Can Dehydration Cause Migraines?
When you have a migraine, the only thing you want to do is get rid of it. But sometimes, that’s easier said than done — especially if you don’t know what caused the pain in the first place.
The good news is that there might be a simple way to help avoid migraines, and it comes down to turning on the faucet. That’s right: Drinking water can sometimes help stop a migraine attack.
To better understand this connection, let’s take a look at how hydration impacts overall health, dehydration’s effects on your body and why water may be the best medicine.
Know Your Head Pain: Migraine vs. Headache
If you’ve never had a migraine, it might be tempting to think of this condition as just a really bad headache. This misconception is further supported by the term “migraine headache,” which makes it sound like the ailments are one and the same.
However, there’s a big difference between a migraine and a headache — and it’s important to understand this difference before you can appreciate the impact of dehydration on head pain.
Here’s a breakdown of each condition:
Almost everyone has experienced a headache. That’s because headaches have a wide range of causes, from hunger and stress to sinus congestion and physical exertion. A headache can be acute or chronic and is characterized by pain in different parts of the head. However, head pain is usually the only significant symptom — which is what makes migraines different.
Headache is just one one migraine symptom. This neurological disease can actually have four phases, and different people experience different symptoms in each phase:
- Prodrome: This stage occurs one or two days before a migraine attack. Symptoms can be subtle, like fluid retention, frequent yawning or sudden mood changes.
- Aura: The aura phase can occur before or during a migraine and present as different symptoms. For most people, this stage involves some kind of visual disturbance, such as flashes of light or reduced eyesight.
- Attack: During migraine attacks, you’re likely to have throbbing or pulsing pain on both sides of your head. You’re also likely to be sensitive to light and may even feel nauseated.
- Postdrome: When the migraine attack subsides — usually between four and 72 hours after the initial headache — many people feel drained or exhausted.
A migraine is one of the 10 most disabling medical illnesses, according to the American Migraine Foundation, affecting more than 37 million Americans and roughly 3 million Canadians. However, many people experience this condition without ever getting a migraine diagnosis, perhaps because they mistake the attack for a severe headache.
Why Dehydration Causes a Migraine
Many things can act as migraine triggers, from emotional stress and hormonal changes to flashing lights and chemical preservatives in food. However, about one-third of migraine sufferers say dehydration is also one of their triggers.
Why is this? How can something as simple as insufficient water intake lead to debilitating head pain and other migraine symptoms?
The truth is that scientists and researchers still haven’t uncovered the exact connection. Sure, we know that dehydration can produce all kinds of negative effects, from confusion and dizziness to potential urinary and kidney problems – or, in cases of severe dehydration, even seizures. However, that doesn’t necessarily explain why you might get a dehydration headache or migraine, because the brain itself doesn’t have pain receptors.
One current theory is that dehydration headaches and migraines occur when fluid flows out of the brain. This could stimulate pain receptors in the brain’s lining, called meninges, causing a migraine. Another possibility is that patients may have underlying conditions that depend on proper fluid balance, and dehydration worsens these conditions and causes symptoms like headaches or a migraine.
It’s also important to understand that dehydration may not always be one of your primary migraine triggers. You may already be experiencing a migraine and become dehydrated because your nausea leads to decreased fluid intake. Unfortunately, this dehydration can make you more sensitive to pain, which means existing migraine symptoms can be exacerbated.
How to Avoid a Dehydration Migraine
Regardless of why dehydration causes a migraine, it’s clear that there’s a significant connection between the two. That means you may be able to reduce the severity of a migraine attack or possibly even avoid it just by drinking enough water.
Brush up on these simple tips for avoiding dehydration and the headache or migraine that could follow:
- Improve your water quality. If you notice unpleasant odors or tastes, or an unusual appearance in your water, you might not be eager to fill up your drinking glass. Improving your water quality with drinking water filtration systems can give you the confidence you need to trust your water again — and to drink more of it.
- Have a professional water test and consultation. Speaking of trusting your water, there’s no better way to find out what’s happening when you turn on the tap than to have a professional test and consultation. Even if you don’t have concerns about your water quality, you’ll get important information — about metrics such as total dissolved solids (TDS) and pH levels — that can help you make your water even more palatable.
- Make a habit of drinking water. It’s easy to get involved in your tasks and forget about water intake. However, intentionally sipping throughout the day might help you avoid a dehydration migraine, so make a habit of drinking water regularly.
- Skip the sodas. Soft drinks may be a treat, but they shouldn’t be your main source of hydration. That’s because most have a lot of added sugar and sodium, which aren’t necessarily good for your body, especially in large amounts. Other additives, such as caffeine, can even cause mild dehydration in some cases.
- Try sparkling water. If you’re looking for ways to make water more fun without losing the benefits of hydration, look for sugar-free sparkling water. Those tiny bubbles make drinking water a different experience while helping hydrate your body the same way as regular water.
- Bring a reusable water bottle. It’s important to protect the environment, but don’t let single-use water bottles complicate your hydration journey. Instead, switch to reusable water bottles that you can take with you in the car, at work, while you’re shopping and more.
- Drink through your migraine. Even if nausea is one of your migraine symptoms, it’s important to keep drinking. Remember, getting dehydrated during a migraine attack can make pain worse.
- Know how much water your body needs. You lose water through sweat, tears, urine and more. However, different people lose fluid at different rates, and everyone’s body has unique needs. That means you should pay attention to your own body’s signals to help determine how much water you should drink every day.
- Learn the signs of dehydration. If you know what to look out for, you might be able to drink enough water before dehydration triggers a migraine. Common dehydration symptoms include fatigue, extreme thirst, dizziness and dark urine.
- Understand what causes dehydration. Although dehydration’s main cause is simply not drinking enough water, other factors can contribute to dehydration, too. For example, medical conditions that cause vomiting or diarrhea can cause you to lose a significant amount of fluid, which may lead to dehydration as well.
Keep in mind that dehydration may not be the main or only trigger of your migraines, and if attacks persist, you may need to talk to your doctor about additional ways to mitigate attacks.
Say Goodbye to Dehydration
You’ve learned that dehydration can create all kinds of havoc in your body — like causing a dehydration headache or prompting a full-blown migraine attack. That’s why it’s important to make sure your water intake is always at a healthy level, even if you’re not a migraine sufferer.
Are you ready to say goodbye to dehydration? The first step is to improve your home’s water quality. Get started today by scheduling your free water test and consultation.