Healthy Living

Why do I get headache when I am hungry?

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It is not advisable to eat a big meal when you are hungry, especially if it is high in carbohydrates and fats. File photo 



Posted  Monday, July 14  2014 at  01:00

In Summary

Always ensure to eat healthy snacks in-between meals to avoid developing headache as a result of hunger.

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Dear Doctor: Whenever I am hungry, I get severe headache on one side of my head. I have had this for close to 10 years and so I take panadols to relieve the pain or find something to eat. What can I do to cure this?
Eryeza Ddumba
Dear Eryeza: Much as headache may be discomforting, it is usually harmless and once the cause is found and eliminated, it goes away. For that reason, and because headache may be due to dangerous conditions such as infection of coverings of the brain, or a brain tumour, medical examination is necessary before treatment is given or before one declares headache as harmless.

Severe headache that is triggered by hunger is likely to be of a hereditary type called migraine. Migraine has many triggers, including hormonal, emotional (stress), physical, dietary, environmental and medicinal factors, which may work alone or in combination.
Hunger, as well can trigger migraine attacks. This then requires that you see your doctor who will rule out any of these triggers and advice or offer treatment if needed.

Hunger can result from an empty stomach, but it can also result from low blood sugar.
When the amount of sugar reaching the brain is low, hunger then acts as a reminder that one needs to eat. Low sugar reaching the brain can result from starvation or as a side effect from drugs for diabetes, and upon eating, the hunger-triggered headache wanes.

Eating to stop headache may have its problems, including creating a sweet tooth and obesity. Therefore, you should eat small amounts of food several times, instead of many big meals. Panadol, when taken in excess can damage the liver.

Dear Doctor: I used to be active after meals, but lately I fall asleep shortly after eating. Could I be sick? Also, should I take a bath before or after eating?

Rutange Naboth

Dear Rutange: It is wrongly and widely believed that feeling sleepy after a meal (post-prandial somnolence), is caused by redistribution of blood flow from the brain to intestinal (mesenteric) blood vessels, with resultant blood deficit in the brain prompting it (the brain) to compensate by being less active.

The result of which is a person becoming sleepy. However, it is well known that the brain takes preference to the digestive system when blood requires to be redistributed after a meal due to a requirement for more blood for digestion and absorption of food.

The same thing happens during exercise. When a large amount of blood is diverted to muscles, blood flow to the brain is maintained and a person does not feel drowsy during exercise.
After especially a big a meal, many people show a lack of mental and physical energy which manifests in drowsiness, lethargy and a lack of motivation, among others.
This is largely harmless and can strike anyone who ventures into foods that are high in carbohydrates, fats or sugar, especially table sugar (sucrose).
Eating stimulates activity in a certain part of the nervous system called the parasympathetic nervous system (feed and breed or rest and digest), which tells the body to slow down and digest.

The more food one consumes, the more the body is made by the nervous system to shift its focus and energies towards digestion and absorption.
When food is digested to produce a simple sugar, glucose (the simplest form of sugar, which the body uses for fuel), its entry into the blood system causes the body to produce insulin hormone from the pancreas to remove the sugar and take it for either storage or utilisation by the body.

The increase in insulin also causes the brain to produce more serotonin and melatonin, two brain chemicals that can leave one groggy. Luckily, this sleepy sensation does not last long—and usually passes after about an hour.

What is happening to you is normal and will not cause you problems except if you drive or operate machinery when sleepy.

However, cutting down on foods that express too much sugar when digested (sugary or too much carbohydrate such as cassava and posho), and reducing the amounts of food can be helpful.
It is advised that one should bathe first instead of eating and then bathe later. This is because bathing warm water takes blood to the periphery for temperature regulation and yet it is more required for digestion and absorption of food.
Bathing before a meal improves appetite and that is why the Romans used to pour water on their ears before eating to improve appetite.

Dear Doctor: Can I make a woman pregnant when I withdraw during sex? One woman is claiming I am responsible for her pregnancy yet I withdrew before ejaculating. Why is she “giving me” a pregnancy that is not mine?

Elioda Mukasa

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