How to Stop Migraines with Salt

Claude Nelson
By Claude Nelson July 20, 2018 08:04

How to Stop Migraines with Salt

It is rare that we view salt – once a harbinger of doom for those with high blood pressure, or those at risk for heart disease or stroke – as a remedy for anything.  Emerging research, however, suggests that episodic use of salt could alleviate the symptoms of migraine headaches.

Migraine Symptoms

Anyone who has a history of migraines, or knows someone who suffers from migraines, knows that a migraine does not begin and end with a simple headache.  More commonly, the headache is preceded or accompanied by nausea, vomiting, changes in vision, or paresthesias (numbness or tingling, usually felt in the hands and feet, arms and legs).  During a migraine, some people may experience sensitivity to light, sound, or other sensory stimulation, irritability, a change in appetite and other potentially debilitating symptoms.  The migraine experience can last from just a few hours hours to several days.

Migraine Triggers

Different things trigger migraines in different people. Common triggers include:

  • Dehydration
  • Poor sleep habits (sleeping too much or not enough)
  • Certain foods
  • Red wine
  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Salty foods
  • Strong sunlight
  • Stress
  • Food additives like MSG
  • Weather changes/changes in barometric pressure
  • Electrolyte imbalance

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Electrolytes maintain the proper balance of fluids between the intracellular (inside of the cell) and extracellular (outside of the cell) environments and regulate cell function.  Sodium and potassium are the most significant electrolytes in the body. Sodium is the primary extracellular ion and potassium is the primary intracellular ion.  Sodium and potassium together create action potentials (electrical signals) which prompt the cells to do their jobs.

Too little or too much sodium can interfere with the performance of the action potential, interfering with cellular function.  Hyponatremia, an abnormally low level of sodium, can cause headaches, fatigue, hallucinations, and muscle spasms.  Hypernatremia, an abnormally high level of sodium, can cause weakness, seizures, coma and death.  Hypernatremia most often results from severe dehydration.  Under normal circumstances, our bodies regulate sodium levels within a small range so as to avoid either hypo- or hypernatremia.

Salt is essential for healthy body function.  As our bodies cannot make salt, we must obtain it from the foods we eat.  The current recommendation for salt intake for adults is no more than 2300mg per day.  On average, adults eat much more salt than that – upwards of 3400mg per day.  Most of the salt we eat does not come from the shaker at the dinner table, but from processed foods, and foods from restaurants.

Related: DIY Dollar Store First Aid Kit

Migraines and Salt

We know very little about the relationship between diet and migraine headaches, except that there are some foods which trigger certain types of migraines.  Interestingly, some common migraine food triggers are high in sodium themselves.

As long ago as the early 1950’s, the connection between fluid and electrolyte balance and migraine headaches was first made.  By measuring the blood and urine sodium levels of people with and without histories of migraines, researchers were able to document that those with histories of migraines excreted more sodium in their urine.

Researchers also learned that sodium levels vary predictably during the course of a migraine.  It is unclear if the changes in sodium levels cause the migraine, or if it is the migraine syndrome (the prodrome, migraine “attack” and postdrome) itself which causes sodium levels to fluctuate.  Our sodium levels change according to our diets, activity level, the hormonal changes in our bodies, and in response to dehydration – all common triggers for migraines.  This may help to explain the link between sodium and migraines.

More recently, researchers looked at the 24 hour diet recall and reported headache symptoms of nearly 9000 individuals.  This review revealed that those with lower dietary salt (sodium) intake experienced more migraine headaches.  While there seems to be a link between sodium intake and migraines, the exact nature of that link is uncertain.  More research needs to be done to determine how salt might best be used to treat migraines.

Suggested Recipe

How to Stop Migraines with Salt

If you’re interested in trying a salt remedy when your next migraine hits, try this recipe at the first inkling of on on-coming migraine.

Salt and Lemon Juice

Mix the juice if one lemon with 1-2 teaspoons of salt in a glass of water.

Related: Black Seed; The Remedy For Everything But Death

But is it Worth the Risk?

For many years, we have believed high salt intake to be associated with high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, especially for people over 50 years old, or for people with existing hypertension.  The recommendation to restrict salt intake was generalized to the entire population, without regard to age, race, sex, or health status.  Restricted salt intake seems to be beneficial for higher risk individuals.  However, there is more and more questioning into whether or not restricted salt intake has any significant benefits for those who are at low risk for hypertension, heart disease or stroke.  There is even some evidence suggesting that a restricted salt intake may actually increase the risk of heart disease in an otherwise health population.

