Could a salty diet keep migraines at bay? People who eat a lot of salt report having fewer migraines and severe headaches the first evidence that dietary sodium may affect the condition. But the researchers caution that more evidence is needed before people change their diets, given that high salt consumption is linked to heart disease and stroke. There is growing evidence linking migraines with sodium. During a migraine, levels of sodium have been found to rise in cerebrospinal fluid, the liquid that bathes the brain and central nervous system. And sodium levels in this liquid seem to peak in the early morning and late afternoon times of day when people commonly report experiencing migraines. Plenty of sodium gets into our bodies via the food we eat. I started to wonder if migraines could be affected by diet, says Michael Harrington at Huntington Medical Research Institutes in Pasadena, California. To find out, he and his colleagues turned to the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey, a US survey of the health and diets of tens of thousands of people. Among other things, the survey asks respondents to list everything they consume over a 24-hour period, and whether they experienced a severe headache or migraine during that time. Of 8819 adults surveyed between 1999 and 2004, the team found that those with the highest levels of sodium in their diets in products like meat, cheese and bread as well as table salt reported the fewest severe headaches and migraines. Harrington says hes surprised by the results as they are counterintuitive. Given that sodium ions are known to activate neurons; we might have expected the relationship to go in the other direction. High sodium levels generally make neurons more excitable, so the idea that they in some way inhibit or prevent migraine activity is puzzling. I think people with migraine handle sodium differently, says Harrington. The theory makes sense, says Svetlana Blitshteyn, who treats and studies nervous system disorders at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in New York. Blitshteyn specialises in disorders of the autonomic nervous system, which controls all our automatic functions, such as heart rate, breathing and urination. Many of her patients have migraines too, and she has noticed that, if they start consuming more salt as a treatment for a different condition, their migraine symptoms often get better although this evidence is only anecdotal and hasnt been published yet. But it is too early to know how safe eating more salt is for people who have migraines, and who might benefit from doing so. We need more evidence before we can make general recommendations, says Blitshteyn. Harrington agrees. Salt has its own risks, and has been linked to heart disease and stroke. Harrington points out that almost all of the people surveyed in his study were on typical US diets, which are already high in salt. Until we know more, the best advice for people with migraines is to eat well and regularly.
New Scientist, 15 August 2016 ;http://www.newscientist.com/ ;