What Is A Sugar Withdrawal Headache?

Updated: Jan 23, 2020

If you have been eating too much sugar or are actually addicted to sugar itself then you may experience a sugar withdrawal headache when you remove it from your diet. But why does this happen and why do you get a headache when you withdraw from sugar?

This is caused because your brain can start to become used to the energy supplies that high sugar content can provide, and when you remove it from your diet, the resulting fluctuations in blood sugar levels and hormones can cause the brain to go into withdrawal, causing temporary headaches.

Why does sugar give you a headache?

It’s not only when you quit sugar that you might get headaches, as sugar is just as likely to produce headaches from actually eating it, rather than removing it from your diet. Consuming high levels of sugar can spike your blood sugar levels, which triggers the release of insulin. This hormone extracts the sugar from the bloodstream and delivers it to the cells in the form of glucose, which the cells then use as an energy source.

The problem is that when you spike your blood sugar levels with too much sugar, insulin will overcompensate, removing too much sugar from the blood. This can create low blood sugar which can then create a headache, which is also sometimes known as a sugar hangover.

Sugar can have all sorts of nasty effect if you eat too much of it, which are caused due to the properties of sugar itself, and more importantly, fructose, which makes up around half of all types of sugar. So to understand why you get a sugar withdrawal headache, you need to understand how sugar interacts with you when you eat too much, and also what happens when you cut it from your diet.

A woman suffering from a headache

The many different types of sugar

There is a common myth that some types of sugar are more ‘healthy’ than others. While this isn’t entirely false, it pays to understand what sugar is made from and how it reacts with your body once you eat it.

Pretty much every single type of sugar or syrup, be it white table sugar, brown cane sugar, honey or agave, it gets broken down into glucose and fructose once it’s digested. The glucose can be processed by any and every cell in the human body, and is the energy source for all cells.

It's all about the fructose

Fructose however can only be broken down in the liver, and often gets stored in fat cells as a backup energy source for later use. Over eating sugar due to an addiction can overload the liver and result in visceral fat around your organs. There are all sorts of other health issues that too much sugar can cause - I've written a blog here going into more detail about why too much sugar is bad for you.