Sugar Headaches: A Holistic Approach to Ending Them Once and For All
With the holidays right around the corner, there has never been a better time to take a closer look at our eating habits. The holidays are about bonding with family and friends over great memories and even better food. Not only are we at risk for overindulging in savory appetizers and dinners, but also in desserts. The holidays also mean lots of sweets are right at our fingertips. Could all this sugar be effecting more than just your waist?
Today we are going to explore sugar headaches; What they are, why they happen, and what you can do during this holiday season to keep them at bay.
What They Are
Sugar headaches are headaches brought on by a spike in blood glucose levels. Glucose fluctuations can negatively impact the brain along with other organs.
Symptoms of a Sugar Headache:
- Mood Swings
Why They Happen
Sugar headaches happen when you consume too much or too little sugar.
Hypoglycemia is a health condition that occurs when the blood sugar levels are too low in the body, which can, in turn, cause a headache. Hypoglycemic headaches typically happen when people skip meals or go long periods without eating.
Symptoms of Hypoglycemia
- Pale Skin
Hyperglycemia is a health condition that occurs when the blood sugar levels are too high, and your body cannot break it down effectively with insulin. A headache can be the first sign that your blood sugar levels are too high. Hyperglycemia headaches typically begin subtly but gradually worsen as your blood sugar rises and peaks.
Symptoms of Hyperglycemia
- Frequent thirst
- Increased need to urinate
- Blurred vision
How Much Do We Really Need?
According to the American Heart Association, it is recommended that women consume six teaspoons or less of sugar a day and nine teaspoons or less for men.
Currently, Americans consume far more than that.
American adults consume 22 teaspoons of sugar a day.
American children consume 34 teaspoons of sugar a day.
How to Avoid Them
Read The Nutrition Label
It is essential to get into the habit of becoming aware of the nutritional content of the food we are putting into our bodies regularly.
Cook For Yourself
A great way to lower our sugar intake is to make more of our meals at home (including coffee). Making our version of our favorite foods can dramatically reduce the amount of sugar we consume. When food and beverages are being prepared for us, we have little to no control over how much sugar is going into it.
Opt for the least processed alternative
If you have difficulty giving up sweets, consider replacing it with a healthier option, like fruit. The great thing about fruit is that it can still be loaded with vitamins and minerals that are essential for optimal functioning. Fruit also has enzymes that help break down the food as well more quickly.
Eat before you go
With the holidays around the corner, it can be easy to be pressured into making less nutritious choices. A good tip is to eat a balanced meal that has fat, carbohydrates, and proteins so you will stay fuller for longer. Additionally, we tend to make better food choices on a full stomach. This is also why it is recommended to go to the grocery store on a full stomach.
Drink Black Coffee or Green Tea
Getting into the habit of drinking black coffee or green tea can be difficult at first, however, it can be very beneficial to ending our sugar headaches once and for all. Both black coffee and green tea contain caffeine which is an appetite suppressant. When our appetite is suppressed, it can become easier to make healthier choices.
Manage Your Stress
When we are under stress for extended periods, our cortisol levels spike, cortisol can then increase hunger and cause serious sugar cravings. Great ways to manage your stress include exercising, meditating, yoga, and other activities that promote mindful living.
Manage Your Sleep
Poor sleep quality can also spike cortisol levels which can cause us to eat more than we need to and crave sugary meals.
Stop Trying to Be Perfect
Success isn’t linear. It is far better to make small daily changes that are maintainable and sustainable than to try and go cold turkey and fail miserably. To completely cut out sugar when you genuinely enjoy it, would be unrealistic and unsustainable. Instead of trying to be perfect every day, try and make each decision better than the last, and eventually, you will notice that your eating habits will transform completely over time.
Dehydration is a common cause of headaches. Therefore, it is important to ensure that you are drinking enough water throughout the day. Drinking enough water can also help us maintain a healthy weight.
Keep A Food Diary
Writing down what we eat is a great way to bring more awareness to what we are putting into our bodies. It has never been easier to do so in this day and age, especially with apps like MyFitnessPal, which can give you your calorie breakdown, macronutrient breakdown, and most importantly, your sugar intake breakdown!
Opt For Low Glycemic Index Foods
Looking at low glycemic index foods can help us avoid the spikes in blood sugar that cause debilitating sugar headaches. The most important of facilitating significant change in our lives is to see what is realistic for ourselves and to look for alternatives that don’t take away from the meals we love to enjoy.
For the vast majority of people, moderate sugar intake is safe. Oftentimes it is the sudden spike in blood sugar levels that begin to cause problems in our daily lives. During this holiday season, it is important to take care of our physical and mental well-being so that we can show up as our best selves when we reunite with our friends and loved ones. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is less about making drastic changes that make us resentful towards ourselves, and more about small, sustainable changes carried out daily that enhance the quality of our lives.
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