Sugar Headaches & Diabetes

Sugar is such a large part of the American diet that it can be hard to avoid, and if you live with diabetes, you know this all too well. Unfortunately, you probably also know that after ingesting too much sugar, you can develop a bothersome and painful symptom of diabetes- a headache.

Also known as “sugar headaches,” this symptom can indicate problems with your blood glucose levels, such as hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, which can be cause for concern.

In this article, we’ll explore the connection between diabetes and sugar headaches and discuss the strategies that can help you navigate this complex terrain while still savoring life's sweet moments.

What Is Diabetes?

There are 3 types of diabetes:

  1. Type 1 diabetes.
  2. Type 2 diabetes.
  3. Gestational diabetes.

Your body gets energy from glucose (sugar) that’s found in certain foods. Your body uses a hormone called insulin, which is produced by your pancreas, to convert the glucose you eat into energy. Diabetes occurs when your body doesn’t have the ability to move glucose into your cells, causing blood sugar levels to rise and fall- states known as hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia.

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Type 1 diabetes is caused by what scientists believe is a mix of genetics and environmental factors. With type 1 diabetes, your body destroys the cells in the pancreas that are responsible for making insulin. Without insulin, your blood glucose isn’t able to move into your body’s cells, and you go into a state of hyperglycemia. If you have type 1 diabetes, you need insulin injections to regulate blood glucose levels.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and is caused by certain lifestyle factors and genetics. Factors such as obesity and a sedentary lifestyle can cause someone to develop type 2 diabetes. With type 2 diabetes, your body is insulin resistant, meaning it can’t use insulin properly. Your body requires extra amounts of insulin to help glucose move into your cells.

Gestational diabetes is believed to be caused by hormone fluctuations that occur during pregnancy, as well as certain lifestyle habits.

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The Role Sugar Plays In Diabetes

Sugar is naturally found in dairy products, whole grain carbohydrates, vegetables, and fruit. This sugar is safe to eat for most people since it is typically accompanied by fiber or fats that are found alongside the foods it’s in. Natural sugars are a healthy part of the diet and give your body fuel for energy.

However, sugar is also frequently added to processed foods and drinks, such as sodas, breads, cookies, sweeteners, and so much more. This sugar is called “free sugar.”

It’s recommended that you limit sugar intake and not exceed more than 10% of your daily caloric intake. For example, if you eat a diet consisting of 2,300 calories per day, you should try to eat around 230 calories from added sugars. You also don’t want too little sugar in your diet since it gives you energy.

Sugar is not to blame for type 1 diabetes, but it could play a role in type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can be caused by being overweight or obese, and sugary foods and drinks often lead to these conditions, especially in America.

One study showed that Americans consume more than 300% of the daily recommended amount of added sugar, and according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 1 in 3 American adults are currently overweight, while 2 in 5 adults are obese.


It’s safe to say that while sugar does not directly cause type 2 diabetes, it may play a factor in the onset of weight that can very well cause the condition. Because excess weight around the liver and other important organs is insulin resistant, it causes your pancreas to produce more glucose, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.

What Is a Sugar Headache?

A sugar headache may start when your blood glucose level is too high or too low in states of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia. These headaches can occur if you have too much or too little insulin in your body and may be related to hormonal changes (epinephrine and norepinephrine). It’s also possible that if you have type 2 diabetes, you may frequently experience migraine headaches.

Hyperglycemia & Headaches

Headaches may be a sign of high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) but they may take a few days to occur. Hyperglycemia can be a dangerous condition if left untreated because it can cause nerve damage, blood vessel damage, and pancreatic damage. Other symptoms of hyperglycemia include:

Hypoglycemia & Headaches

Hypoglycemia occurs when your blood sugar levels are too low, and a headache can be a sign of this state. Hypoglycemia happens quickly, so you’ll likely experience a hypoglycemic-related headache shortly after your blood glucose drops. Other symptoms of hypoglycemia include:

  • Chills
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

If you have hypoglycemia, you can treat it by eating simple carbohydrates to raise your glucose levels. If left untreated, hypoglycemia can lead to seizures or coma.

Sugar Withdrawal & Headaches

For those who do not have diabetes, sugar headaches can occur when cutting sugar out of the diet. These headaches develop as a side effect of withdrawal from sugar consumption. Other symptoms of sugar withdrawal include cravings and mood swings.

How to Get Rid of Sugar Headaches

There are a few ways to treat sugar headaches based on what the cause of your head pain is. In situations of both hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, you can take over-the-counter (OTC) medication, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to lessen the pain. If you’re experiencing a migraine attack, seek medical advice from a provider for treatment.

Hyperglycemia Headache Treatment

Hypoglycemia Headache Treatment

  • Take a blood glucose test.
  • Consume the recommended amount of carbs from your healthcare provider to raise your glucose levels back to a safe level.

Always speak to your healthcare provider before taking OTC medicines, making changes to your lifestyle, or changing your insulin dosage. If you experience headaches and have diabetes, make an appointment with your diabetes specialist to discuss further preventative treatment.

How to Get Low-Cost Glucose Monitors

If you have diabetes, you know continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) can be expensive out of pocket. What you may not know is that you might qualify to get yours covered by insurance with Aeroflow Diabetes!

Find out if you qualify to get your CGM products at low-cost shipped right to your door every month, fill out our secure Eligibility Form. We’ll determine your coverage within 1-2 business days and you’ll be able to choose which CGM you’d like based on your unique needs.

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About the Author

Marlee Septak is the Senior Content Specialist at Aeroflow Urology and was a past Content Writer for Aeroflow Diabetes. She brings a deep understanding of incontinence and health conditions associated with it to her writing. She graduated from Columbia College Chicago and holds a Bachelor's degree in Journalism. Marlee has contributed to various magazines and blogs, including Borgen Magazine, Echo Magazine, Chicago Ideas Week, Assuaged, and Peaceful Dumpling. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, trying new restaurants, and just sitting down with a good book.


Diabetes Research Institute. (2022). Diabetes Statistics. DRIF. 

‌Symptoms & Causes of Diabetes | NIDDK. (n.d.). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 

‌Faruque, S., Tong, J., Lacmanovic, V., Agbonghae, C., Minaya, D. M., & Czaja, K. (2019). The Dose Makes the Poison: Sugar and Obesity in the United States – a Review. Polish Journal of Food and Nutrition Sciences, 69(3), 219–233. 

‌Overweight & Obesity Statistics | NIDDK. (2021, September). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 

‌CDC. (2021, November 28). Know Your Limit for Added Sugars. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

‌Diabetes and headaches: What’s the connection? (n.d.). 


Information provided on the Aeroflow Diabetes website is not intended as a substitute for medical advice or care from a healthcare professional. Aeroflow recommends consulting your healthcare provider if you are experiencing medical issues relating to diabetes care.