Migraine Prevention

Migraine prevention remains the best cure.  To prevent migraines:

  • Avoid your triggers.
  • Stay well-hydrated.
  • Unless you have high-blood pressure or certain kidney disorders, salt your food to taste.
  • Get regular, adequate sleep.
  • Eat well.
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco use.
  • Exercise regularly.

Each migraine is as different as the person who is experiencing it.  As more and more is learned about migraines (especially the genetic factors associated with migraines) we may learn that there are actually various different types of migraine headaches.  Until then, we need to do the best with the information and resources that we have.  If salt works for you, this could be an easy, accessible and inexpensive “cure” for you and millions of migraine sufferers.

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Claude Nelson
By Claude Nelson July 20, 2018 08:04
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  1. Boticario July 20, 14:01

    I sorry to disagree; but potassium is not a negatively charged particle as was stated in this article.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Deacon July 20, 14:15

    A quick note about some of the science, both sodium and potassium are positively charged. That is why salt is created when these positively charged ions bind with negatively charged chloride ions. Moreover, sodium is the main extracellular ion and potassium is the main intracellular ion. These ions, as the article correctly points out, are responsible for generating action potentials. However, as a result of the definitive link in some people with salt sensitivity and high blood pressure, and the fact that many instances of hypertension are not diagnosed (hypertension is called the silent killer), folks should consult their physician before trying this type of remedy (that is not judging whether this could be effective for some folks and migraines are very debilitating).

    Reply to this comment
  3. Baysolitude July 20, 14:19

    There is an error here. Sodium and potassium are positively charged cations. You are correct that sodium is principally extracellular and potassium intercellular. Their positive charges are balanced by negative anions such as chloride, bicarbonate, and proteins.

    Reply to this comment
  4. none July 20, 14:59

    This information is good. The only thing is Morton Salt has all the minerals removed. Please, tell your readers to use sea salt or Himalayan Pink salt or Celtic Sea salt. These have trace minerals which the blue box Does Not 🙂

    Reply to this comment
    • Homesteader July 20, 15:24

      Due to so much plastic waste having been dumped in the oceans, most sea salts have been found to contain bits of the plastic that has been broken down by sunlight and seawater. It is so small that it is indistinguishable from the salt crystals by visual means. I would recommend only Himalayan Pink salt.

      Reply to this comment
      • Stan July 20, 19:23

        If you are worried about traces of water in your food, you need to go on a zero calorie diet. If you look hard enough you will ALWAYS find traces of bad stuff. Even in fancy, over priced pink salt.

        Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck July 20, 17:27

      Please cite the source of your information that ordinary commercial salt has “all the minerals removed.”

      Is it your statement that the Morton Company goes to the extra expense and trouble to remove any trace elements in their salt before putting it on the market?

      It stretches my credulity to believe that trace elements that may be present in mined former sea salt would be worth the cost of extraction to be sold on the commercial chemical market. All salt deposits were once ocean. The vast salt caverns in Louisiana were once ocean and hence contain anything that the ocean contained.

      In addition, if one purchases iodized salt, iodine has been added which is an essential element for thyroid health. Folks who live far inland oftentimes have an iodine deficiency which is treated cheaply and efficiently by utilizing iodized salt.

      As prepares, after the world ends there will be lots of false information floating around. It behoves us to think with clarity and precision and question the validity of information that is offered. Statements offered without any authentication particularly require challenge for substantiation.

      Any valid statement should have back up proof and the author should be able to offer such.

      Reply to this comment
    • Shijiazhuang July 21, 01:44

      @none, I was hoping that somebody would mention that “salt” is not just salt. The blue box will eventually kill you and the ones you have listed needs an order change, should be, Celtic Sea salt, any other sea salt and then the almost tasteless Himalayan Pink salt, which is OK for making into a lamp, but not for putting on food.
      PS I live closer to the Himalayans than anybody on this site.

      Reply to this comment
      • left coast chuck July 21, 04:14

        I don’t know when that eventuality will arrive. I’m 81 and from as long as I can remember our family used Morton’s salt. For a long time that was all most markets carried. I am certainly not shilling for Morton’s, but we all frequently see these urban legends on the internet and some of us are inclined to just buy into them without any inquiry into the basis for the statement.

