Can Dehydration Cause Migraines?

Migraine headaches could be up there with dental surgery and childbirth as one of life’s more painful experiences.  Some would even say they surpass both.  But unlike root canals or labor, the pain of which can be treated with medicine, there’s no quick fix for migraine relief and the causes of migraines are even more elusive.

A migraine is more than a headache. The throbbing pain typically occurs on one side of the head and is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and severe sensitivity to light and sound. Symptoms can include blurred vision, abnormal sensations of heat or cold, nasal congestion, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, anxiety, depression, irritability and trouble with concentration. But what eludes even the most renowned doctors and researchers is…  What are migraines caused by? 

For many migraine sufferers, intense heat and jumps in temperature have been shown to trigger attacks. A study in the journal Neurology revealed that the risk of migraines increases about 8 percent for every nine-degree rise in temperature. But what is it about temperature spikes that poses the risk for the various types of migraines? The difficulty of staying hydrated is likely the culprit. Dehydration has been shown to cause blood volume to drop, resulting in less blood and oxygen flow to the brain and dilated blood vessels. The major cause of dehydration, the loss of electrolytes, compels nerves in the brain to produce pain signals. If you’ve ever enjoyed a bit too much of your favorite alcoholic beverage and woken up with a dehydration headache, you know the feeling.  But migraine victims tend to be more sensitive to the debilitating effects of dehydration.

Could it be that simply drinking enough water could significantly ward off dehydration migraines?  It would seem so. In another study, also published in Neurology, researchers split migraine sufferers into two groups, gave the first group a placebo medication to take regularly and told the other group to drink six cups water in addition to their usual daily intake. At the end of two weeks, the scientists found that those drinking water experienced 21 fewer hours of pain during the study than those taking placebos. What’s more… they experienced a decrease in the intensity of their headaches.

While there’s no quick fix for how to treat migraines, there’s no denying the importance of hydration, so increasing your water intake could be a great first step.  Here are a few tips on how to avoid dehydration and how to treat dehydration:

  • The Institute of Medicine recommends a daily water intake of 2.7 liters for healthy women and 3.7 liters for healthy men. In addition to water, this can include juices, sports drinks and food, which contain water.
  • Drink before, during and after physical activity.
  • Check your urine. If it's clear, pale or straw-colored, it's okay. If it's darker than that, increase liquid intake.
  • Dress for the weather to make sure that you're not sweating too much.
  • Go to a cool area and drink plenty of water if you experience thirst, cracked lips, dizziness or lightheadedness, dry mouth, extreme headache or nausea.
  • If you find it difficult to drink plain water, squeeze fresh lemon, lime or orange slices into your water.

 

 

 

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