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Salt For Migraines: To Have Or Not To Have?

Salt For Migraines

Salt and migraine may have a link after all. It has been seen that people who eat less salt have more migraines. But there's little evidence on whether salt can cure migraine pain except when it is triggered by dehydration. Salt may even inhibit the curative effect of serotonin in narrowing dilated blood vessels. Ayurveda claims that migraines are caused by a pitta dosha imbalance, which is made worse by salt. Don't rely on salt to cure your migraines.

We have come across anecdotes that suggest taking salt for migraines work wonders. Some even suggest dissolving the salt in lemon juice. If your migraine has been triggered by dehydration, this remedy may work. However, if eating citrus fruits is your migraine trigger, skip the lemon juice. But is there any truth behind this anecdotal remedy of salt for migraines? Let’s find out.

Migraine Due To Dehydration Can Be Cured By Salt

If your migraine is triggered by a hot day in the sun or after a bout of strenuous exercising, it is possibly caused by dehydration. Drinking only water won’t help you since you also need electrolytes like sodium. Low sodium levels can create an electrolyte imbalance and affect nerves. In such cases, having a teaspoon of table salt, or if you Himalayan salt, mixed with water can help bring the electrolyte balance back to normal and provide some relief.

Migraine Caused By Other Triggers Cannot Be Cured By Salt

Serotonin helps narrow blood vessels and reduce migraine pain. But salt may inhibit its availability.

But if your migraine is not related to dehydration, salt may not help reduce the headache. In fact, it is possible that salt can worsen the pain. Migraine pain is associated with dilation of blood vessels that supply blood to the brain. So migraine medicines focus on narrowing these blood vessels – for instance, triptans relieve migraine pain by making the neurotransmitter serotonin more available as serotonin helps narrow blood vessels. Low levels of serotonin are, in fact, associated with migraine pain.1 Salt may, however, make serotonin less available and worsen the pain.

According To Ayurveda, Too Much Salt Worsens Migraines

Ayurvedic Tips To Prevent Migraine


  • Follow a pitta-pacifying diet and lifestyle – eat more sweet, bitter, and astringent foods and void acidic, pungent, and sour foods.
  • Avoid exposure to strong sunlight.
  • Meditate to destress and adopt lifestyle practices to improve digestion.

According to ayurveda, migraines are caused because of an imbalance in our pitta dosha. This imbalance disrupts the flow of blood to the brain, resulting in throbbing. Imbalance in the pitta dosha causes a burning, sharp, and severe pain. These manifestations can also be associated with light sensitivity and visual sensations.

Ayurveda suggests that migraines are triggered by digestive imbalances, accumulation of digestive toxins, exposure to environmental pollution, and excess stress. And too much salt is known to disrupt the pitta dosha balance.

However, Low Salt Intake May Be Linked With Migraine

Interestingly, while salt may not cure all types of migraine, low intake of sodium may increase migraine incidences, says a 2016 study.2 While most foods contain sodium, salt has the highest amount. So this means that low intake of salt is linked with migraine.

Already in 1951, a study had found that the salt and water balance in the body has a role to play in migraines. More recent studies have found that during a migraine attack, the levels of sodium (salt) in the fluid surrounding the brain and the spinal cord (cerebrospinal fluid or CSF) rise. Most migraines also occur in the morning or late afternoon when the sodium levels naturally peak.3 4 5 One would think that reducing salt in the diet may keep the CSF sodium levels low and prevent migraines.

Migraine is associated with a rise in the sodium levels in the fluid surrounding the brain and the spinal cord. But people with low sodium intake seem to suffer more from migraines.

However, after checking the diets of 8,819 people from 1999 to 2004, the 2016 study found that migraineurs (migraine patients) had a low sodium intake than non-migraineurs. This may imply that the increase in sodium levels in the CSF during a migraine attack is actually a symptom of migraine and not a cause.

This study, however, does not answer all our questions. For instance, it does not say how much sodium in the diet is required to keep migraines at bay but not raise the risk of cardiovascular and kidney diseases – the standard salt intake is supposed to be no more than 2,300 mg a day, that is 1 tsp salt.6

To sum up, salt may help reduce your migraine pain if it is caused by dehydration. While the 2016 study does link low salt intake with more migraine occurrences, don’t have too much salt either. It has other damaging and long-term side effects.

References   [ + ]

1. Aggarwal, Milan, Veena Puri, and Sanjeev Puri. “Serotonin and CGRP in Migraine.” Annals of neurosciences 19, no. 2 (2012): 88.
2. Pogoda, Janice M., Noah B. Gross, Xianghong Arakaki, Alfred N. Fonteh, Robert P. Cowan, and Michael G. Harrington. “Severe Headache or Migraine History Is Inversely Correlated With Dietary Sodium Intake: NHANES 1999–2004.” Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain 56, no. 4 (2016): 688-698.
3. Campbell, Dorothy Adams, K. M. Hay, and Eva M. Tonks. “Salt and Water Balance in Migraine.” British medical journal 2, no. 4745 (1951): 1424.
4. Harrington, Michael G., Alfred N. Fonteh, Robert P. Cowan, Kathy Perrine, Janice M. Pogoda, Roger G. Biringer, and Andreas FR Hühmer. “Cerebrospinal fluid sodium increases in migraine.” Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain 46, no. 7 (2006): 1128-1135.
5. Harrington, Michael G., Ronald M. Salomon, Janice M. Pogoda, Elena Oborina, Neil Okey, Benjamin Johnson, Dennis Schmidt, Alfred N. Fonteh, and Nathan F. Dalleska. “Cerebrospinal fluid sodium rhythms.” Cerebrospinal fluid research 7, no. 1 (2010): 3.
6. Sodium in diet. University of Maryland Medical Center.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.