How to Survive the Second Day of Whole30 with Headaches
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The first couple days after starting a Whole30 round can be a pain in the ass. Excuse my language … but after the first day, my body gets really pissed off. No matter what, I always get a migraine on day 2 or sometimes day 3.
The good news is that this horrible headache lasts for only about day at most. And most of the time it is about 8 hours of pure torture. But by day 3 or 4 … I am usually back to normal.
The bad news is these headaches are so painful I often regret starting the Whole30 in the first place.
Note – For anyone new to the Whole30, you can check it out here. It is a clean eating lifestyle, similar to the paleo diet.
If you are like me and get these headaches … just try and keep going. One day of battling through a severe headache is worth it in the long run. Eventually you will feel much better, have more energy, and likely lose some weight.
Recently my wife, oldest son, and I started our latest round of the Whole30. This marks the 6th time in about 3 years that we have followed the Whole30 program.
And after just finishing up day two … I am hear to say the headache was the worse I have ever got.
So of course … I am wondering exactly why this always happens to me?
Why Do I Get a Headache Soon After Starting the Whole30?
The first thing I want to mention is that I am not a doctor, nor have I ever received any type of medical training. I can only speak about my healthy living experiences and share those with you.
When it comes to starting the Whole30 … or any other clean eating program like paleo … it seems the severe headache is a result of your body detoxing.
As part of the Whole30, I stopped eating – gluten, sugar, dairy, legumes, and alcohol. Actually the list of things I am not eating is even bigger … but those listed are the most crucial.
After a day and a few hours of not eating those types of foods, my body appears to be in detox mode.
According to the Whole30 timeline – days 2-3 are considered “The Hangover”.
They explain it this way –
“Many Whole30ers report headaches, fatigue, and general malaise during this part of the program. This, my friends, is completely normal. Your body is working its way through a whole host of junk it stored from the foods (or food-like-products) you used to eat. This process lasts a day for some folks, but for others it can take a few days longer. Relax, drink a lot of water, and keep making good choices …”
So basically, I ate a bunch of crap around the holidays and am paying for it now!
Too many sugary foods. I know I had a bunch of cheese … way to much cheese actually. Lot’s of beer and wine.
I snacked too much, didn’t exercise enough, and my sleep was poor.
The bottom line is that I didn’t do a good job of taking care of my body the past couple of weeks and months. And now as I go through the start of this clean eating program … I am paying for it.
Note – We started our 6th round of the Whole30 in mid January … a couple weeks after the New Year and Christmas.
The interesting thing is that even though I get these headaches … my other family members do not.
I find that very interesting and it gives me another piece of information to help guide me through my health journey.
Why Doesn’t the Rest of My Family Get Headaches?
This is a tougher question to answer to be honest.
Why do I get horrible headaches every time I begin Whole30 … but my family does not?
Neither my wife or son get the severe headaches after starting the program … like I do.
All I can really say is that our bodies are all unique and react to different foods and environmental factors.
Plus, I may have treated my body worse than they did over the holidays? That is a possible explanation.
I also have an autoimmune condition (i.e. psoriasis), so that could have some impact I suppose.
There is a good chance I suffer from a leaky gut (and they don’t) … so that may have some impact on these severe headaches.
Now … even though I always get a headache, my wife will often get severe stomach pains instead. I don’t get those at all.
I’ll say it again … everyone is different in how we react to starting a healthy diet like Whole30.
When it comes to starting the Whole30 program … I think in the future I will try and eat a little better leading up to it next time around.
Next, let’s talk about ways to survive these horrible headaches for anyone who experiences them like I do.
How to Survive the Headaches
I obviously don’t have all the answers on how to avoid these painful headaches … for anyone that experiences the same as me. After all … I just got over my latest migraine that was the worst one ever as far as eating healthy.
So I haven’t been able to crack the code on not getting these nasty migraines. My only solution is to try and minimize the symptoms as much as possible.
And always remember that it will get much easier and you will be so much better off in a couple weeks.
Here are a few suggestions on how to manage a Whole30 headache.
