Your Brain's Cries for Water
Did you know that dehydration headache can manifest itself as a migraine, hangover, or tension headache? Many headache types are at least partly, if not mostly due to dehydration. Surprised? Maybe you wouldn't be if you knew that the brain is only about 2% of your body weight, but it gets approximately 20% of your circulation! It is about 85% water and runs on hydroelectric power or sugar, so when it is not getting the circulation it needs... it starts screaming - creating a dehydration headache.
Migraine (Dehydration) Headache
Migraines are created by a variety of factors involving blood vessels in the brain, nerves, and musculoskeletal factors which can all be influenced by dehydration. Headache develops when all the factors exceed a certain threshold. So, as an example, you might have trigger points in the muscles that create your headache, but if you don't get the increased circulation in the brain or get the nerves in the brain to precipitate a headache, it doesn't develop. So how does this relate to dehydration headache? Well, according to Dr. Batmanghelidj, author of Your Body's Many Cries for Water, the neurological component can be created by cellular dehydration. This is brought on by increased body temperature without extra water intake, such as sleeping with too many bed covers; alcohol, which directly dehydrates the brain; or dietary and allergic triggers which promote the release of histamine. Remember that a chronic state of dehydration will raise histamine levels and make you more likely to react to allergens. (See
for more info.)
In addition to "upsetting your brain", dehydration will also irritate the trigger points in your muscles. Remember that trigger points are little balls in the muscle that create pain in close and/or distant areas of your body and hurt when you push on them. So these little buggers are often the pain generator in a migraine. For more info see Causes of Migraine Headache.
If that weren't enough, dehydration will also affect blood flow, influencing the third major factor in a migraine. As blood volume drops and blood thickens, your body has to raise your blood pressure, and your heart has to beat faster and harder to move the blood throughout your body. Since your brain is receiving about 20% of the blood volume, it will naturally be affected.
Dr. Batmanghelidj sums it up by saying that migraine seems to be an indicator of critical temperature regulation in times of "heat stress", and that dehydration plays a major role in precipitating migraines. For treatment options, visit Treatment for Migraine Headaches.
Hangover Dehydration Headache
When the body is mildly to moderately dehydrated, it has mechanisms to be able to keep the brain and nerves hydrated, as they are strongly dependant on water. However, when alcohol is taken into the body, it takes away this ability by suppressing the release of vasopressin, causing a general dehydration. It also decreases the body's ability to selectively filter water into the brain, so the brain becomes severely dehydrated. To cope with this stress, the brain produced endorphins producing the "buzz" that alcohol gives you. When the endorphins wear off and the brain is still dehydrated, you are left with a headache... so coffee is the last thing you should drink for a hangover! (It will just dehydrate you further.) So drink water and balance it with salt... For more info, visit
Treatment of Dehydration.
Tension Dehydration Headache
Dehydration irritates muscles, causing spasms and pain, which activate trigger points. Tension headaches are created by trigger points, so it follows that one of the ways you can activate your trigger points and create a tension headache is by becoming dehydrated. These headaches can be in any part of your head and should be treated with an increase in water and salt. For more info, visit
Treatment of Dehydration.
You may also want to address the trigger points that are involved. Find your headache pattern at What Causes Headache.
For other effects of dehydration, visit
Effects of Dehydration
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