In some situations, consuming salt may help relieve migraine symptoms. However, it can cause it in others. Your doctor can help you better understand how sodium levels may affect your symptoms.

Migraine episodes can happen for a lot of different reasons.

One of them is a mineral deficiency, including sodium. Migraine symptoms caused by a sodium deficiency might be treatable with salt water at the right dose.

But the evidence isn’t clear that salt water alone can treat migraine headaches — and having too much sodium in your diet can actually make you more likely to have migraine episodes when you can’t sustain your sodium intake.

Read on to learn more about what the research says about salt water for migraine relief and other information you can use to understand the relationship between migraine episodes, sodium, and other minerals that your body needs.

Migraine symptoms caused by low blood sodium (known as hyponatremia) might be treatable by increasing your sodium intake. There are two main reasons for this, but the second one might surprise you.

First, migraine episodes can be triggered by dehydration, especially if you’re sweating during exercise or extreme heat, which causes your body to lose a lot of sodium.

Drinking water with high salt levels can help hydrate you and increase your sodium levels, which can help treat your migraine symptoms.

Second, migraine episodes can result from not consuming as much salt in your diet as your body might be used to.

A 2021 review draws a close link between the high levels of sodium in processed foods and migraine as a withdrawal symptom from these heightened levels of sodium.

If you skip meals or reduce your sodium intake, you might trigger a migraine and crave salty food or water until you consume enough sodium to satisfy your body’s cravings.

Sodium also causes you to retain a lot of fluid in your body (edema), including fluid around your brain — part of a condition called neurogenic inflammation that may play a role in migraine symptoms.

Edema is also a common symptom right before migraine episodes hit, along with peeing more frequently (polyuria) and losing more sodium in the urine. Consuming sodium and other minerals in salt water can help restore sodium lost in urine.

Can you actually drink salt water?

Yes and no. While salt is an important element for your body to function properly, drinking saltwater on a regular basis isn’t considered healthy. You may also find it highly unpalatable, and large quantities could make you nauseous.

When treating a migraine headache with salt water, you should add no more than a pinch of salt to a full glass of water.

You may find it more enjoyable to get salt from food like potato chips or a sports drink that’s high in electrolytes. Some athletes or others who sweat a lot in their day-to-day work may also be recommended salt pills, but it’s best to discuss it with a doctor before adding them to your diet.

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Can eating salt help treat migraine symptoms?

There’s other interesting research behind the link between ingesting sodium and migraine episodes.

An older 2016 study of over 8,800 adults in the United States found that people often reported fewer migraine symptoms with higher dietary sodium intake.

This suggests that maintaining high sodium in your diet might prevent migraine symptoms simply because your body is accustomed to high sodium in the average American diet.

But this doesn’t mean that consuming salt will always treat a migraine, especially if you don’t eat a high sodium diet typically. And a high sodium diet or drinking too much salt water has its own risks, including:

Eating too much salt is a common trigger for migraine symptoms.

A 2021 study of 224 females and 38 males found a link between high blood sodium levels and how long migraine episodes last — suggesting that more salt might actually make your migraine worse.

Salt can also increase your blood pressure, which can trigger migraine episodes.

A 2023 study assigned 213 people to either a high sodium diet or low sodium diet. The results suggest that reducing salt intake lowered blood pressure, a common cause of headaches and migraine symptoms.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about saltwater for migraine episodes.

Does drinking electrolytes help treat migraine symptoms?

Drinking electrolytes can help treat migraine symptoms caused by dehydration and reduced blood sodium.

Other electrolytes like potassium also help improve migraine symptoms along with sodium.

Does drinking water help treat migraine symptoms?

Drinking water can help treat migraine symptoms caused by dehydration, and staying hydrated may also help prevent headaches and other symptoms caused by dehydration.

Can a salt water bath help relieve migraine symptoms?

There’s no evidence that a saltwater bath, specifically, can help relieve migraine symptoms. However, some studies have shown that a hot bath, in general, can help relieve headache symptoms.

A 2022 review also suggests that a cold shower or bath could help temporarily relieve migraine symptoms.

Saltwater can help relieve migraine symptoms caused by dehydration or low blood sodium.

But salt water isn’t always the best treatment for migraine symptoms — contact a medical professional if you have migraine symptoms that aren’t going away with hydration or other home treatments like pain relievers.