1. Stay Really Hydrated
Keeping yourself hydrated is an obvious tip for managing a migraine during the Whole30. However, I can say that staying hydrated does not work for me. Or at least it doesn’t seem to work for me.
I have made it a priority now in my life to stay hydrated … even before starting the Whole30.
For example, I have added several healthy daily habits to my morning routine now … one of which is drinking 12 ounces of water as soon as I wake up.
That small little habit has actually allowed me to stack it on top of another daily goal. That bigger goal is to drink half my body weight in ounces of water each day.
To prepare for the Whole30 … two weeks prior I started drinking at least 90 ounces of water per day. I have hit those goals and am sure it is helping me out overall.
But it doesn’t seem like enough for the detox and the headaches that follow.
Regardless, we all know the importance of staying hydrated … so it can’t hurt to up your daily water intake.
And one last thing … it is important to hydrate yourself before you start a Whole30. By the time you get your headache, you are already dehydrated at that point.
2. Ease Into the Whole30
This might be the solution to my Whole30 headache issue to be honest.
If I don’t go wild eating bad foods and destroying my body in the first place … then I won’t need to detox.
Leading up to starting a Whole30, I think it could be beneficial to adopt some healthier habits. This would be sort of a way to “ease” into the program … a pre-Whole30 if you will.
Or even better is to not completely fall off the wagon to being with.
For example, after most Whole30 rounds (the end of 30 days) … our family usually will extend it to 45 or even 60 days. Sometimes we ease up a bit and follow a more paleo approach by allowing some additional foods into our diet.
After the last Whole30 we finished … we continued to eat a paleo diet for an additional 30 days. But then as the holidays approached, we went back to our previous unhealthy diets.
I strongly believe if we would have not fallen completely off the paleo style diet … my headaches and detox symptoms would have been minor or non-existent.
The bottom line (and one I need to learn) is that this type of eating is a lifestyle. It should be adopted over the course of years instead of days and months.
If I can keep that perspective … then I think my headaches go away for good!
3. Go to Bed
My best solution this time around was just going to bed early once I got the headache … that was the only thing that seemed to help.
This may not be an option for everyone with other obligations like work and family.
My headache started around lunchtime on day two and progressively got worse as the afternoon went on. I came home from work and did a short 30-minute HIIT workout … which actually gave me temporary relief. But as the evening went on, my migraine symptoms kept getting worse and worse.
Finally by 8:00 PM I decided to go to bed … which is at least 2 hours early.
The good news is that I woke up with a ton of energy and no more headache!
You may just have to bite the bullet and go to sleep earlier than normal to fight off any migraine symptoms as a result of the Whole30.
Or maybe try and find a quiet spot to rest your eyes or do some type of deep breathing exercises like meditation.
4. Exercise Your Headache Away
This may actually be a lot tougher than it sounds, but when I have a severe headache … exercise can help.
For example, just the other day when I had my migraine … I came home from work and did a 30-Minute HIIT workout. It took every ounce of drive I had to start it. But once I got going and warmed up … I felt a ton better.
My headache disappeared during the entire workout and stayed away for another hour after. Unfortunately, it did come back after dinner … which is why I went to bed early (#3).
You never know … exercising could work in your situation. It has certainly helped me when I have had other headaches and sickness … just not this time.
Although it did help temporarily at least.
Following a Clean Eating Diet is Worth It
Hopefully I haven’t scared you off just yet from doing a Whole30 or similar clean eating program.
There is no question that for me … the headaches that I get on day #2 or #3 really suck. There isn’t much I can do other than stay hydrated, get a little exercise in, and go to bed early.
Those things help to minimize the headaches … but they don’t go away and I always get them.
But the good news is that (at least for me) once the headaches are gone … you will feel much better. Those nasty headaches I get and my wife’s stomach pains are all a result of our bodies going through a detox.
All of those bad foods we had been eating are leaving our bodies and we are replacing it with healthy, whole foods that will give us tons of energy. And if you do things right and stay on track … you might just drop some of those extra pounds.
So if you feel like giving up when you come across these detox symptoms … just remember it will get better. And your body will eventually love you for it!