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Interaction Between Body Weight & Migraines
Can being overweight cause headaches? If you are classified as obese or overweight and notice that you experience migraines or headaches more than your regular size person, you are not alone. But the question remains, is there a connection between obesity and headaches.
The weight issue has become more prevalent today than in the other previous generations. It is clear that weight gain or weight loss is something that affects each and every one of us in one way or another, and numerous studies have been conducted to ascertain the relationship between weight gain and migraine.
According to a survey conducted by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), your weight depicts an increased risk of migraines, and those people who are overweight are prone to migraines as compared to those who weigh less.
Being Obese Isn’t The Reason For Migraines, But…
Well, it is clear that being overweight does not necessarily mean you will suffer from migraines or that being overweight is the cause, but it triggers the frequency and severity of the attacks. However, researchers are not quite sure about this, and there are numerous valid theories to back up their claims.
Exercise While Great For You Can Cause Headaches
Working out is not always about losing weight but instead many people exercise as a way of keeping fit and being healthy in general. However, for us heavy people, exercising is not the easiest thing n the world to do. Exercising becomes difficult for those people whose Body Mass Index (BMI) is high, and no amount of exercise can offset a diet full of sugar, additives, and processed foods.
Some studies show that frequent cardiovascular exercises may deter migraines attacks; nonetheless, people who are overweight and are suffering from migraines may have problems exercising. This is because any slight effort they make ends up triggering headaches. Generally, for obese patients with migraines, regular exercise is recommended to promote sleep, better health, and migraine prevention.
Weight gain contributes to a high level of inflammation in the body. According to some researchers, a high level of inflammation in the body increases migraine attacks.
Typically, our body is a representation of our dietary habits, food choices, and overall lifestyle. Overweight people have long been known to consume high levels of processed foods and sugar intake than those who are in the average weight bracket.
These processed foods are dominated by high chemical levels, artificial ingredients, and excitotoxins, which results in inflammation, which brings about more severe migraine attacks. However, not all overweight people eat these types of food which rules out dietary choices as the reason for your headaches.
Calcitonin gene-related peptides (CGRP)
This is a neuropeptide that plays a significant role in migraine attacks. Past studies have shown that CGRP is high in overweight individuals, especially women, yet they have proved useful in curing migraines.
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Will Losing Weight Help With Headaches?
While obesity may not be the leading cause of headaches, will losing weight help to reduce the number and or severity of headaches? Because headaches can be caused by a number of things as mentioned above, the simple answer to this question is: Yes, losing weight can reduce the number of headaches, but not necessarily for every overweight person.
The results of the research conducted by ENDO 2019, suggests that weight loss can lead to reduced migraine attacks. When obese people shed some weight, all the factors associated with increased migraines are reduced. Besides, weight loss decreases the health conditions that trigger obesity like hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Why You Get Headaches When Dieting
If you are on a weight loss program, it is reasonable to experience headaches at times. The foods you take may be the significant contributing factor to your head pains, and it is therefore imperative to find out which foods they are to keep a tab of the constant headaches.
When you first start a diet and you start to notice the increased headaches, you wouldn’t normally connect the two. But you would be surprised at what exactly could be causing your headaches by what you are putting into your body. Here are a few examples of how dieting can cause you to feel headaches more frequently.
Low sodium and potassium
Changes in mineral and fluid balance in the body lead to frequent headaches, particularly low sodium levels. So when you are use to eating foods high in sodium content and all of a sudden you exclude them from your diet, the body can cause you to suffer from headaches. Foods high in sodium include:
- Frozen Pizza, Burritos and any frozen breaded foods
- Salted nuts
- Canned soup is typically very high in sodium and can take up to the recommended 30% of your daily sodium intake from just one can.
- Pork Rinds can be as high as 22% of your daily intake but when you add sauce to it, expect the sodium levels to skyrocket.
- Jerky is among the top 30 high sodium foods.
Hypoglycemia (reducing your sugar intake)
For your brain to function correctly, it needs a constant supply of glucose from the blood. A slight drop in glucose levels results in headaches, migraines, sweating, nausea, and hypothermia.
