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Sugar high? More like sugar loowwwww

I’ve had the same epiphany about three times in the last three weeks.  Okay, okay—by its very definition, it’s probably not actually possible to have a specific epiphany more than once.  But roll with me for a second.

About a month ago, I treated myself to two delicious and amazing fresh-baked glazed doughnuts from the neighborhood bakery.  I was only mildly hungry and had a sweet tooth I wanted to satisfy post-haste, so I picked up a couple of the famous pastries on my way to a meeting.  I ate them both the best way I know how: in the car, by myself, flakes of the glaze falling onto my shirt.  Ah, the sweet bliss of indulging in desserts while by oneself.

About twenty to thirty minutes later, I was profoundly tired.  Like, I-have-to-take-a-nap-right-now-or-I-may-fall-out tired.  Oh my gosh, I thought.  The doughnuts! That’s the only real thing that’s different about today. The sun is out, the sky is blue, and I’m not at a point in my monthly cycle where this kind of exhaustion is normal.  It has got to be a sugar crash.  I mentioned it to my colleague who looked at me with an expression that said one thing: Duh.  By that night, I had a migraine, but I willfully decided it wasn’t related to the sugar intake.  My husband gets migraines when he overindulges in sugary treats so usually avoids sweets, but I have never noticed that pattern in myself—on the same token, I don’t eat sweets too often, so I don’t have a chance to see if this is a pattern with me as well.

It happened again in a milder fashion last week, and I had the same revelation again.  It’s the sudden intake of sugar that’s making me so sleepy, I thought, swearing not to do that again when I couldn’t afford a lazy afternoon. I ended up with a migraine the next day, but I’ve been having so many lately that I can’t rightfully connect it to the sugar. But still, it got me thinking.

Well, I am apparently not someone who learns her lessons very well.  I’m writing this on the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend. Normally I work the opening shift at the bookshop each Saturday, but due to my employees’ travel schedules this weekend, we switched some things around and I’ll be working a rare evening shift.  I headed to a local coffee shop to do some online bill paying, travel reservations, and the like, and could not resist the beckoning of an extra-large Rice Krispie treat for sale in the pastry case.  Someone with more self-control could’ve skipped the purchase or, if she couldn’t have resisted buying it, could have taken small bites over the course of her coffee shop time.  Not I! I wanted that deliciousness, and I wanted it right away. I scarfed the whole thing down in two minutes tops and kept working on my laptop.  Then, about 25 minutes later, I was overtaken with profound fatigue.  My eyes feel dry and sleepy, and I want to go home to nap.  I won’t do that for a variety of reasons, but suffice it to say I can’t ignore this connection between massive sugar intake and the tiredness that sets in not long after.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed there’ll be no migraine in my near future, though I’m getting a little nervous as I consider the other potential factors at play: the sky is graying as we speak and the wind is kicking up, and we know that those are signs of changing barometric pressure, a major trigger for many of us.  And I am under a lot of stress right now and will likely not have regular meals today—I had breakfast, then a tiny snack for lunch, then this Rice Krispie treat, and tonight dinner will come after I’m finished with work around nine o’clock.

How many of you have seen any connection between sugar intake and your energy (or lack thereof)? Lots of migraine.com community members list sugar substitute (including aspartame) as a migraine trigger—I’m among them. But this sensitivity to sugar seems relatively new to me, and I wonder if this addictive sweetness will end up emerging as a migraine trigger for me.  What are your thoughts? 

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • BCN
    3 years ago

    Carb craving definitely a prodrome symptom. If I match it with protein, no big deal, and I do need to honor it or my migraine and energy crash is worse.
    White sugar alone? Like in the Rice Krispies treat? Forget it. Works like poison every time and triggers a vicious cycle of more more more.

  • Karen Curry
    3 years ago

    Sugar is a definite trigger for me. I avoid it like the plague. It causes extreme fatigue and severe migraines. I have found that sugar that has been heated such as in a cake is more tolerable but only a small piece, and no frosting. The only artificial sweetener I can tolerate is Equal. I have been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome and was put on metformin because my blood sugar was registering high even though I didn’t eat any sugar. I try to eat a small amount of cooked sugar in a cake or pie because our brain needs sugar to function properly, but I’m very careful. Good luck to everyone in controlling your migraines, our curse is real.

  • tammay
    3 years ago

    I have had a binge eating disorder since I was a teenager and my binges involve sugary treats more than fatty treats so I’ve definitely noticed the way that a rush of sugar contributes to migraines. I’ve learned to eat sugary foods in small doses during these episodes and I’m constantly working on reducing and eliminating them.

    Tam

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    Tam,

    Thanks for your comment and your honesty. While it’s hard to have multiple chronic health issues, it really is empowering to begin to notice the patterns of our bodies. Cheers to you, and best of luck.

