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.
Let’s explore two potential culprits that could be impacting your post-meal comfort.
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 :
When it comes to identifying food allergies and sensitivities, consider two options:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 :
The elimination diet method could help you find a dietary trigger that’s playing a role in your post-meal headaches.
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:
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?
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:
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.
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.
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.