Salt, Hydration, and Migraine Prevention
Salt is critical for hydration and migraine prevention.
Eight reasons why salt kills migraines:
1. Salt may be the most important mineral for treating dehydration (study link).
2. Research from 2016 found that the probability of migraine increases for people that consume less sodium (study link).
The results were consistent with the researchers’ hypothesis that sodium may prevent an overstimulation of cells that is associated with migraines.
3. Sodium and magnesium are part of an intravenous treatment that was 97.5 percent successful at stopping chronic headache or migraine pain (study link).
Emergency rooms throughout the country do not have this stunning success rate.
4. Research as far back as the 1950s shows that migraineurs have an imbalance of sodium (study link).
Adequate salt intake can help naturally regulate sodium channels.
5. Migraine patients are more likely to have low blood pressure (study link).
Research shows that migraine sufferers have severely low autonomic function, which makes it difficult to maintain blood pressure (study link).
Low sodium levels could also cause or make this problem worse. Fifteen to thirty percent of all hospital patients are deficient in sodium (study link).
6. Many hypothyroidism patients are deficient in sodium (study link).
Migraine sufferers are 3.5 times as likely to have hypothyroidism (Study link).
Because these hormones play a large role in the autonomic nervous system, the majority of hypothyroidism patients have low autonomic function (study link).
Salt is needed to avoid hypothyroidism, poor autonomic function, and migraines.
Stress can trigger low sodium levels and increase the hormone problems found in hypothyroidism (study link).
In contrast, high levels of sodium are found to reduce stress (study link).
8. A study from 2015 found that 99.5 percent of 650 participants became migraine free after increasing sodium and decreasing carbohydrates (study link).
Reducing carbohydrates will be a large portion of the success (article link).
The study had many flaws, it’s not in a reputable journal, and I question the high success rate.
However, there are numerous migraineurs in the researcher’s Facebook group who claim the protocol works (FB group).
Is salt bad?
The war on salt has ended (Scientific American article). The salt myth was disproven in 2005 and a number of studies since then have found that restricting salt does not lower the risk of heart attack, strokes, or death in people with normal or high blood pressure (study link).
For more on the salt myth, I recommend reading Chris Kresser’s five-part series called “Shaking up the Salt Myth” (article link).
How much salt should I consume per day?
I don’t know. It’s similar to asking how much salt an Olympic athlete, a person under stress, a chronic migraine suffer, a large inactive man, and a small healthy woman need. There are too many variables to have a set amount of salt for everyone.
Kresser notes a study that found the lowest risk of cardiovascular death was from people excreting between 3000 milligrams and 7000 milligrams of sodium per day (study link).
Keep in mind that salt is only 40 percent sodium; the rest is chloride. Kresser recommends 1.5 to 3.5 teaspoons (8.5 to 20 g) of salt per day.
Other studies suggest that between 6.25 and 15 grams of salt per day (2.5-6.0 grams of sodium) is associated with a reduced cardiovascular risk (study link).
It should be noted that these are just correlations.
Junk food has more sodium than natural food and could be to blame for the increased risk of cardiovascular death in a high-sodium diet. Processed foods could also be partially to blame for the increased risk of death from a low-sodium diet.
Pre-agricultural humans only consumed 768 mg of sodium per day and had a low risk for cardiovascular disease (study link).
Processed foods are low in minerals and require minerals to digest.
The more processed foods you eat; the more minerals you will need.
The research claiming that a high intake of salt is harmful is mixed, inconsistent, and unproven.
Healthy individuals even do fine when they ingest extreme amounts of salt (study link). However, inadequate salt intake is a problem, especially for migraine sufferers.
There are a number of health conditions and medications that could make a higher salt intake a problem, so it is recommended that you speak to your health care professional before making any dietary change.
Your need for salt will depend on your specific health, the foods you eat, the amount you exercise, your stress levels, migraines frequency, and a number of other factors.
Fortunately, the human body has an amazing ability to crave salt when we are deficient and we lose that preference for salt when we have a surplus of sodium (study link). This is why many health experts recommend salting to taste and being cognizant of cravings.
Salt is one of the most common cravings before a migraine and many migraineurs say that salt can actually stop a migraine before it goes into full swing.
I like to salt my food with generous portions of salts that contain multiple minerals, such as sea salt or pink Himalayan salt (article link).
I will also throw a pinch of salt in water in the morning.
When I work out, I take a salt supplement called Saltstick Caps. These caps contain sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D (to help absorb calcium).
Kill migraines with salt and remember, sodium is simply a mineral and it’s critical that you get all the major minerals for hydration and migraine prevention.