Headache while Dieting – Symptoms, Causes, and Management

Regulated dietary intake that helps reduce or maintain body weight is a significant measure to prevent and treat several conditions, including diabetes and obesity. One needs to cut-off calories in such diets. However, inadequate caloric intake may lead to a headache as the person becomes hypoglycemic. Dietary headaches may present in the following two types: Tension headaches and migraines.

How does it feel?

Tension headache associated with a low-calorie diet feels like a tight band that wraps around the head. This head pain varies in intensity from mild to moderate compared with migraine headaches presenting with one-sided head pain that ranges from moderate to severe in propensity. Symptoms associated with headaches during diet include:

What causes headaches during a diet?

Fasting headaches during a diet may be a reason of the following:

  • Hypoglycemia: A decreased blood sugar level may interfere with pain receptors (nociceptors) in the brain, causing tension headaches. However, it is observed that headaches may also be found in patients with a normal blood sugar level. 
  • Keto diet: Replacing a carb diet with fats allows the body to burn adipose tissue utilizing it as an energy source. This may lead to hypoglycemia and a headache.
  • Inadequate calorie intake: Inadequate calorie intake associated with a diet may result in a headache. It is seen that insufficient calories in the diet result in an electrolyte imbalance in the body (sodium and potassium) that may result in a headache.
  • Dehydration: Many foods are known to provide water to the body. Withdrawal and reluctance to intake such foods result in dehydration, leading to a headache.
  • Caffeine withdrawal: Caffeine withdrawal during dieting can also cause a headache as the blood vessels tend to dilate, boosting blood flow towards the brain and cause a headache.


Hunger headaches in intervals between food intake may get triggered by:

  • Caffeine withdrawal
  • Dehydration
  • Stress.

Management of dieting headache


Tension headache while losing weight is diagnosed by symptoms including pain in the frontal region or back of the head and neck. Tiredness associated with losing-weight-headache is common. Other symptoms that help in diagnosis may include lightheadedness/dizziness, speech difficulty, mental confusion, and neck stiffness.


Headache during a diet is often significant, yet it may be prevented by certain valuable measures. These include:

  • Preventing long delays in meals
  • Eating meals in small chunks
  • Watching your caffeine intake
  • Taking a protein diet to help feel full for a long time.


  • Following the 15-15 rule: Consuming 15 milligrams of carbohydrates every 15 minutes until blood sugar level normalizes to 70 mg/dL.
  • Glucose tablets are recommended to treat hypoglycemia.
  • Caffeine-withdrawal headaches can be treated with adequate water intake and tapering your caffeine intake. Avoid consuming large caffeine doses in one go.
  • Mild painkillers like Tylenol are recommended.
  • Oral rehydration solution to overcome the electrolyte depletion.

Home Remedies

  • Increased water intake to treat dehydration as an underlying cause of headaches
  • Taking small caffeine doses to avoid caffeine-withdrawal headaches
  • Taking small carb doses to prevent hypoglycemia and relief diet headaches.

When to consult a doctor?

Fasting headaches usually fade away after a glucose intake within minutes. However, if headaches last longer, consider seeing your doctor. Consult a nutritionist if you experience frequent headaches to reschedule your diet plan.


How do you stop a headache when dieting?

If you are experiencing a headache while dieting, try reconsidering your diet plan and checking on your calorie intake. Moreover taking proper measures to avoid hunger headaches is important. Help your body avoid hypoglycemia.

How long do diet headaches last?

Diet headaches usually last for an interval of 5 minutes to 48 hours, though it goes away within 30 minutes of feeding.

Is it normal to feel headaches while dieting?

Dietary headaches are common, yet not normal. If you are having headaches while dieting try reconsidering your diet plan. Frequent meals are important.

What does a headache during diet feel like?

Mild to moderate pains in the temple or the back of the head and neck are common. Other symptoms may include feeling tired, numbness, double vision, neck stiffness, and drowsiness.

Last medically reviewed on October 20, 2022.