Fried Chicken > Can fried chicken cause headaches

Can Fried Chicken Cause Headaches?

Fried chicken is a staple of Southern cooking and is beloved by many for its crispy exterior and juicy, tender meat. But this greasy, fried favorite doesn’t always sit well – in fact, many people report getting headaches after eating foods like fried chicken, french fries, and other oily fare. So what’s the deal? Can fried chicken and other greasy foods really cause headaches? Let’s take a closer look.

Can fried chicken cause headaches?

Yes, there is evidence that consuming fried chicken and other fatty, greasy foods can trigger headaches in some people. The high levels of fat and oil in fried chicken undergo digestion in a way that promotes the release of inflammatory compounds called prostaglandins. These prostaglandins can constrict blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the brain which can result in a throbbing headache for those prone to this response.

Genetics and personal tolerance levels play a role as well. People who get frequent headaches from foods high in fat and oil tend to be more sensitive to prostaglandin production. The greasier the food, the more overloaded the digestive tract becomes, leading to greater prostaglandin release over a longer period of time.

Related post: Can fried chicken cause food poisoning?

Other factors can also come into play – skipping meals and letting hunger build before diving into a fried feast, not staying hydrated, and additives like MSG, nitrates, and artificial flavors can all compound the likelihood of getting a headache from eating heavy, greasy foods.

The best approach is to pay attention to how specific foods affect you. Limiting intake of fried and fast foods, staying hydrated, avoiding other dietary headache triggers, and taking OTC pain relievers as needed can help manage and relieve headaches that occur after eating greasy fried chicken or other oily foods. If headaches persist, consulting a doctor is advised to rule out any underlying conditions that may be contributing to pain and discomfort after meals.

Why does fried chicken give me a headache?

Fried chicken can trigger headaches in some people due to its high fat and oil content. The body has a hard time breaking down all that fat at once, so it remains in the stomach longer, promoting the release of inflammatory prostaglandins that constrict blood vessels.

What the Science Says
Several studies have found a link between eating fatty, fried foods and getting headaches afterward. Researchers believe this is due to how the body metabolizes fat. Here’s what happens:

    • The fat and oil trigger your gut to release hormones called prostaglandins. Some prostaglandins are associated with inflammation and constricting blood vessels.
    • The blood vessel constricting causes less blood flow to the brain. Less blood flow = headache.
    • Greasy foods are harder to digest, so they sit in your stomach longer. This extra time in your digestive tract means more prostaglandins are released over a longer period.


Other Culprits
While greasy food is a major headache trigger, it’s not the only thing that can cause headaches after eating. Other potential culprits include:

  • Tyramine – Tyramine is an amino acid found in aged, cured, smoked, or fermented foods. Tyramine can cause blood vessels to constrict. Foods high in tyramine like aged cheese, lunch meats, hot dogs, and soy sauce are headache suspects.
  • Nitrates/Nitrites – These chemical preservatives used to cure meats like bacon and deli meats may provoke headaches in some people.
  • MSG – Monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer added to many fried fast foods and Asian dishes. MSG is a known headache trigger for some.
  • Artificial Sweeteners – Ingredients like aspartame and sucralose are highly processed sugar substitutes that may cause headaches in sensitive people.
  • Caffeine Withdrawal – If you normally drink caffeinated soda or tea with a meal, not getting your usual intake can actually cause a rebound headache.
  • Dehydration – Greasy foods like fried chicken don’t provide much water. Not staying hydrated while eating salty, oily foods can potentially lead to headaches.
  • Hunger – Headaches may result if you’re overly hungry when you sit down to a rich, heavy meal. Make sure to eat regularly to avoid blood sugar dips.


To help avoid headaches from fried chicken, limit intake, stay hydrated, avoid skipping meals beforehand, watch for other dietary headache triggers you may have, and take OTC medication as needed for relief. Being mindful of how you feel after eating fried chicken can help determine if it tends to cause headaches for you personally.

The Bottom Line

So while fried chicken and other fatty foods may not be headache triggers for everyone, science shows they certainly could play a role in post-meal headaches for some people. Limiting greasy fried foods, processed meats, and artificially flavored items may help reduce occurrences.

Be sure to stay hydrated and don’t skip meals before indulging. And if headaches persist, consider keeping a food journal to help identify your personal headache food triggers. Paying attention to what you eat and how you feel afterward can go a long way toward banishing the greasy food headache blues for good!

Why does fried chicken give me a headache?

The high fat and oil content in fried chicken can trigger your gut to release inflammatory prostaglandins that constrict blood vessels. This reduces blood flow to the brain, resulting in a headache for some people prone to this response. Genetics and personal tolerance levels also likely play a role.

What are 5 foods that cause headaches?

Common foods that can trigger headaches include aged cheeses, processed meats with nitrates/nitrites, foods with MSG, foods with artificial sweeteners, and caffeine withdrawal when habitual coffee or soda drinkers abruptly reduce intake. Greasy, fried foods and sugar alcohols like sorbitol are also culprits.

How do you get rid of a headache from eating oily food?

Drink plenty of water, limit caffeine, take OTC pain relievers if needed, and stick to bland foods until it passes. Lying down in a dark room, using a cold compress, mint tea, and ginger can also help alleviate an oily food-induced headache.

Are there any health risks from getting frequent headaches after eating fried foods or other fatty meals?

Recurring headaches after fatty meals may indicate chronic inflammation, insulin resistance, or poor diet. Over time this can raise your risk for certain conditions like heart disease. See your doctor if you regularly get headaches after greasy or oily meals.

What foods and drinks can help relieve an oily food headache?

Staying hydrated is key. Drink extra water and limit caffeine. Tart cherry juice, ginger, mint, and peppermint tea may also help. For a snack, stick to bland foods like crackers or plain toast.

Are there any pain relievers that work well for headaches from greasy foods?

OTC meds like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen can help. A combination of acetaminophen-caffeine drugs may provide extra relief. Prescription triptans or ergots can help if headaches are severe.


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