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Hydrating to Prevent and Ease Migraines

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on November 08, 2021

Dehydration is thought to be a common trigger of migraines. One study found increasing water intake in people who had migraines could help reduce the frequency and intensity of them. 

What Is Dehydration?

Dehydration is when your body loses more fluid than it takes in. Your body has to maintain a good balance between salt and water to ensure proper hydration status. If you don't have enough salt in your body, you can't hold onto fluids, and you'll develop low blood pressure. If you have too much salt in your body, you may retain too much fluid. 

Why Does Dehydration Cause Migraines?

Researchers aren't exactly sure how dehydration causes migraines. The water balance in your brain is very important for proper function. Some researchers think when the fluid in your brain is too concentrated, it activates receptors in your brain that cause a migraine. 

Tips for Staying Hydrated

The amount of water you need varies based on several factors, including the temperature, your weight, your activity level, and the humidity. A good starting point is about 8 cups daily. Here are some more ways you can stay hydrated: 

Limit other types of drinks

Pure water the best drink for staying hydrated. Other drinks, such as juice, alcohol, and soda, have other ingredients in them that can be harmful and reduce the amount of water you get from them. Sodas are particularly bad for you since they contain sugar and artificial colors. They're also acidic. The artificial sugar in diet sodas is a migraine trigger for some people. 

Be aware of how much fluid you're losing

If you're losing more fluids than normal, you'll need to drink more to avoid becoming dehydrated. Your body loses fluids in many different ways, including through: 

  • Urine, such as when you take a diuretic or drink caffeinated beverages or alcohol
  • Sweat, when you're exercising a lot or it's hot
  • Breath, when the air is especially dry or you're exercising heavily
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting, which can happen with migraines
  • Secretions, such as when you have a cold that produces a lot of mucus

Other ways to stay hydrated

Most people don't drink enough water and drink too much soda, juice, and alcohol. In addition to drinking water and being aware of losing fluids, here are some other ways you can stay hydrated: 

  • Carry a reusable water bottle with you for easy refills
  • Avoid direct sun during the hottest parts of the summer
  • Drink plenty of water before and during exercise
  • Drink before you get thirsty

Dehydration doesn't cause migraines, but it can trigger them and make them worse. Staying hydrated is an easy way to help reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines. 

Show Sources

SOURCES: 

Migraine Canada: "Hydration and Migraine."

European Journal of Neurology: "Increasing the daily water intake for the prophylactic treatment of headache: a pilot trial."

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