We are all aware that it’s important to limit the amount of salt that we eat, and part of the problem is literally in our heads. High intake of sodium contributes to head pain, according to a new study that appeared in the December 11 issue of the UK’s BMJ Open. The connection between dietary salt and headaches is strong in another, separate way as well: high sodium causes blood pressure to rise, which in turn leads to headaches.
Let’s take a look at this fascinating report, as outlined by Marie Ellis of Medical News Today.
A head pain epidemic
The chief author of the research, Johns Hopkins Medicine prevention director Dr. Lawrence Appel, was studying salt in part because it is key to understanding American diet and nutrition. Per the American Heart Association, the average American adult eats almost 3500 mg of sodium daily, double the association’s recommended daily allowance.
Similarly, headaches represent a critical topic for study because almost half of men and women globally (46%) suffer from recurring headaches or migraines, which diminish quality of life and result in additional “sick day” job absences.
DASH vs. Western
To better understand how nutrition might influence severity or frequency of headaches, Appel took almost 400 head pain patients and had them either eat conventional American meals or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. The latter diet focuses on fresh produce; skim cheese and milk; and whole grains. It avoids excess saturated fat, along with the unnecessary sugar and salt of processed food.
Throughout the course of the research, which was broken up into three segments of one month each, the patients alternately consumed plentiful salt, moderate salt, and little salt. At the end of every month, each individual filled out a questionnaire meant to record the degree of self-reported pain from migraines and headaches.
Ellis reported, “Results showed that people who ate foods high in sodium – around 8 g per day – had one third more headaches than those who ate foods low in sodium – around 4 g per day.” This significant raise in frequency of headaches was noticed purely based on sodium intake, regardless whether the participant was eating a conventional American diet or the health-conscious DASH one.
It’s good to know that removing salt from your diet could help you experience headaches on a less frequent basis. However, you may want help crafting a more comprehensive solution. Our headache treatment protocol is gentle, safe, and effective. Stop your pain today.