Skip to main content
hunger and thirst headaches

Headache From Not Eating? What You Should Know About Hunger and Thirst Headaches

How your eating and drinking habits may be linked to head pain.

Hunger headaches: They often strike just before meals or when you haven’t had enough to eat. But while hunger has been identified as a potential headache trigger for some frequent headache sufferers, the question is: Why?

The answer, it turns out, is complicated. More than one kind of headache can be triggered by hunger (including both tension headaches and migraines), and more research is needed. But here are two important things to consider:

Blood Sugar Levels. Most people associate blood sugar levels with diabetes or hypoglycemia. But a symptom of low blood sugar can be a headache, even for people who don’t suffer from these conditions.

How does low blood sugar happen? One cause is skipping meals. You know how it goes: You’re late for work, so you skip breakfast. But when you skip meals, no sugar gets in your blood, and so your blood sugar can drop. And if your blood sugar is low? You can get a headache. So it’s important to eat regular meals.

Dehydration. You can potentially get a headache or migraine from skipping meals or by consuming certain trigger foods . But some people may also get a migraine from not drinking enough water. More research is necessary, but a small study of 95 migraineurs showed that dehydration was a migraine trigger for 34 of them. 1 And another small preliminary study showed water-deprivation headaches in approximately 1 in 10 participants. 2 In general, headaches may be a sign of dehydration in some — learn more about how much water you should drink to help ward off head pain.

Consult with your doctor about the changes you can make to your diet to help avoid headaches.


  1. 1Blau, J. N. (2005), Water Deprivation: A New Migraine Precipitant. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 45: 757–759. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2005.05143_3.xFrom the The City of London Migraine Clinic, London, UK.
  2. Blau JN, Kell CA, Sperling JM. Water-deprivation headache: a new headache with two variants. Headache. 2004 Jan;44(1):79-83. PubMed PMID: 14979888.

Become a headache expert.
Sign up for the 5-week Headache Boot Camp