        Eventually we will all pass from our earthly bonds, but I doubt that it will be traceable to a particular brand of table salt. Too much salt obviously is bad for the biggest majority of us no matter the brand or the color. I believe the biggest percentage of salt in our diets comes not from the salt we sprinkle on our food ourselves, but the massive amounts of salt in the prepared food that we buy.

        Reply to this comment
    • Cmtpac July 21, 06:01

      Not totally correct. Morton salt is the same as sea salt but it has iodine added, which sea salt does not contain. Iodine is important for proper thyroid function. It was added to “table salt” back in the day because there were to many people being diagnosed with goiters. With the recent sea salt craze, many people are no longer using the iodized salt and goiters are making a huge come back (no pun intended.) sea salt might taste better but the iodized table salt is actually better for you unless you can get iodine in your diet from a different, consistent source.

      Reply to this comment
      • Rod Scott July 21, 07:51

        @Cmtpac, the world was happy using sea salt for centuries, but around 1880 a famous English scientist discovered a way to stop salt from binding together particularly in humid weather, by the removal of 80 minerals (Iodine included) he invented “free running salt”, it was very popular, and spread to most northern hemisphere countries quickly. Around 1900, the incidence of Goiter increased in England, France, Germany, USA and Canada, not much could be done about this problem, until 1925 when a French doctor announced that Goiter was caused by an Iodine deficiency, in 1928 the SAXA salt company introduced Iodised salt, this was soon used by salt companies in the affected countries, and then it became the standard salt of the world. About 40 years later, it was realized that the abnormal amount of heart problems were being caused by the high salt consumption, so we were told to eat less salt, this just caused other problems. About 15 to 20 years ago, an American doctor said, “we didn’t have any of these problems before Iodised salt”, and recommended a return to unprocessed salt. The old and natural salt is best, any food that is processed to make it easier or quicker to use, always make money for somebody that doesn’t really care if you live or die.

        Reply to this comment
        • left coast chuck July 21, 15:39

          Switzerland was the first country to add iodine to its salt to reduce incidence of goiter. Inasmuch as they are a landlocked country they lacked a ready source to iodine. I suspect that goiter was not a serious problem in Japan as their diet has a significant amount of seaweed in it which is a rich source of iodine.

          Iodine deficiency in infants is reported to lead to retarded mental growth. However I saw no significant medical studies to back that statement.

          Calcium silicate is added to salt to allow it to “free flow” nothing is subtracted.

          Dextrose is sprayed on table salt to inhibit the evaporation of the iodine, otherwise the iodine would evaporate and the value of spraying an iodine compound on it would be lost. The amount of iodine needed to iodize salt is minimal.

          57 grams of potassium iodine is used to treat one ton of salt. Depending on the current market price of potassium iodine the cost of 57 grams is less than $2.00 per ton.

          I haven’t priced salt recently since I put down a fair amount several years ago but my recollection is that iodized salt and non-iodized salt for those fearful of being harmed by poisonous chemicals in their salt sell for the same amount.

          I put down non-iodized salt for purposes other than table consumption and I put down iodized salt for table consumption. Doing research for this post I found out that the iodine will eventually evaporate once the container has become unsealed. While dextrose delays the evaporation, apparently it doesn’t eliminate it. That box of iodized salt that you bought five years agoI may no longer be iodized salt.

          I am going to purchase new iodized salt and vacuum seal it for table use. My plan is that vacuum sealing the iodized salt will inhibit the evaporation of the iodine for long term storage. In an EOTW situation, simple little things like iodized salt to prevent goiter will not be available and we will see conditions that have generally disappeared once again rearing their heads.

          When was the last time you saw someone who had club foot? When I was very young my best friend had club foot. That many years ago surgery was not advanced enough to treat club foot. He is the last person I can ever recall seeing with club foot. I suspect younger readers of this list may not have even heard of club foot.

          When was the last time you saw someone who suffered from the condition known as hunchback? An infant born with that condition is immediately treated and that affliction is largely unknown now due to immediate medical intervention. I am not talking about the osteoporosis condition that leads to a hunched position, I am talking about the congenital condition seen in young people.

          The same is true of the condition known as hare lip or cleft palette. In the U.S. that condition is immediately treated when the child is born. When was the last time you saw someone under the age of 30 born in the U.S. with hare lip or heard someone with cleft palette speak?

          Eighty years ago that was a common affliction. In fact in many foreign countries that is still a common condition. You have all seen the fund raising video of children in Mexico and countries further south who are afflicted with the disorder. The congenital defect has not disappeared, modern surgery has corrected it in the U.S. so now the only people you see with the residual effects are much older.