    -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • Michelle Rudder
    3 years ago

    I experience something similar, except that my sugar intake is usually preceded by extreme hunger pangs that are only satisfied with sweet stuff. I never eat sweets, except when this occurs and I respond by eating cake with icing or chocolate. The migraine arrives within a few hours. At first I thought it was the sugar spike causing the migraine, but realised that a craving for sweets is what triggered my eating them, and this was all part of the migraine prodome phase. By the time I started chomping down on the sugary treat, the migraine was already well on the way. I proved this by not eating sweets when I got the hunger pang and craving, taking my blood sugar and proving it was not low, but the migraine still came on in a couple hours.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    Michelle,

    Thanks for this thoughtful feedback! It’s so fascinating to think of the cravings we get as part of a migraine attack. How cool that you took your blood sugar during one of these cravings to prove your theory right.

    Fingers crossed you’re feeling good today.

    -Janet G.

  • Calico Ghost
    3 years ago

    Yep, sugar is an issue for me. I haven’t worked out all of the particulars yet but missing / delaying meals is a guaranteed trigger. Like you, I have a massive sweet tooth. I also get reactive hypoglycemia where I crash after meals. It seems to be less related to what’s in the meal than how hungry I let myself get beforehand. Blood sugar is definitely related though I’m still figuring out exactly how.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    This sentence really hit home for me and makes me realize I need to pay better attention to this phenomenon: “It seems to be less related to what’s in the meal than how hungry I let myself get beforehand.”

    I appreciate your intelligent comments!

    I hope you’re feeling good today, and let us know if you do figure out more about how blood sugar and your migraine attacks are related.

    -Janet G.

  • Hormones
    3 years ago

    Like you, I had to learn the hard way. Eating sugary treats/candy is directly related to bringing on a migraine for me. So I try to stay away from refined sugar. When I do have a sugary treat or candy, I keep my consumption to a minimum and that seems to work. (PS: I wish it was that easy with other migraine triggers, as sometimes even after years of getting migraines, I don’t know what the trigger was ….especially when I go to bed feeling great and then wake up at 3 AM with a pounding migraine – and I have no idea why).

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks for the comment; I hope you’re feeling good today.
    -Janet G.

  • Lynne
    3 years ago

    I have had the “sugar low/hypoglycemia” for many years along with missed meal hypoglycemia. I have a mega sweet tooth so at 64 I don’t see that changing. A sugar low triggered hypoglycemic response is not unusual but it throws you into the same state as a skipped meal, or several. You need a quick fix to bring you out of it. Try to keep a snack on hand at all times so that these situations don’t kick me into a migraine like a handful of nuts or some peanut butter crackers. Of course you have to pick something that is not a trigger. I can always tell when I passed the point of no return and a migraine is imminent so I try to never let me self go too long without some sort of protein snack to level me out.

  • yirogers
    3 years ago

    Thank you for sharing. I’ve had the same types of Hypoglycemia issues, as you, for awhile and it was near impossible to find anyone who could relate. My father is your age and has it as well (we get the migraines too). I have long suspected there is a link between migraine and hypoglycemia. After reading people’s responses here, I’m thinking it more and more.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thank you for the tips, Lynne. Despite having had migraine for over 20 years, I still neglect to take snacks with me half the time even though I know dips in blood sugar affect my health negatively!

    Take care; hope you’re feeling good today.

    -Janet G.

  • yirogers
    3 years ago

    I definitely have a connection between my sugar/simple carb and my energy level. A sugar crash or a skipped meal is also a migraine trigger. I try to stay on an a balanced eating schedule. I too suffer from the sweet tooth.

  • Maureen
    3 years ago

    Which came first? The craving or the crash? Was it the sugar craving as a signal? or the sugar as a trigger? or the sugar crash as a trigger? Perhaps if you had been able to nap, the migraine would have been avoided? Or maybe if you had had only one donut but followed it up with some healthy fiber and protein to even out the blood sugar? I tend to think that the craving is a warning, not a trigger. How many of us crave french fries instead of donuts, but we don’t blame the fries when the migraine follows. Sugar gets a bad wrap all around. And low blood sugar is DEFINITELY a trigger for me, but it is more likely to be a skipped meal that is the culprit.
    PS Next time maybe choose “cheese”cake:)

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks for the food for thought (so to speak). This illness is such an intricate mystery, but with thoughtful feedback from virtual friends like you I am learning to figure it out more and more.

    Take care; I hope you’re feeling good today.

    -Janet G.

  • Eleanor R.
    3 years ago

    As Maureen says, consider which came first. For me the carb craving seems to be prodrome, rather than carbs being a trigger. Fatigue can also be prodrome. At this point with chronic/daily migraines I’m not so aware of triggers, b/c I don’t need a trigger to cause a headache. But I don’t skip meals, b/c that always was a trigger, and I won’t take a chance. If you don’t have time for a meal, keep a snack available (probably protein.) I find eating regularly is one of the easiest things I can do for migraine.

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