In recent years I have started getting migraine headaches. At first minor and not often, but with increasing frequency and intensity.
Visual Warning Sign
Lately, in the last several months, the migraines have been preceded by an ocular migraine: a painless but freaky visual disturbance. The first time this happened I was reading and the line to the right of the word my eyes were focused on just fuzzed out, like a television getting a bad signal. Then there were wobbly bits all around my peripheral vision, and I started seeing light spots, as if I had been staring into a bank of baseball field lights too long.
I got on the phone right away with my eye doctor, who reassured me that it was an ocular migraine and would probably shortly be followed by an actual headache migraine, so I should take whatever I took for migraines and lay down. He was right; the visual disturbance passed in a half hour, followed by the sick headache. How depressing to be so predictable.
I had a few more migraine headaches, now always preceded by the visual disturbances. They would usually start in late morning and lay me out for the rest of the day, followed by a day of feeling like I was recovering from the flu. The migraines, though still not really too frequent, were steadily getting worse in intensity: I begin getting literally sick and throwing up several times when I got one.
A Lucky Guess
A few weeks ago, I got the ocular harbinger of a migraine. The visual disturbances had passed and the headache was beginning, and I was starting to feel sick. I lay down for a while, then got up and ground about a half teaspoon of sea salt into my palm and ate it, followed by a big glass of water, then went back to bed.
I have low adrenal function, so salt is my best friend. If I need energy to do something and not be totally drained by it, I do the salt trick. It lets me get on the treadmill or go to the zoo or whatever takes physical exertion.
I also make a lemon/honey tea with lots of sea salt (think: warm salty lemonade) for my kids and myself when we are sick. It is great for restoring electrolytes and rebalancing trace minerals lost from flu or diarrhea.
I’m hazy on what I was thinking at the time, but I’m sure those things were in the back of my mind when I got up as my migraine started and took some salt … but I didn’t expect it to stop the migraine in its tracks!
A half hour later, I didn’t feel any worse; in fact the headache seemed to be dissipating somewhat. After an hour when I still didn’t feel worse, I got up and searched the internet for “salt migraine” and discovered that I had stumbled onto a very good thing, indeed.
Why Salt Helps Migraines
When I searched online, I found that a majority of migraines are caused by dehydration, so the water was a big part of it. But the body must have salt in order to get the water into the cells where it will rehydrate things.
Most of your body is water – salt water, to be accurate. To keep your body functioning well, you need water and salt on a regular basis. Water is needed to ensure adequate volume inside your cells. Salt is needed to control the water outside your cells and in circulation. ~ Avoid Migraines
Unwittingly, I had rehydrated my body and stopped the migraine from getting worse. I still had a mild headache, and still felt a little bit sick for the rest of the day, but it wasn’t bad.
Then yesterday, I got an ocular migraine – the first I had had since trying salt. Before the visual disturbances had cleared and before the headache started, I started salting and drinking water … and realized that the day before, when I was busy with errands all day long, I had drunk hardly any water at all! Dehydration.
I considered canceling my daughters’ piano lessons, because I knew if the headache came on while I was driving, we’d be in trouble. But I decided to trust my new discovery and we got in the car and left. Sure enough, the visual disturbances were gone, and I had only the merest trace of a headache. I felt a bit worn out, like I was fighting something off, so during piano lessons I lay on the couch in the waiting room and listened to my daughters play. By the time I got up an hour later, the teensy headache was gone and I felt fine.
You need water to stay hydrated, but your body must have salt too. You must replace the salt lost through sweating, vomiting, or diarrhea, because salt gets the water where it needs to be in order to hydrate your body. Moreover, more and more studies are showing that the old advice that everyone should cut salt intake is just plain wrong.
Why Sea Salt is Better
Sea salt has tons of healthful trace minerals that are removed from table salt. It also lacks the harmful additives put into table salt.
Processed table salt has been evaporated at high temperatures to separate the over 72 beneficial trace minerals found in the sea. It is then washed, removing unwanted debris and the essential minerals, dried in a kiln, and bleached for color. Potassium iodide and sugar is then added to stabilize, and anti-caking agents such as aluminum silicate are added to make a conveniently flowing product.
Natural sea salt does not contain additives and retains 2-8% naturally-occurring trace minerals by volume. ~ FAQ about Salt
The sea salt I get is still slightly damp (which means it is completely unprocessed, the best kind), so I use a salt grinder with a ceramic mechanism that won’t rust. If you worry about the sea salt not having iodine added, get a little bag of dried kelp flakes and mix it with the salt in your grinder. It does not change the taste at all but it does add that extra iodine, and in a more natural and healthful way.
I personally would not try using regular table salt for a migraine. Salt is critical to human health, but processed salt has so many additives and is so lacking in the trace minerals that help keep the body in balance. Many believe it is the culprit behind the health problems associated with too much salt, which are often not a problem when using unprocessed sea salt instead.
Me and My Migraines
I know there are other factors associated with migraines. For me, other contributing factors seem to be skipping breakfast or too much sugar, but though those can be the immediate trigger of a migraine, dehydration seems to be the underlying cause, for me at least. I know I will be more diligent about staying hydrated and eating enough salt (where I live we sweat a lot!) and try to eat better in general as well.
There are of course other triggers for migraines, but in my research I found that dehydration is one of the major, often unsuspected, causes. So drink your water!
I am not a medical professional. This should not be considered medical advice but a personal anecdote.