The notion of “no pain, no gain” is the most applicable when it comes to detoxing.
As you may already know, when you try to get rid of an unhealthy addiction, such as alcohol or drug addiction, your body may experience intolerable withdrawal symptoms.
You may experience the same, but less severe, withdrawal reactions when you try to eliminate toxic substances from your diet and life.
Headache is one the most common withdrawal symptoms you may experience while trying to cleanse.
Other common withdrawal symptoms while doing a cleanse are fatigue, weakness, dehydration, or hunger pangs.
Further Reading: If you’re new to detoxing, I highly recommend you to check out this post to learn what a detox (or cleanse) really is and also check this one to learn why you should consider doing a detox.
What is Detox Headache?
When you stop to feed your body with unhealthy toxic foods, processed foods, and addictive foods, your body starts to show strong reactions known as withdrawal reactions.
These withdrawal reactions are similar but less severe than drug or alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
These reactions usually start 2-3 days after total abstinence from a stimulant drug or toxic food or additive.
These withdrawal symptoms are why so many people cannot tolerate a detox diet for more than 2 or 3 days.
No matter how much enthusiasm and motivation they have to start a cleanse or detox. They would feel awful after the second or third day due to these withdrawal reactions.
So, if you happen to feel awful 2-3 days after embarking a detox, do not fret. You’re just on the right track, and it’s a good sign which shows your detox is working and your body’s detoxification system is trying to cleanse your body out of toxins.
“Detox Headache” is the most common withdrawal symptom one may experience after embarking on a detox plan.
Other withdrawal symptoms one may experience during a detox include, but are not limited to, weakness, fatigue, hunger pangs, irritability, nausea, dehydration, itchy skin, sleep difficulties, and flu-like symptoms.
Why Do You Get Headache When Detoxing?
Addictive substances, like caffeine and sugar, are the major culprit for a detox headache. These addictive foods act like alcohol or drugs. Using them causes a sudden boost of energy and makes your body feel good and energetic.
And when you stop to feed your body with these substances, your body would react in the form of withdrawal symptoms.
The caffeine, which is present in some foods like coffees, teas, energy drinks, sodas, dark chocolates, and even decaffeinated coffees or teas, is in fact the most common cause of a detox headache.
The caffeine in foods blocks central and peripheral adenosine receptors which may lead to a decrease of blood flow to brain (, ). This decrease of the brain blood flow may lead to the lack of oxygen in the brain. To compensate for the lack of oxygen in the brain, the body increases adrenaline secretion (). This increase of adrenaline secretion is in fact what causes a sudden boost of energy in the body.
When you quit caffeine abruptly during a detox, your central and peripheral adenosine receptors do not get blocked by caffeine anymore and, as a result, the amount of blood flow to the brain increases dramatically. This sudden change in the brain blood flow would trigger a headache.
- Consuming too much or too little sugar may cause your blood sugar levels to increase or decrease rapidly. This abrupt fluctuations of blood sugar levels may induce a type of headache known as sugar hangover.
- Consuming sugar triggers some hormonal changes in the body which may lead to abrupt changes in the brain blood flow. Like caffeine, this sudden change of the brain blood flow, caused by sugar, may trigger a headache.
How Long Does a Detox Headache Last?
Fortunately detox headache, and other withdrawal symptoms, would not last for good. They would usually last for a few days and would start to disappear after a few days.
The good news is that when these withdrawal symptoms are gone, you’ll start to feel awesome; Maybe the best feeling you’ve ever had!
It’s hard to predict exactly how many days a detox headache would last as it differs from person to person and based on the nature of the detox one is following.
Anyway, a detox headache should not last for more than one week. It usually would start to disappear after 2-3 days, without needing anything to be done from your part.
Nevertheless, in the meantime, there are some measures one may take to make these detox headaches more tolerable.
How to Avoid or Alleviate a Detox Headache?
Detox headaches are not inevitable!
You may prevent or alleviate them significantly simply by following the guidelines outlined below.
1. Utilize Prep Days
The most surefire way to prevent a detox headache from happening is to prepare beforehand. 2-3 weeks before beginning your detox start to eliminate addictive substances from your diet.
For example, if you’re used to drinking 3 cups of coffee every day, you can reduce your coffee intake to 2 cups per day for the first week, 1 cup per day for the second week, and 3 cups per week for the third week. After the 3rd week, you may start your detox without having to suffer from a detox headache due to caffeine withdrawal.
The addictive substances you want to eliminate gradually before a detox are drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and addictive foods. The most problematic addictive foods you might want consider eliminating from your diet before a detox are: all kinds of coffees & teas (even the decaffeinated ones), chocolate, sodas, and all the foods which contain white or black sugar.
2. Drink Lots of Fluids
Dehydration may cause headaches, and drinking loads of fluids not only avoids dehydration, but it also accelerates the detox process and helps to eliminate headache and other withdrawal symptoms.
If your detox plan allows it, you may also drink a cup of green tea or other herbal teas, such as ginger, chamomile, or peppermint, to alleviate the detox headache.
Warning: Please make sure you drink just a moderate amount of fluids as drinking way too much fluids may cause overhydration or water intoxication, a dangerous condition which can threaten your health and life.
3. Take a Shower or Sauna
Taking a hot & cold shower, also known as hot & cold hydrotherapy, is one the simplest and most effective ways to alleviate a headache by expediting the detoxification process.
Saunas, like hot & cold showers, can also accelerate the detoxification process and help to overcome a detox headache.
4. Get Moving
Doing a lightweight exercise such as stretching exercises or Yoga during your detox period can help to alleviate a detox headache by providing more oxygen for your body and helping your lymphatic system to function optimally.
Tip: Lymphatic system is a part of your body’s detoxification system which helps to eliminate toxins from your body.
5. Get Plenty of Rest
A detox diet may put too much pressure on your body. On the other hand, your body detoxes while you’re sleeping. So, getting sufficient sleep is mandatory during your detox period. Nothing can eliminate your detox headache like having a good night of sleep or taking a short afternoon nap.
7. Use Essential Oils
Many people are using essential oils to deal with a variety of health conditions such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, nausea, and many other ailments. Some also have been effectively using essential oils as potent and toxin-free skin-care products.
Using essential oils such as lavender oil, rosemary oil, peppermint oil, chamomile oil, and eucalyptus oil have proved effective at reducing different headaches.
You can use these oils by applying one or two drops of them on your forehead and temples and massaging for a few minutes.
You may also pour a few drops of them on a tissue and inhale for a few minutes.
“Detox Headache” is the most common withdrawal symptom one may experience, along other symptoms, within 2-3 days after embarking on a detox plan.
Missing addictive substances such as caffeine and sugar are the main culprits for a detox headache.
You can prevent a detox headache by gradually eliminating addictive substances from your diet 2-3 week before starting a detox.
Generally, a detox headache should disappear after 2-3 days on average. If it is not relieved after 5-7 days, stop the detox immediately and consult with your doctor if necessary.
You can help to relieve a detox headache by taking measures such as drinking loads of water, taking hot & cold showers, exercising, getting sufficient sleep, meditating, and using essential oils such as lavender oil, rosemary oil, peppermint oil, chamomile oil, and eucalyptus oil.