The Relationship Between Salt and Migraines

Among the most common chronic pain disorders faced by people around the globe is migraines. Migraines are more than simply severe headaches – there are numerous other symptoms associated with them as well.

Headaches are precisely what they sound like – a pain in the head that can have several causes, including a lack of sleep, stress, tight headwear, exposure to loud noises, and more.

Migraines, on the other hand, are neurological disorders that involve changes in brain activity, an imbalance in brain chemicals, and changes in the way in which nerves in the nervous system – especially the trigeminal nerve– function. Aside from severe headaches, people with migraines also experience a range of other symptoms, including:

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue 
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Dizziness and confusion


Understanding Migraines

Migraine attacks are not as simple as headaches. There is a much longer process to this condition. A migraine occurs in phases, and people who suffer migraines may be able to predict the onset of an attack. Phases include:

  • Prodrome: This is the pre-headache phase and involves painless symptoms that can include stiffness in the neck, mood swings, and food cravings.
  • Aura: Auras are sensory disturbances that a person often experiences in the lead up to a migraine and during a migraine attack. They can affect several sensations, including touch, vision, and speech. Some common auras include slurred and jumbled speech, numbness of the extremities, blurred vision, and expanding blind spots. Not all people who suffer from migraines experience auras.
  • Attack: This is the actual “migraine” phase, where the pain hits a person’s head. Certain behaviors, including physical activities, exposure to light, strong smells, and loud noises, can worsen the pain. Pain can range from mild to debilitating. It’s important to keep in mind that the headache phase is not necessary for a person to develop migraines, and people may suffer migraines without pain in the head. Other experiences in this phase include nausea, vomiting, and more. If left untreated, the attack can last anywhere between 4 hours and three days (72 hours).
  • Postdromal: This is the post-headache phase after the pain has lessened. During this phase, a person can experience confusion, exhaustion, and general fatigue.

The causes of migraines are not entirely understood yet. However, there are some factors that appear to play a role, including:

  • Changes in the chemistry of the brainstem
  • Issues in which your brain interacts with the trigeminal nerve
  • Imbalances in brain chemicals, including serotonin, calcitonin gene-related peptide, and more

However, there are some common triggers that may result in the onset of migraines, including:

  • Hormonal Changes: Women are thrice as likely to develop migraines as men and often experience more prolonged migraines. The cause of this is believed to be hormonal changes in women, including fluctuating levels. While boys experience migraines more frequently than girls, post-puberty, this prevalence flips. Additionally, girls are more likely to suffer migraines in the year in which they start their periods, and migraine prevalence in women decreases post-menopause.
  • Genetics: Scientists have identified a gene linked with migraine development, and people whose family members suffer migraines are more likely to develop migraines themselves.
  • Drinks: Various drinks, including alcohol (especially wine) and caffeine (especially coffee), can trigger migraines.
  • Sensory Stimuli: These include loud sounds, bright lights, and strong smells, all of which can trigger migraines.
  • Physical Factors: Physical exertion can provoke migraine attacks.
  • Foods: Salty and processed foods, aged cheeses, and additives such as aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG) can all trigger migraines, as can skipping meals.
  • Medications: Certain medications, including vasodilators and oral contraceptives, can increase the risk of developing migraines.
  • Environmental: Changes in the weather, lack of sleep, and stress can all trigger migraines.
  • Allergies: Seasonal allergies (also known as allergic rhinitis) cause irritation and inflammation throughout your body, including the blood vessels. Inflamed blood vessels are also associated with migraines, and allergies can trigger an attack for some people.


Salt and Migraines

One common home remedy for migraines is increasing your salt intake. Anecdotal evidence suggests that consuming more salt can reduce the likelihood of migraines, with some people raising their intake to as much as double the recommended amount of 6 grams a day.

This treatment has been pioneered by Angela Stanton, an American neuroscientist who is herself a sufferer of migraines. Per Stanton’s theory, some people have highly sensitive brains, which results in them requiring more salt and higher amounts of other electrolytes. At the same time, she recommends that followers of her theory (known as the Stanton Protocol) also balance out their potassium levels.

Another proof that additional salt can help reduce migraine occurrence is a study carried by researchers at the Huntington Medical Research Institutes in 2016. The paper found that people who self-reported the highest levels of dietary sodium intake also reported the fewest number of migraines. 

An anecdotal explanation for this is that people are also treating other autonomic nervous system conditions, such as dysautonomia, by increasing their salt intake. This, in turn, reduces the migraines that were a symptom of their other condition.

Another theory is that increasing salt intake also treats people who unknowingly have hyponatremia, a condition that is marked by extremely low levels of blood sodium. Headaches and migraines are among the symptoms of this disorder, and treating it with salt also reduces the likelihood of migraine attacks.

It is essential to remember the increased salt intake may not help every person who suffers from migraines. There is no “one size fits all” treatment, and it’s important to speak to your doctor about potential triggers for your migraines and treatment options. Additionally, increasing your salt intake without careful monitoring may increase your risk of developing heart disease or suffering a stroke.

However, if you suspect that increased salt intake can help reduce the intensity of your migraines, you should speak to your physician about trying a mixture of water and salt as a preventative or booting your sodium and potassium intake.

Sodium and potassium intake can be boosted by dietary changes, including adding more salt to your meals and consuming a diet heavy in potassium-rich foods such as spinach and broccoli. However, sweeping nutritional changes are not always possible for everyone.

If you’re looking to increase your sodium and potassium consumption without changing your diet, supplements like Klaralyte can be highly effective. Each Klaralyte tablet contains a balanced offering of 250mg sodium and 50mg potassium, ensuring that your electrolyte levels stay steady. It’s also extremely easy to consume, so you can quickly take a tablet or two if you feel an attack coming on while you’re on the go.


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Additional Information

*Not Evaluated by FDA: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. Klaralyte LLC manufactures dietary supplements and medical food products that should be used under the direct supervision of a licensed healthcare practitioner.

Designated Medical Food: Klaralyte Salt Capsules are classified as a medical food under 21 U.S.C. 360ee(b)(3), and are intended for specific dietary management based on recognized scientific principles, as evaluated by a physician.

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