This week’s question:
I always want sugary foods during a migraine. I have found that if I eat sugary foods, drinking two large glasses of water will prevent a migraine. But I am working on reducing my sugar intake. Is there a connection between sugar and migraines?
Signed, 20-year Migraine Sufferer
Dear Migraine Sufferer,
We should start by admitting that there is a difference of opinion about just how much sugar consumption impacts migraine symptoms. Some say that it’s a major cause or trigger, but most will admit that there is a definite connection between blood sugar levels and migraines.
We do know that the migraine brain does seem to have a special alarm that goes off when there are sudden changes. This could be due to hormones in your body, with temperature, with sudden exercise, environmental changes, any number of things. So, these things do not cause migraines, but they can trigger migraine attacks.
But if you’re a migraineur, predisposed to migraine attacks, eating a lot of sugar could lead to more attacks simply by that alarm that goes off when there are sudden changes in the body. But for some people, it could be something more.
For example, some have noticed a “cumulative effect” – eating sugar over two or three days, for example, may trigger an attack. Others have found that if they completely cut out refined sugars, they lessened or eliminated their migraine attacks after a time.
I suggest you switch to alternative sugars for your eating and baking habits. If you are trying to reduce your intake of daily sugar to the recommended 24 grams a day, then eating fruits are a great way to enjoy something sweet.
Perhaps the two glasses of water you were drinking was more helpful than you may think since drinking more water is one of the treatments to prevent full-blown attack. Getting enough sleep and reducing your stress is also helpful to elevate symptoms.
Barb Rock is a mental health counselor and author in Tacoma, and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at BarbRockrocks@yahoo.com.