There. I said it. Yes, my degree is in nutrition and I am always keeping an eye on the migraine beast, so exceeding my typical water intake is often on my mind. My challenge is getting the good intentions to translate to healthy imbibing. When well-intentioned friends or family members suggest drinking more water as a remedy to our aching heads, I think most of us just bite our tongues while quietly thinking of a flippant response. Of course, we have heard that drinking more water helps migraine. But, does it really help? Is it part of preventing or treating migraine? How much water do we need? For those of us who are resistant to this advice, what can we do?
While researching this topic, I came across a bit of info I hadn’t heard before. Some doctors and researchers think that diuresis may be part of prodrome. I had heard anecdotal stories of people saying that they need to pee a lot and/or seem thirstier before migraine, but I had not seen it mentioned in any studies before. So, if you consider possible diuresis, plus the common complaint of gastrointestinal issues before migraine pain, it seems logical that some people would be prone to dehydration. But, do we need to just avoid dehydration or flush our bodies with additional fluid?
It turns out that there are some studies that suggest increased water intake improves migraine pain symptoms. In this study, there was a reduction in intensity and frequency of migraine headache. It is well-accepted that dehydration is a common trigger but perhaps this study and lots of anecdotal experience of emergency room doctors, neurologists and headache specialists suggests that keeping a steady flow of additional water may be helpful in reducing our own frequency and intensity of migraine. The study supports increasing water as a preventive strategy. The standard of care in most emergency departments is for giving lots of intravenous fluids for people with migraine. The authors of one study said, “fluid replacement is arguably an under appreciated aspect of acute migraine therapy.”
What amount of water is enough for those of us with frequent or chronic migraine? I could not find any specific studies or recommendations for us other than the general recommendation to just drink more hydrating fluids. The info in this article provides interesting info about the current recommendations for men and women. Authorities from Europe, the U.S. Institute of Medicine, and the World Health Organization recommend between 2.0 and 2.7 liters (8 to 11, 8 ounce cups) of water a day for women, and 2.5 to 3.7 liters (10 to 15, 8 ounce cups) a day for men. This includes water from all sources, not just beverages. So, for many of us, this amount of fluid may seem daunting, especially since having migraine may mean more is needed to ward off or treat a migraine. YIKES! For a while I was getting enough, but not lately. It’s summer so I must make a better effort due to the heat. No wonder I have been feeling more daily pain these days!
Here’s what I have done in the past plus some tips from people who successfully drink enough each day:
- Set a jug or pitcher aside each day with what you will drink that day (i.e. a full, gallon jug). Make sure half is consumed by lunch time. If this amount is too intimidating, start smaller and work up to a larger amount
- Drink a full glass of water as soon as you get up in the morning and before you have your customary drink (i.e. tea, decaffeinated coffee)
- Make the water more tasty and interesting by putting strawberries or cucumber or ginger or mint leaves in the pitcher.
- Experiment with different types of non-sugary beverages that aren’t common migraine triggers.
- Experiment with carbonation and temperature. You may like mild carbonation but not super-bubbly seltzer. You may like iced drinks when it’s over 70 degrees outside and room-temperature drinks when it’s cooler.
- Experiment with containers. I have included a picture of my thermal cup and seltzer. I find I drink so much more if it’s in my thermal and without ice. I like cool, not cold.
- Try some electrolyte replacement drinks like Propel, unflavored. Beware – some of these drinks contain ingredients that some people are sensitive to like citric acid and artificial sweeteners.
- Try one of several smartphone apps that will remind you to drink and track your intake
- When you feel a migraine coming on, set a timer for every 30 minutes and chug 4 ounces of water until you hit your goal
- Keep a container of water near you at home and/or at work so you can sip it throughout the day
- Keep a bottle of water in the car. Consider keeping an insulated tote in the car if you prefer the eater to be cold.
Will this renewed effort help me to like drinking water? Probably not. But, I am hopeful that it will help me reduce the frequency and intensity of my head pain and motivate me to continue this healthy habit. Flushing more fluids through our body is good for many more things that just reducing pain.