08 July, 2011
Sodium Deficiency & Migraines
Low sodium levels in the blood, called hyponatremia, can indicate a problem. If sodium levels fall, excess water enters the cells causing them to swell. Sodium levels in the blood need to maintain a certain balance for the body to function properly. Migraines are different for each sufferer, as are the triggers, but low sodium levels have been associated with triggering migraine headaches.
Sodium is an electrolyte that helps to regulate water levels in and around the body’s cells. Sodium also plays a part with nerve and muscle function and maintaining blood pressure. To keep this delicate balance, the body must match the amount of sodium taken in with the amount that is excreted from the body.
Migraines are chronic headaches, typically located on one side of the head, causing severe pain that can last anywhere from hours to days. Sensitivity to both light and sound are common and often make the pain worse. Some sufferers get warning signals, such as nausea, flashes of light, blind spots or auras before the migraine hits. Side effects of migraines can also include vomiting and nausea.
Sodium and potassium interact together to help control multiple life-sustaining processes, according to the Linus Pauling Institute website. The balance of sodium and potassium is important for nerve pulse transmission, muscle contraction and cardiac function. The Analytical Research Labs Inc. website states that low sodium and potassium ratio is associated with migraine headaches, possibly due to copper toxicity found with this mineral deficiency.
Scientists have found a genetic link to a rare form of familial migraines: a mutation that alters the function of sodium channels, according to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They identified cellular events that may trigger migraines. Specifically, the mutations affect the opening and closing of the sodium channels, thus throwing off the proper balance of sodium in the body. This link is significant as it can lead to more insight for common types of migraines.
Just as a deficiency in sodium can trigger a migraine, so can having too much sodium in the blood. Sodium retention results in water retention, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. The water retention may cause pressure on the blood vessels inside the brain, according to Analytical Research Labs Inc. website, which can lead to a migraine.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Hyponatremia
- Oregon State University: Linus Pauling Institute: Sodium
- Analytical Research Labs Inc.: Nutritional Causes of Headaches
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Migraine Headache
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America: Divergent Sodium Channel Defects in Familial Hemiplegic Migraine
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images