is a condition that occurs after eating. It’s caused by increased blood flow to the stomach and intestines, which takes blood flow away from other parts of the body.
As a result, the heart rate speeds up to pump more blood through the body. The blood vessels also tighten. Both factors can cause a person to feel dizzy after eating. About one-third of older women and men commonly experience this condition.
In addition to dizziness, a person with postprandial hypotension may have these symptoms:
- angina (chest pain)
- feeling faint
- visual changes
In rare instances, postprandial hypotension can cause ministrokes. These are also known as transient ischemic attacks. People with high blood pressure are at risk for postprandial hypotension.
Doctors haven’t yet found a cure for postprandial hypotension but can recommend dietary and lifestyle changes that can help reduce the condition’s incidence.
Nondiabetic hypoglycemia is a rare condition that can cause dizziness after eating due to a sudden drop in blood sugar.
A person with nondiabetic hypoglycemia can have reactive hypoglycemia, which is where blood sugar drops instead of increases after eating.
Doctors don’t fully know the underlying cause of this condition, but they suspect that the food causes the body to release too much insulin.
Insulin is a hormone responsible for processing blood sugar and lowering glucose levels. As a result, a person’s blood sugar levels drop too fast and they feel dizzy.
Symptoms associated with nondiabetic hypoglycemia include:
- confusion or nervousness
- feeling anxious
- feeling very sleepy
In some cases, this condition can be treated surgically and cured. Where it can’t be treated, dietary changes can help manage symptoms by reducing the likelihood that a significant drop in blood sugar will happen.
A doctor may also encourage you to check your blood sugar levels after you eat so that you can eat a snack to boost your blood sugar levels before they get any lower.
Sometimes something you ate can trigger a condition (temporary or chronic) that makes you feel dizzy. For example, eating certain foods has been linked with migraines, one symptom of which is dizziness.
Examples of foods known to cause migraine headaches include:
- milk products
- foods with monosodium glutamate
- pickled foods
Drinking caffeine-containing products such as coffee or sodas may also contribute to dizziness in some people. Sensitivity to caffeine varies widely.
Caffeine is a stimulant and can increase your heart rate. Those with a history of heart-related problems and those who are older may not be able to tolerate these changes in heartbeat. Dizziness may be the result.
Some people with conditions like vertigo or Meniere’s disease may also find their dizziness gets worse after eating certain foods. These conditions involve the inner ear and can affect your balance. Trigger foods may include those with a high salt content, alcohol, and foods known to trigger migraines.
Call 911 and seek emergency treatment if you’re having concerning symptoms that accompany your dizziness, such as:
- chest pain
- changes in consciousness
Otherwise, if you’re experiencing greater incidences of dizziness after eating, you should make an appointment with your primary care physician. You shouldn’t ignore dizziness as a symptom because many underlying causes are treatable.
Also, because dizziness can lead to falls and other accidents, it’s best that the symptom is addressed to prevent potential injury.
The treatments for dizziness after eating usually depend on the underlying cause. For example, if postprandial hypotension is causing the problem, some treatments can include these options:
- Choose foods that take longer to digest, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. High-sugar foods and refined carbohydrates (like white bread, white rice, and potatoes) digest rapidly and increase the risks for postprandial hypotension.
- Drink plenty of water, especially before a meal. Drinking a glass or two of water can increase the amount of blood volume in a person’s body so that their blood pressure is less likely to drop.
- Eat several small meals in a day instead of a few large meals. Because the body uses more energy and blood flow to digest a large meal, eating small meals can reduce dizziness after eating.
- Get up slowly during the first hour after eating as this is the time when dizziness after eating is most likely to occur.
- Avoid foods known to trigger dizziness such as caffeine, alcohol, and high-sodium foods.
If your dizziness is the result of eating a certain food or having a food allergy, you should avoid that food. If you’re uncertain exactly which food is causing the problem, talk to your doctor about an elimination diet to pinpoint the exact underlying cause.
By making key dietary changes, you can usually reduce your incidence of dizziness after eating. However, if dizziness starts to become a more frequent occurrence, you should see your doctor.
You should also practice safe habits when getting up from a seated position, such as having a chair behind you to avoid falling. If you do feel dizzy, sitting or lying down and drinking more water until the dizzy episode subsides may help to reduce your symptoms.