What can I do to prevent headaches while dieting and losing weight?

It is fairly common to experience headaches while dieting or on a weight loss program. Find out some of the reasons why headaches are associated with dieting, and some tips on how to prevent them all together.

Low Sodium & Potassium Can Cause Headaches

One reason why you may have a headache while dieting is because of shifts in fluid and mineral balance in the body.  This is especially common when sodium levels get too low. To prevent headaches related to low sodium/salt, we suggest adding extra table salt to your diet or drinking a cup of prepared bullion twice a day. Table salt has the added benefit of containing potassium, which is an essential mineral for maintaining an array of body processes, and especially crucial when you’re dieting.

Lindora Clinic patients often take a potassium supplements during the weight loss phase to maintain normal potassium levels and fight off symptoms, like headaches.

If you are being treated for chronic disease, high blood pressure, or taking potassium-sparing diuretics, you should not take extra potassium supplements without first consulting your physician.

Other Headache Causes & Prevention Tips

The brain needs a continuous supply of glucose from the blood in order to function properly. When glucose levels drop (as in hypoglycemia) the brain is one of the first organs affected, resulting in symptoms such as headache, migraine, confusion, nausea, sweating, faintness, and hypothermia (low body temperature). To prevent low blood glucose levels, eat small and frequent low-sugar meals, never miss breakfast or skip meals, and eat a healthy afternoon snack to appease hunger.

This condition results from a decrease in total body water content due to less intake or greater fluid loss. In a recent study on nearly 400 participants, the most common symptoms of dehydration were dry lips (87%), thirst (84%), and dry tongue (76%). An estimated 41% experience headache/dizziness. Being dehydrated can also undermine weight loss because the body may mistake thirst for hunger. We recommend staying well-hydrated by drinking 80-100 oz. of water a day.

Artificial sweeteners
Aspartame and sucralose are well tolerated by many people, but they can trigger headaches in a small percentage of people according to research studies. If aspartame and other artificial sweeteners are a headache trigger for you, avoid foods that include them. Sugar-free beverages may not have calories, but they can sabotage diets. While natural sweeteners activate food reward pathways in the brain, artificial sweeteners don’t fully activate these pathways, leaving people feeling unsatisfied and increasing their appetite.

Tension or stress headaches result in telltale signs like dull aching pain; tightness or pressure across the forehead or sides and back of the head; and scalp, neck, and shoulder muscle tenderness. Exercising regularly can help reduce stress and burn fat. Other ways to reduce stress include deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and scheduling adequate time to unwind every day.

Caffeine withdrawal
Headaches, irritability, and tiredness are common side effects when you stop drinking coffee or other high-caffeine drinks, typically within 24 hours of cessation. You can avoid these problems by reducing intake gradually.