Bearded man resting his head in his hand while wondering what causes headaches after eating

What Causes Headaches After Eating?

Medically reviewed on December 10, 2023 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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If you regularly get a headache after eating, you’re not alone—especially if you have a history of migraine attacks.[1,2]

But what causes these headaches, and is there any way to make post-meal headaches more manageable over time?

In this guide, we’re answering these questions and more. We’ll break down some potential culprits of headaches after eating, tips for treating these headaches, and strategies for improving your long-term quality of life.

Headache After Eating: Potential Causes

Let’s explore two potential culprits that could be impacting your post-meal comfort.

Food Allergies

If you only experience a headache during certain meals, you might have a food sensitivity or allergy. But if you’ve never experienced traditional allergic reaction symptoms (like an itchy rash or trouble breathing), it might be difficult to recognize a potential food allergy.

It’s important to remember that food allergies are incredibly common [3]:

  • About 20 million people in the US have a food allergy.
  • Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S.

When it comes to identifying food allergies and sensitivities, consider two options:

  1. Testing – Healthcare providers offer allergy and sensitivity testing—many [food allergy tests]( even feature at-home specimen collection for added convenience.
  2. Elimination – By eliminating common food allergens from your diet (like milk, soy, or nuts) and slowly adding them back into your diet, you can observe your responses to individual foods. We’ll explore [elimination diets]( in more detail below.

Other Factors

Healthcare experts aren’t exactly sure what causes headaches after eating—partially because there are so many factors at play that could influence your well-being during and after a meal.

Some questions can aid in figuring out patterns, like do you:

  • Have a glass of wine with dinner every night?
  • Eat in a calm, quiet environment?
  • Have steady, reliable access to food and water?
  • Get enough sleep?
  • Take prescription medications?

Any, all, or none of these factors might impact your personal health and wellness—and whether or not you’re likely to get a migraine attack or headache after eating. Examining your circumstances and habits is just as important as studying your dietary choices when you’re trying to learn more about your health.

How To Treat Headaches After Eating

If you don’t get headaches after eating very often, you might consider taking over-the-counter (OTC) medications for pain relief when they do occur: drugs like naproxen, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen.

However, if you get a headache after lunch every single day, taking certain OTC medications might not be the best choice for long-term relief. As such:

  • Healthcare experts typically advise against long-term use of OTC medications, particularly non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like naproxen, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen.[4],[5],[6]
  • Older people may be more likely to experience negative side effects when using NSAIDs.[7]

If you’re experiencing chronic headaches, consider making an appointment with a healthcare provider. Compassionate, professional healthcare experts are the most qualified people to help you discover the root cause of your symptoms, learn more about your health, and create an individualized treatment plan.

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Managing Headaches After Eating: Tips And Tricks

If you’re looking for long-term relief from headaches after eating, a healthcare provider can help you meet your goals. They may also recommend some of the tactics below for long-term management.

Identify Your Triggers

Identifying which foods are a headache trigger could help you decrease your pain and improve your overall quality of life.

You may also try elimination dieting. It is one of the simplest ways to identify a food that is a headache trigger. Here’s how it works [8]:

  1. Remove common allergens (like milk, nuts, and soy) from your diet temporarily.
  2. Give your body time to adjust to your temporary, allergen-free diet.
  3. Slowly add common allergens back to your diet one at a time and observe the results.

The elimination diet method could help you find a dietary trigger that’s playing a role in your post-meal headaches.

Use A Food Log

If you’re trying to track your dietary habits or post-meal physical symptoms long-term, consider using a food log—this tactic is especially helpful if you’re trying to identify triggers with an elimination diet.

Your food log can be as simple or as complex as you’d like, but it should at least include:

  • The date and time of each meal and snack
  • The contents of each meal and snack (e.g., “apple slices and peanut butter”
  • How you feel after eating

Tracking your meals and your body’s responses can help you identify triggers. Plus, sharing a food log with a healthcare provider can help them learn more about your lifestyle and symptoms.

See related: Can Gluten Cause Headaches?

Adjust Your Circumstances

As mentioned above, there are many factors that could play a role in your headache pain after eating. If elimination dieting and food logging don’t reveal any triggers, consider changing some of the circumstances around eating. That might look like:

  • Changing your eating schedule
  • Eating more often, smaller meals or fewer, larger meals each day
  • Trying to create a more peaceful eating environment
  • Choosing a different beverage pairing for each meal

If you’re trying to find a solution, don’t forget about the importance of your environment. If possible, experiment with your eating circumstances to reveal potential environmental headache triggers.

Discover More About Your Health With Everlywell

When you’re struggling to cope with a frequent headache after eating, finding relief can be frustrating. Fortunately, when you need support on your wellness journey, you can turn to Everlywell’s at-home food sensitivity test. This test can help you identify what may be triggering your discomfort after eating.

Whether you’re looking for an expert telehealth provider, at-home testing, or personalized wellness plans, Everlywell can help you discover a better, healthier you.

Get started by scheduling a virtual health visit.

What Causes An Upset Stomach After Eating?

Can Gluten Cause Headaches?

Indigestion vs. Heartburn: What’s the Difference?


  1. Zaeem Z, Zhou L, Dilli E. Headaches: a Review of the Role of Dietary Factors. Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. 2016;16(11):101. doi: URL. Accessed Nov 18, 2023.
  2. Finocchi C, Sivori G. Food as trigger and aggravating factor of migraine. Neurological Sciences. 2012;33(S1):77-80. doi: URL. Accessed Nov 18, 2023.
  3. Allergy Facts. Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America. URL. Accessed Nov 18, 2023.
  4. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Acetaminophen: MedlinePlus Drug Information. Published 2019. URL. Accessed Nov 18, 2023.
  5. MedlinePlus. Ibuprofen. Published 2022. URL. Accessed Nov 18, 2023.
  6. Common questions about naproxen. Published January 24, 2022. URL. Accessed Nov 18, 2023.
  7. S W, A W, K M, J R. A Comprehensive Review of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug Use in The Elderly. Aging and disease. Published February 1, 2018. URL. Accessed Nov 18, 2023.
  8. What is an Elimination Diet? URL. Accessed Nov 18, 2023.

Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT works with a wide variety of individuals, ranging in age from children to the elderly, with an assortment of concerns and clinical conditions. She helps individuals optimize overall health and/or manage disease states using personalized medical nutrition therapy techniques.

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