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Why do I get headaches if I eat sugar while in ketosis?

by (24538)
Updated about 24 hours ago
Created September 08, 2011 at 1:59 PM

Is it the flip-side to the low carb flu? Is it my brain punishing me for attempting to use the wrong "fuel"? It doesn't take a lot of sugar either, just a bite of something, and boom, weird headache within a few minutes.

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1811 · February 21, 2012 at 8:23 PM

My experience as well.

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10 · November 10, 2011 at 6:46 PM

my case exactly

Medium avatar
19479 · September 10, 2011 at 12:49 AM

Insulin release can be triggered by simply anticipating carbohydrate intake (as outlined in GCBC), so I imagine that by the time something hits your tongue the gates are already opening.

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24538 · September 09, 2011 at 10:03 PM

We had some date and goat cheese things on vacation, and I got the biggest sugar high, and wanted to cartwheels for about a half hour followed by the expected sugar hangover felling and non-scheduled nap. Dates are freakin' candy!

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24538 · September 09, 2011 at 9:59 PM

I haven't been tracking my carbs at all this week, but I'm guessing they've been very low. We made some potato salad last night, so maybe I'll add some of that into the next few meals and then try a bite of the baby food again.

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24538 · September 09, 2011 at 9:57 PM

The only preservative listed on fruit puree pouch is lemon juice. I'm wondering if is just the "puree" itself that makes the fructose uber-absorbable so it hits much quicker than eating an apple or a handful of strawberries.

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24538 · September 09, 2011 at 9:53 PM

What would the timeline on that blood sugar be? If it could happen in under 5 minutes I'm guessing that is exactly what is happening. It is so fast though, that I feel like I'm still on the blood sugar upswing when the headache hits.

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24538 · September 08, 2011 at 4:01 PM

I would totally understand if it was a whole meal, that's why I'm confused. I managed to make my head hurt yesterday by just eating the last bite of my son's banana/strawberry/applesauce puree when he didn't want it. And a few times I've had a piece of 72% chocolate instead of the 90% I've become accustomed to ended up with the same thing.

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8 Answers

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3794 · July 20, 2012 at 1:34 AM

Sugar intake stimulates norepinephrine, which is a vasoconstrictor.. Cerebral vasoconstriction can cause a headache.

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7821 · September 08, 2011 at 3:20 PM

If you were eating more than a bite, you might expect the sugar/high low to give you some odd symptoms. But if you're literally eating a "bite", unless it's a large bite of pure sugar, it might be a food sensitivity or even just plain placebo/psychosomatic pain - you expect sugar to screw with you, so you're more aware of otherwise innocuous stuff.

I know insulin is taking a beating these days, but it does play a role in regulating water retention, so if you suddenly swap to a high carb diet you may end up with a dehydration headache (water being sucked up to make glycogen -> moderate dehydration). That's my totally unscientific explanation for my own carb headaches, which go away when I drink some water. But I usually only get those when I eat a pretty big bolus of carb, not from "a bite".

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b
24538 · September 08, 2011 at 4:01 PM

I would totally understand if it was a whole meal, that's why I'm confused. I managed to make my head hurt yesterday by just eating the last bite of my son's banana/strawberry/applesauce puree when he didn't want it. And a few times I've had a piece of 72% chocolate instead of the 90% I've become accustomed to ended up with the same thing.

Medium avatar
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19479 · September 08, 2011 at 9:41 PM

A rapid drop in blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) has been correlated with headaches (National Headache Foundation) and can be triggered by the consumption of high glycemic foods.

Blood sugar spikes, insulin is released, and then blood sugar crashes.

This may be exacerbated by the skeletal muscle insulin resistance that may occur when fasting/in ketosis.

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24538 · September 09, 2011 at 9:53 PM

What would the timeline on that blood sugar be? If it could happen in under 5 minutes I'm guessing that is exactly what is happening. It is so fast though, that I feel like I'm still on the blood sugar upswing when the headache hits.

Medium avatar
19479 · September 10, 2011 at 12:49 AM

Insulin release can be triggered by simply anticipating carbohydrate intake (as outlined in GCBC), so I imagine that by the time something hits your tongue the gates are already opening.

9c0a747b4b5e6291cf37ca5c066cc64b
10 · November 10, 2011 at 6:46 PM

my case exactly

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32518 · September 08, 2011 at 4:34 PM

This happened to me when I was vlc. It was like being allergic to sugar!

Once I increased my carbs to around 30-60 gm/day, the problem disappeared.

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24538 · September 09, 2011 at 9:59 PM

I haven't been tracking my carbs at all this week, but I'm guessing they've been very low. We made some potato salad last night, so maybe I'll add some of that into the next few meals and then try a bite of the baby food again.

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1811 · February 21, 2012 at 8:23 PM

My experience as well.

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2682 · September 08, 2011 at 8:38 PM

Before going Paleo, just one donut would give me a headache all day long...granted, a donut is packed with sugar. 8)

Now, one cup of "conventional" hot chocolate will give me the same headache...I am sure it's a sugar headache as well and my body is letting me know how much it hates it (even if my taste buds enjoy it).

Your one bite sounds extreme, though, especially in the case of fruit. Are you sure there's not some preservative/additive in these bites, perhaps in the applesauce or the chocolate?

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24538 · September 09, 2011 at 9:57 PM

The only preservative listed on fruit puree pouch is lemon juice. I'm wondering if is just the "puree" itself that makes the fructose uber-absorbable so it hits much quicker than eating an apple or a handful of strawberries.

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373 · September 08, 2011 at 4:30 PM

Interesting. I was in ketosis when I had 2 pitted Medjool dates with almonds and goat cheese for dessert the other night and within 20 minutes I had a splitting migraine!

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24538 · September 09, 2011 at 10:03 PM

We had some date and goat cheese things on vacation, and I got the biggest sugar high, and wanted to cartwheels for about a half hour followed by the expected sugar hangover felling and non-scheduled nap. Dates are freakin' candy!

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0 · July 20, 2012 at 12:47 AM

weird i also am in ketosis and had several strawberries and had small headache above my right eye and i very rarely get headaches so was concerned so looked it up. I was thinking maybe there was some chemicals on the strawberries that i was getting the headache from. goes away and I can go without them i guess or just expect it to happen. glad to see its not just me. comfort in numbers i guess. am very intersted in getting to be a fat burner and not a sugar burner. would be happier if i felt better getting there but took a while to get here so will take a while to get through i suppose. anybody else read Ron Rosedale info about fat burning vs. sugar burning? I thought it was very informative and was wondering if someone has gone through it & what to expect.

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80 · February 21, 2012 at 6:35 PM

it may be psychosomatic or something but i experienced a slight headache also while eating 2 servings of kobari beef from panda which has about about 10g of sugar each. I think I am on ketosis as I seem to be behaving better on my 90-95(slight relapse into atkins) percent palio diet. And most carb cravings have receded. I thought the kobari beef might be paleo-able, but I ate it before examining the nutrition carefully. I knew immediately it had more sugar than I desired but I hoped that it was negligible, I felt a minor headache almost immediately and like the good hyperchondriac I am I immediately consulted google, and thus I am hither. So there may be some substance to this immediate headache, that betrays the ketiotic.(i made up that word, ha ha)

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