Sodium intake and migraines

I have not been aware of any research indicating a link between salt intake and migraines. A study just published in the journal Headache by researchers at Stanford and UCLA looked at this possible connection.
This was a national nutritional study that examined sodium intake in people with a history of migraine or severe headaches.

The study included 8819 adults with reliable data on diet and headache history. The researchers classified respondents who reported a history of migraine or severe headaches as having probable history of migraine. They excluded patients with medication overuse headache, that is people who were taking pain medications very frequently. Dietary sodium intake was measured using estimates that have been proven to be reliable in previous studies.

Surprisingly, higher dietary intake of sodium was associated with a lower chance of migraines or severe headaches. This relationship was not affected by age or sex. In women, this inverse relationship was limited to those with lower weight (as measured by body mass index, or BMI), while in men the relationship did not differ by BMI.

This study offered the first scientific evidence of an inverse relationship between migraines and severe headaches and dietary sodium intake.

It is very premature to recommend increased sodium intake to all people who suffer from migraines and severe headaches. However, considering that this is a relatively safe intervention, it may make sense to try increased salt intake. I would suggest adding table salt to a healthy and balanced diet, rather than eating salty foods such as smoked fish, potato chips, processed deli meats, or pickles. These foods contain sulfites, nitrites, and other preservatives which can trigger a migraine attack.

People with high blood pressure and kidney or heart disease need to consult their doctor before increasing their salt intake.

2 comments
  1. I have found that whenever I get migraine I eat salty foods and the migraine will often dissipate. Some salty foods, however, do not help and actually seem to cause migraine. Upon further research, these foods contain alternative sodium compounds... such says: 03/26/201712:32 pm
  2. Fern says: 07/20/20165:51 pm

    Thank you so much for your blog. This post is interesting as I feel a salt boost helps my orthostatic intolerance as well. I have also been enjoying the posts touching on my recent diagnoses of Ehler-Danlos Syndrome and what they told me they are calling for now Central Sensitization Syndrome. I saw a headache specialist today for the first time in my 31 year migraine history. You have helped a lot with my post-appointment research. Thanks again!

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