          In an EOTW scenario, all those afflictions will once again become apparent as the gene that produces them has not gone away. Simple precautions like vacuum sealing iodized salt will help keep some conditions at bay now that we know the cause.

          Reply to this comment
      • Hoosier Homesteader July 23, 00:11

        I can’t recall off the top of my head, but if memory serves, the iodine in Morton’s Salt isn’t really iodine. It’s something that mimicks it so closely that the body thinks it’s iodine. And, whatever that substitute is, it isn’t good for your thyroid. But I still use Morton salt anyway. …Hasn’t hurt me yet 🙂
        Maybe someone knows what that substitute is.

        Reply to this comment
        • left coast chuck July 24, 03:37

          From a web source:

          “Four inorganic compounds are used as iodide sources: potassium iodate, potassium iodide, sodium iodate, and sodium iodide. Any of these compounds supplies the body with its iodine required for the biosynthesis of thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) hormones by the thyroid gland. Animals also benefit from iodine supplements, and the hydrogen iodide derivative of ethylenediamine is the main supplement to livestock feed.

          “Salt is an effective vehicle for distributing iodine to the public because it does not spoil and is consumed in more predictable amounts than most other commodities For example, the concentration of iodine in salt has gradually increased in Switzerland: 3.75 mg/kg in 1952, 7.5 mg/kg in 1962, 15 mg/kg in 1980, 20 mg/kg in 1998, and 25 mg/kg in 2014. These increases were found to improve iodine status in the general Swiss population.

          “Salt that is iodised with iodide may slowly lose its iodine content by exposure to excess air over long periods.

          “Edible salt can be iodised by spraying it with a potassium iodate or potassium iodide solution. 57 grams of potassium iodate is required to iodise a ton of salt. 57 grams equals about four ounces.

          “Dextrose is added as a stabilizer to prevent potassium iodide from oxidizing and evaporating. Anti-caking agents such as calcium silicate are commonly added to table salt to prevent clumping.”

          I only took introductory inorganic chemistry, and that was 65 years ago, so even if I knew the difference between the iodine compounds at one time, I have long since forgotten what differentiates iodate from iodide.

          Collecting sea water and drying it to evaporate the salt out used to be an outdoor activity. You can still see the salt flats in San Francisco Bay if you take the San Mateo Bridge across the bay. I always wondered . . .in the 19th century when the salt flats were in full production, how the salt producers removed such things as seagull droppings or garbage that flowed in with the water when the flats were flooded. I could easily understand that large chunks of foreign debris could be sifted out rather simply with screens of ever diminishing size, but something like seagull excrement would be quite difficult to remove. Perhaps the answer is that in the 19th century salt was more full bodied than that which we consume today and the seagull droppings are the contents that Morton is accused of removing from their salt.

          Reply to this comment
  5. ray July 20, 17:45

    Speaking of salt, I just lost a life long friend because he believed what the government told him about salt. He ended up getting sick and that started a down hill slide to months in a nursing home and death. The low salt diet evidently triggered other problems and he never recovered. This was a guy who walked, ran, road a bike, ate what he was told was good for him and didn’t eat what he was told wasn’t good for him.

    Reply to this comment
    • Homesteader July 20, 22:12

      So sorry to hear about your friend. If he was on a low salt diet and was that active, it sounds like he may have depleted some vital nutrients that the doctors didn’t know or think to look for. I’m not a doctor. I’m just speaking from my own personal experiences with nearly depleted nutrients that landed me the hospital twice.

      Reply to this comment
  6. Wannabe July 20, 20:32

    Wish I could offer some scientific advice on this matter but I can’t. I don’t like salty foods and probably would not drink this. I have not suffered from migraines for years but exceeding migraine always did the trick and really did not take long to recover. Those little bottles are easier to store than lemons anyway.

    Reply to this comment
    • Rebel Rider July 20, 23:19

      Excedrin migraine is nothing more than Extra Strength Excedrin. Don’t fool yourself. I’d rather increase a little salt in my diet, than take that excedrin crap!!!

      Reply to this comment
      • Wannabe July 21, 00:51

        To Rebel Rider, it did not fool me one bit, it really worked for me 100% of the time. Proof is in the puddding,May not have worked for you, that simply means try another medicine and see which one does.

        Reply to this comment
      • Ford girl July 21, 05:26

        Exceeding migraine has Tylenol, aspirin, and caffeine in it. When it doesn’t work for me, it means I have to take the medicine the headache dr prescribed. It might be something for you to look into.