Dehydration refers to a reduction in total body water content arising from less consumption of water and other fluids. According to recent research conducted on approximately 400 samples, the most obvious symptoms of dehydration include a dry tongue, dry lips, thirst, and severe headache.
Many people consume artificial sweeteners like sucrose and aspartame; however, they can result in headaches, especially if consumed in a more significant percentage. Avoid taking such foods if they are the main cause of the problem for you and instead normalize consuming natural sweeteners because they therapeutically impact the brain.
Coffee and tea are very addictive, and when you cease drinking them, headaches and general tiredness kick in.
Stress is another primary cause of headaches when dieting. It results in pressure at the front and back of the head, pain, and muscle tenderness.
Some dairy products such as cheese contain tyramine compounds which have potentially been known for instigating headache. Even though other dairy products can also trigger headaches in some people, cheese is renowned for being a more potent cause. Cottage cheese in particular is high in sodium.
Removing Alcohol From Your Diet Can cause Headaches
The effect of alcohol on people is different, and it is known to induce migraines in no small number of people. It is important to note that not all types of alcohol are known to trigger headaches. Red wine, to be precise, is known to be a potential cause of headaches among drinkers, mainly due to the histamine compounds found in them.
Ways To Prevent Headaches Associated With Weight Loss
Headaches can be the main downside to your weight loss journey but this is in no means an excuse to not stick to your plan. You need to overcome and conquer in order to move forward.
1. Stay hydrated
Low consumption of fluids is known to be a significant headache cause, and researchers explain that it may be associated with the narrowing of blood vessels in the brain. This, in turn, leads to a decrease in the supply of blood and oxygen in the body. To prevent dehydration headaches, it is imperative to consume enough electrolytes and high amounts of fluids.
2. Cut caffeine consumption gradually
If you have deliberately stopped consuming caffeine as part of your weight loss plan, you may be undergoing caffeine withdrawal symptoms like persistent headaches. To prevent these symptoms from dominating your body, the idea is to stop consuming caffeine gradually, not just once. For most of you who have begun their weight loss journey, taking one cup of coffee a day is necessary but also consider using skim milk.
3. Avoid consuming artificial sweeteners
A study conducted at the University of Washington depicts that some people are quite addicted to aspartame, which can cause headaches. Aspartame is an ingredient that is present in foods and drinks, and instead of consuming them in large quantities, consider incorporating honey in your beverages to prevent headaches.
4. Avoid stress
It is usual for most of us to binge eating whenever we are stressed, and it is not easy to adhere to a diet plan. Besides, stress is a major cause of headaches among millions of people across the globe. Adrenaline hormones are released to give you the energy you need to fight stress, but again, it can cause blood vessels in the brain to narrow down hence causing headaches. There are tons of ways you can relieve stress, for instance, taking a nap, hiking, road trips with friends, among other techniques. The weight loss journey is a complex one, and it is therefore vital to appreciate the little accomplishments you make.
Work-Out But Take It Easy
If you are a rookie in working out, it is okay to push yourself harder, and in the process, you may experience some minor headaches before or after exercising. To prevent these headaches, your body needs to relax, and therefore reasonable exercises are recommended.
A heavy person may prefer to casually increase their fitness level on a heavy-duty recumbent bike compared to going hard on a treadmill. The recumbent can be a more complete body workout and with the seat in place is an easier option for the heavy person.
6. Headaches From Erratic Eating Schedules
Taking your meals at an irregular time can cause an elevation in blood sugar levels, which potentially makes you hungry. Once you fail to receive food at the right time, headaches and low energy take control of your body. Integrate healthy snacks like carrots, crackers, and peanut butter into your diet and make sure you do not wait more than four hours before taking a meal.
Based on a few studies discussed above, it is evident that both weight gain and weight loss can significantly contribute to migraines. However, people who are overweight are more prone to migraines or increased intensity. While this is certainly not the case for all overweight people, it could still be a possibility for people of any shape and size based on their dietary intake and their lifestyle patterns.