Wellness

Fasting Headache: Cause & How to Prevent

fasting headache

We all know the feeling of an annoying headache that we all have faced at some point of time in our lives. Some people are prone to headaches and others get them rarely. The fasting headaches are more prominent among headache-prone people than others. 

Fasting for more than 16 hours is known to trigger headaches. The fasting headache causes can range from hypoglycemia, coffee withdrawal, and stress to electrolyte imbalance etc. A few people get a fasting headache after eating, well that happens if your food is quite rich in fats or you have binge-eaten after a fast. 

This article throws light on fasting headache, its causes, symptoms and how to treat and prevent them. So let’s get started!

How Headaches & Fasting are related?

Fasting can be of different types as per the goal of the person observing a fast. Some are due to religious reasons, others are kept due to health reasons such as intermittent fasting to lose weight etc.

Not eating is a common factor in all types of fasting, so the blood sugar levels decrease along with electrolyte imbalance.

This all leads to disturbance of body homeostasis. The disturbance in the body’s temperature, fluid, energy, sleep etc all occur due to fasting, thereby leading to a fasting headache. 

What causes fasting headaches?

    • Low Blood Sugar Levels – Insufficient supply of glycogen-derived glucose can even lead to migraine headaches that can be with or without aura.
    • Caffeine Withdrawal – Another cause of fasting headache is due to Caffeine withdrawal in the case of usual coffee drinkers, but this one is a little vague and not severe at all
    • Headache Prone People – Those who usually get headaches are prone to developing a fasting headache as compared to those who generally don’t get headaches frequently.
    • Dehydration – Dehydration can cause headaches too. When the body is low on fluids, the blood vessels constrict. This constriction of blood vessels is the most common cause of dehydration-induced headaches. 
    • Stress – The body comes under stress when it doesn’t receive any nutrition whatsoever. This stress is also a cause of fasting headaches. 
    • Hormonal Imbalance due to fasting – The serotonin hormone dips and cortisol (the stress hormone) increases during fasting which can lead to irritable mood and depression-like symptoms giving rise to a headache. 
    • Electrolyte imbalance – Fasting leads to increased loss of electrolytes from the body. We lose sodium through urine while fasting. The kidney gets rid of potassium as well. So the body becomes deficient in electrolytes. This is another reason for a fasting headache.
    • Strenuous exercise while fasting – Well, that’s the cherry on the cake, just not the good one. If you are already fasting and you are doing strenuous exercises as well then your body will lose energy as well as sodium through sweat. This will increase the electrolyte imbalance and can increase the chances of a headache too. 

Fasting Headache Symptoms

  • The most common symptom of fasting headache is that It starts after 16 hours of fasting and it resolves within about 72 hours of eating food or breaking the fast.
  • Pain is prominently in the front of the head. Some people feel the fasting headache at the back of the head as well. 
  • The pain is mild to moderate in nature.  
  • Fasting headache is mostly non-pulsating which means it is not throbbing but constant dull-aching pain in most cases. 
  • Fasting headache and nausea are also associated, provided the headache is either due to hypoglycemia or it has progressed to migraine. 

Also Read: 36 Hour Fast Benefits

Fasting Headache Treatment & Remedies 

Here are the best fasting headache remedies that will help you in achieving your health goals without making your brain pound in your skull. 

  • Eat if you can – The best and the easiest remedy for fasting headache is to break the fast. Don’t push your limits if your body is sending you a message. However, if you are not able to eat due to religious reasons or if eating is not an option in your dieting plan then please read on to find other options. 
  • Small bites help – If you are not allowed to eat a full meal then switch to small healthy options like raisins, nuts and fruits to provide some glucose to your brain and restore homeostasis. 
  • Drink more fluids – if you are not eating well or skipping meals, then drinking water will prevent any dehydration episodes. However, make sure you don’t overdo it as it can cause more harm than good. 
  • Electrolyte Drinks – Drinking just water can also throw your electrolytes into imbalance, so if you are not fasting due to religious reasons (or if it is allowed), then drinking electrolyte-rich liquids like electrolyte drinks and coconut water are the best choices. These drinks will replenish the depleted electrolyte sources, and provide glucose to your body along with an instant energy boost. With the right electrolyte drink, you can continue your fasting without getting those nasty fasting headaches. 
  • Go easy on carbs – This is a crucial thing to consider whenever you finally eat because high-carb meals can lead to a sudden rise in blood glucose levels. This causes increased production of insulin too, leading to hypoglycemia again. So choose a high fiber diet that is balanced in fats, carbs and proteins as well. This will make your blood sugar rise steadily and your fasting headache will diminish for good. 
  • Strategic Fasting – If you are doing intermittent fasting then try to decrease the fasting hours and increase them slowly by one hour every day to get your body accustomed to the fasting duration. 

Conclusion

Fasting is a good way to detoxify your body. Whether you are keeping a fast for religious reasons, health reasons or just want to test a crash diet, follow a few simple remedies to prevent fasting headaches. 

Keep drinking good electrolyte drinks to provide constant energy to your body. Try switching to glucose-based electrolytes because that will give instant food to your brain. If you are unable to eat for long hours due to your busy schedule then keep some nuts and fruits handy to avoid the fasting headaches.

Whenever you break your fast, eat fiber-rich and a balanced meal to avoid fasting headaches after eating. Make sure you listen to your body and train it steadily to get rid of those nasty headaches and enjoy fasting as well. 

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