Health, Hydration and Headaches

Today we have Brett Warren, a biochemical engineer from Boston, Massachusetts as guest blogger in this Health Blog. Here is his excellent first guest post:
Have you ever had a headache that was so severe that it made you want to throw up? If so, you probably said to yourself, “migraine!” You may have felt weak, your vision may have blurred, and you may have been forced to take some sort of anti-inflammatory (Tylenol, aspirin, naproxen, etc.) and go to bed for the duration. And maybe you were right — maybe it was a migraine, and maybe it was triggered by stress, an allergy, a missed meal, or even hormonal fluctuations.ID-100109902

On the other hand, especially if your headache began toward the hottest part of the day at the height of this summer’s unending heat wave (according to WebMD, headache risk rises 7.5 percent for every nine degrees Fahrenheit), maybe you just needed some water. And maybe the two Tylenols that you took weren’t what cured your headache — maybe it was the glass of water or cup of tea that you took them with.

The fact is that the symptoms of a migraine and the symptoms of dehydration are awfully similar. Take a look for yourself:

Migraine

  • blurred vision or other vision problems
  • throbbing, pounding pain
  • starts as a dull ache and gets worse
  • sometimes causes chills
  • fatigue
  • nausea, vomiting
  • numbness, tingling
  • weakness
  • sleepiness
  • trouble concentrating
  • sensitivity to light and sound
  • sweating
  • increased urination
Dehydration

  • blurred vision
  • headache
  • cold, clammy skin
  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • dizziness, lightheadedness
  • weakness
  • sleepiness
  • trouble concentrating
  • constipation
  • lack of sweating
  • decreased urination

You have probably already noticed that the symptoms of a migraine and dehydration are almost the same — the difference comes at the end of the list of symptoms, as one condition causes more fluids to be released from the body, while the other results in less (for obvious reasons).

How can lack of water cause a headache? Water is one of the brain’s main ingredients — our brains are more than 85 percent water. That means that your brain, at its peak, contains even more water than your blood, which is 83 percent water. Your brain also relies on blood to bring it nutrients, such as oxygen — but if you become dehydrated, your blood volume and blood pressure drops. Even before a headache sets in, you may start feeling dizzy, tired, and weak.

If you are especially prone to headaches after exercising in warm weather and working up a sweat, dehydration is particularly likely to play a role in triggering your pain. Even mild exercise, such as a brisk walk, can cause you to lose up to a pound of water in sweat (see “Dehydration,” MedicineNet.com, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxhVvXqBiDc, for more information about dehydration).

However, water — or the lack thereof — is not the only dietary factor can lead directly to a pounding headache. There are three other dietary factors that can affect the way your head feels on a day to day basis:

  1. Glucose. According to a 2002 study published in the Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, two dietary factors that often result in a headache are fasting and hypoglycemia. Like the other cells in your body, your brain cells need glucose to work efficiently. If you are not eating regularly and your blood sugar is low, you may become hypoglycemic — your blood sugar levels may drop, giving you symptoms similar to those of dehydration and migraines. You may feel shaky, dizzy, light-headed, sleepy, weak, and have trouble concentrating. (You can find out more about hypoglycemia at the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/hypoglycemia/#symptoms.)You might think that you could get rid of a hypoglycemic headache by eating something sweet, like a candy bar. However, candy will produce a spike in your blood sugar, and then a drop to lower levels than before. If you use candy or even fruit or fruit juice to pull your blood sugar up, you will need to eat some protein and/or a complex carbohydrate (such as a piece of whole grain bread, or a serving of brown rice) to help keep your blood sugar levels up for a longer duration.
  2. Protein. One kind of protein, tyramine, has been found to be a trigger for headaches, especially migraines. Tyramine is especially prevalent in older cheeses, red wine, and in processed meats, such as cold cuts. But it has also been found in certain foods that many people eat prior to exercising, such as soy products, citrus fruits, bananas, nuts, and yogurt. If you eat yogurt just before going out for a run, and then get a headache, you may have found your culprit.
  3. Fat. It may sound counterintuitive to ask, are you getting enough fat in your diet? But the brain relies on fat and does not operate properly without it. But not just any fat will do — you need the essential fatty acids, particularly omega-3 fatty acids, the fatty acids that are in cold water fish, algae, and flaxseed. Omega-3s have an anti-inflammatory effect (much like aspirin and Tylenol), and they improve blood circulation to the brain and the rest of the body. A 2002 study of teens who were experiencing chronic migraines found that when teens took omega-3 fish oil supplements, 87 percent experienced significantly fewer headaches, 74 percent found that the headaches they did get didn’t last as long, and 83 percent said that their headaches did not feel as severe as they did before.Headaches can be triggered by many different factors besides diet (allergies, smoking, and tension are three other possibilities that spring to mind). But if you are experiencing chronic headaches and have not previously considered the role that your diet might play, give it a try. Start with making sure that you are consuming plenty of fluid, and go from there.

Brett Warren is a biochemical engineer from Boston, Massachusetts who develops sports supplements for Force Factor. He has done extensive research on nutrition and is an expert on nutraceutical science. He also has a passion for fitness and health. Brett’s work at Force Factor is supplemented by an active family life with plenty of gym time and outdoor recreation.

 

Image courtesy of [David Castillo Dominici] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Related Posts

6 Comments

  • Online Health July 23, 2011 04.01 pm

    Thanks for the great post. I think migraine much more common than dehydration and it can be easily managed.

    Reply 
  • Robert July 25, 2011 03.34 am

    Usually you get headaches from dehydration or detox or sensitivity to toxins in the environment. Hydrate? the body and release the toxins. Drinking lots of water and enemas are very helpful.

    Reply 
    • admin July 25, 2011 11.10 am

      Yes, if you get headache due to dehydration, drinking lots of liquid will help to reduce headache.

      Reply 
  • Michaela Weinland August 15, 2011 04.13 pm

    My gratitude for this and I am extremely happy I found your site. I’m always trying to find a good discount or way to save, so I will definitely be making a note of this one for future use!

    Reply 
    • Tory February 09, 2017 05.54 am

      You Sir/Madam are the enemy of confusion everhwyere!

      Reply 
    • btd5 coin generator February 24, 2017 05.55 pm

      I am not really understanding I guess…here's what I have that I'm working on to figure out how to do this. :)My total is $13.02 Tax is $0.91That is before coupons.My coupons are a total of 2.50… how do I figure out how many extra bucks I should use to get this as low as possible?? Thank you for your help.

      Reply 

Leave a Comment

Loading...