        Reply to this comment
  7. Wannabe July 20, 20:35

    Excedrin not exceeding, stupid spell check always thinks it knows what I am thinking.

    Reply to this comment
    • Homesteader July 20, 22:21

      Excedrin is my favorite pain reliever. When I broke my leg, the doctor gave me oxycontin. All it did was make me not care that I was in pain. Excedrin actually stopped the pain.

      Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck July 20, 23:32

      I agree, Wannabe. I don’t mind taking the blame for my own typos which I make plenty of, I hate predictive “fixing” what I type correctly.

      Predictive needs to take a note from what I used to tell my employees, “I’ve got looking bad completely covered. I don’t need any help there. You job is to make me look good.”

      In addition, predictive’s vocabulary is more limited than mine so I am being corrected by something dumber than I.

      Reply to this comment
  8. IvyMike July 21, 02:40

    I love this little prepper site, everybody always so positive and inquisitive. I’ve had 20 years of frequent TBI migraines and have to throw in with the Excedrin Migraine crowd, great stuff. 50% of migraine sufferers get significant relief from it. The website is a great resource.
    I just grilled a couple ribeyes seasoned with cracked black pepper and that overpriced pink Himalayan salt that is actually from Pakistan, Heaven! salty steak, yum, I have lived long enough I no longer have to worry about stuff that might shorten my life!

    Reply to this comment
  9. Linda S July 21, 12:03

    I used to have migraines on a regular basis; got a divorce & haven’t had one in over 20 years. Not saying it’s for everyone but hey, it worked for me!

    Reply to this comment
    • Homesteader July 21, 14:48

      Isn’t it funny how that works?! Before my divorce, I was being treated for numerous health problems and on about a dozen different meds. Since then, my meds have been reduced to four and will likely become even less in the near future. I had migraines too for a while but a chiropractor put my neck back in alignment and they went away. Turns out I had screwed my neck up from sleeping on a sofa with my dogs (good companions for a bad time).

      Reply to this comment
      • Hoosier Homesteader July 23, 00:23

        Today, 7/22/2018 is the 46th anniversary of the first date for my wife and me. …I’ve never had a migraine. …Now my sons-in-laws, that’s a whole nuther matter!!!

        Reply to this comment
  10. Mariposapqp July 30, 20:51

    I suffer from chronic, debilitating migraines and I have craved salt for years! Most people find the level of salt I eat to be excessive but I also have to drink a minimum of 1 -2 gal of water a day to stay hydrated as my Rx lead to dehydration, dry mouth, dry eye, etc. I’m so glad you wrote this as I’ve never seen anything mentioned and I’ve done quite a lot of research, The triggers you listed are mostly mine. I’d like to add: Direct Sunlight, Too Little or Too Much Caffeine. Also, exercise and elevated heart rate can trigger migraines in many which is problematic.

    Reply to this comment
  11. here October 19, 11:43

    A motivating discussion is definitely worth comment.
    I believe that you need to write more on this subject
    matter, it might not be a taboo subject but usually people do not discuss these issues.
    To the next! All the best!!

    Reply to this comment
  12. Torn December 10, 19:36

    Have not suffered a Migraine since just before retiring in 2008, first one I can recall having was at about age 8. Nothing worked for me until young adulthood and was prescribed Caffergot a combination of Caffeine and Ergot. Worked wonders when taken on time, that is at first symptoms. Anybody else here prescribed Caffergot?

    Reply to this comment
    • 3 generations January 29, 19:48

      Suffered with debilitating migraines for years. Cafergot was very effective if taken early on. Had a hysterectomy at age 52 and have not had one since. My daughter and grandson now suffer with migraines. What worked for me has not worked for my daughter. Still trying to find an answer for the grandson. I am going to share the salt water idea. Thanks.

      Reply to this comment
  13. K2w September 1, 02:29

    My wife’s migraines disappeared when we got married and I told her she could quit her job at the hospital (12 hour shifts on her feet, patients literally spitting on her, getting paid less than the minimum wage workers are now demanding, poor health insurance [how ironic is that from a hospital?!?]). I don’t get migraines, but sometimes my headaches are difficult to defeat. I take the Excedrin Migraine, which sometimes works, sometimes not. btw, before it came out, I used to take 2 Tylenol and 1 aspirin and wash it down with Pepsi! I should have trademarked it and sold it to Excedrin – would have made a mint! -:)

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