Sugar is a vital component of your body’s chemistry. Having too much or too little sugar in the blood may contribute to headaches. This is because sugar directly affects your brain and nervous system.

Learning how to maintain a proper level of sugar in your blood may prevent future headaches. If you have persistent headaches related to sugar, you should talk with your doctor.

This article can help you understand how sugar could lead to headaches.

Headaches related to sugar have to do with your blood glucose level. Glucose gives your body energy and may increase or decrease in your bloodstream.

Your body maintains a proper blood sugar level by transporting it into cells with insulin.

Fluctuations in your glucose level affect your brain more than any other organ. These rises and drops can result in a headache.

Having high blood sugar can lead to a headache. In addition, low blood sugar may trigger a migraine episode in people prone to the condition. These conditions are known as hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, respectively.

Some conditions, like diabetes, may also make you more likely to experience sugar-related headaches. That’s because you may have an increased risk for hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia. These states can also occur without diabetes in some cases.


Hypoglycemia is a condition caused by not having enough sugar in the bloodstream. It usually occurs when your blood sugar levels dip below 70 mg/dL. Sometimes, the symptoms may not begin until the levels are 55 mg/dL or lower.

This can happen after skipping a meal or going for a long period of time without eating. If you have diabetes, you may experience hypoglycemia, as the body cannot control blood sugar levels on its own. This may be exacerbated if you’re taking prescribed insulin. A headache can occur as a symptom of hypoglycemia.

You may also experience reactive hypoglycemia. This is a rapid drop in your blood sugar after eating a meal. This occurs within four hours of eating.

Eating food raises your blood sugar fast, and your body begins to overproduce insulin. The body continues to produce insulin even after it has digested the glucose from your meal, leading to a rapid blood sugar decline.

This may be caused by the food itself, by the timing of when you ate it, or be exacerbated by other factors such as alcohol or certain metabolic disorders.

Research also shows reactive hypoglycemia may trigger migraine episodes in some people.

A non-migraine headache related to low blood sugar may feel dull in nature and throb around your temples. You may feel nausea with a headache or migraine caused by hypoglycemia.

Other symptoms of hypoglycemia include:

  • lightheadedness
  • weakness
  • sweating
  • sleepiness
  • shakiness
  • pale skin
  • heart palpitations
  • hunger
  • anxiety
  • mood changes
  • blurred or impaired
  • confusion
  • change in consciousness (if low blood sugar is severe)


Hyperglycemia is a condition caused by a blood sugar level that is too high. This happens when your body is unable to break down glucose efficiently with insulin. Your blood sugar may rise above 125 mg/dL while fasting or 180 mg/dL two hours after eating.

Hyperglycemia after eating is called postprandial hyperglycemia. One of the symptoms may be a headache. This is also known as a sugar hangover. The research on this phenomenon is limited, and it may be rare.

If it does occur, other symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Feeling foggy
  • Blurred vision
  • Increased thirst

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, speak to your doctor to determine the best treatment for you.

Contact your doctor if you experience frequent headaches tied to sugar changes in blood sugar. Your doctor can evaluate whether there are any associated or underlying medical conditions

Untreated hyperglycemia can lead to a serious condition called ketoacidosis. This condition typically happens when your body does not make enough insulin and cannot control your blood sugar levels. Instead of using glucose, the body uses fat to make energy.

Bring information to your doctor’s appointment about the frequency of your headaches and any other symptoms you experience related to dietary intake. You should also share your current medications and information about your lifestyles, such as diet, exercise, and alcohol and smoking habits.

Your doctor will likely test your glucose levels if you suspect your headaches are related to sugar intake.

These tests may involve fasting or eating a meal and then testing your blood sugar level. Your doctor will also ask about:

  • symptoms
  • daily habits
  • health history
  • other relevant information

The treatment for headaches related to changes in blood sugar depends on the underlying cause. Understanding the cause can help you find the best treatment for you.

Immediate treatment of hypoglycemia should include increasing your blood sugar levels quickly. You can do this by drinking juice, a sugar-based soft drink, or eating a piece of candy.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) suggests that if your blood sugar remains below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) 15 minutes after eating 15 grams (gs) of carbohydrates, then you should repeat the process until your sugar is at least 70mg/dl. Call your doctor if symptoms persist after trying to raise your blood sugar. This is called the 15-15 rule.

Children may need to eat less than 15 gs, so it is always best to discuss the best process for you or your child with a doctor.

Chronic headaches related to changes in blood sugar should be treated according to your doctor’s advice. If you have frequent hypoglycemia, you may need to have meals at regularly scheduled times and eat foods without simple carbohydrates, like white sugar. You may also need to adjust your eating schedule to eat more frequent small meals throughout the day.

Sugar-related headaches caused by diabetes require a more in-depth treatment plan. Your doctor will work with you to develop this plan.

Learn more: Can diabetes cause a headache?

Maintaining a healthy diet and other good habits may help you to avoid the side effects of changes in blood sugar. This includes:

  • reducing stress
  • exercising regularly
  • drinking plenty of water
  • getting enough sleep
  • moderating caffeine and alcohol
  • not smoking
  • practicing good diabetes management if you are living with the condition, including knowing how to recognize the signs of hyper- or hypoglycemia.

Sugar can be an addictive substance. It may also cause withdrawal-like symptoms in some people. You may need to slowly reduce your intake if you suspect you’re consuming too much sugar. Try replacing sugary foods and drinks with things that don’t have added sugar, like a piece of fruit or water with a squeeze of lemon juice. That can help you wean yourself off of the added sugars.

Learn more: The practical 12-step guide to breaking up with sugar.

Tips for prevention

  • Avoid skipping meals or going too long without eating. That can lead to drops in sugar.
  • Limit your intake of sweets. Eating a lot of sugar in one sitting may temporarily increase your blood sugar levels.
  • If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar regularly. Follow your doctor’s recommendations for the management of your condition.

How much added sugar is too much?

It’s increasingly difficult to manage a proper added sugar intake. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that females consume no more than six teaspoons of added sugar daily and males consume no more than nine teaspoons.

This is in sharp contrast to what Americans actually consume, which is 17 teaspoons (tsp) for adults, adolescents, and children.

To avoid getting added sugar from carbohydrates, you should avoid any that have a lot of added sugar. You should also focus on eating whole grains and foods with a lot of fiber.

Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, you should aim that no more than 65% of your daily food comes from carbohydrates. This is about 275 gs a day.

In general, you should follow the following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for how much glucose should be in your blood after fasting:

ValueWhat it means
< 99 mg/dL normal
100-125 mg/dLprediabetes
> 26 mg/dLdiabetes

However, you should always follow your doctor’s recommendations as there may be other health factors that may affect your optimal blood sugar levels for you.

Learn more: America’s deadly sugar addiction has reached epidemic levels.

Sugar-related headaches may be a sign of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia. If you get headaches regularly, talk with your doctor. Maintaining a healthy diet and other lifestyle habits may reduce the frequency of these types of headaches.