Migraine headaches, does drinking matter? Let’s try to answer!

Author: Francois

Like me, I’m sure you’ve heard this one at least once: “Oh, you are having a migraine? You should drink and it will go away!” I still hear it from time to time, and I wanted to find a way to help all who had headaches and migraines. When our Migraine Buddy data team told me we could check hydration as a trigger, or “risk factor” as I like calling it, I immediately started asking them barrages of questions to see what we could conclude. But as always with migraines and headaches, the conclusions did not appear immediately.

The First Approach

First of all, we all know the basic answer: drinking loads of water won’t magically stop your headache or your migraine! Treatment is not as easy as simply drinking a lot of water daily. Of course, being dehydrated can cause a headache. This is often called a dehydration headache, and this one will go away relatively easily if you drink water, and your body manages to absorb it fast enough.

How do we know if we need to include more water in our diet? More accurately, how do we know if we are dehydrated? Our hypothesis is this: if dehydration is a key factor in triggering migraine headaches, maybe when the weather is hotter during July – August, we would see a moderate increase of migraine and headache based on dehydration. How can we check?

  • How often is dehydration declared as a suspected trigger? 8.6% of the reported triggers are “dehydration”.
  • Do we see more attacks during July to August? Yes! There is an increase in the trigger reported as “dehydration”.

At this point, we were unsure how to interpret the results. 8.6% of the suspected triggers are not a large number, as most people often suspect multiple triggers for an attack. Perhaps it was a case of correlation but not causation? Maybe the summer heat and consequently dehydration was not causing this increase in attacks during July-August.

Challenging One Hypothesis at a Time

Someone on the Migraine Buddy team asked:

Australia! Let’s check if Australia shows the same increase in attacks as the northern hemisphere countries, but in December to January!

Great idea! Now let’s check where summer is winter!

This is what we got. In this picture, you can see the average minimum and maximum temperature recorded in Sydney, Australia.

Average min and max temperatures in Sydney, Australia   Copyright © 2021  weather-and-climate.com

Here is the same information for Atlanta, USA.

Average min and max temperatures in Atlanta, United States of America   Copyright © 2021  weather-and-climate.com

To no one’s surprise, the peak for the highest temperature was in January and December for Australia. So how is it that dehydration as a trigger was only calculated as 8.6% of total triggers? Is the weather or pressure variation in summer a possible explanation? Is it something else like the lack of Vitamin D because people don’t go out in the summer? I doubt it!

Dehydration May not be the First Domino…

We were stuck for now and took a break. We spent some time working on our research with partners for the new Migraine Buddy Weather reports and the new Trigger reports, a massive milestone for the team.

This is when the idea became obvious: the trigger report was designed to solve the domino effect of triggers. I define this as the overwhelming sensation people face when trying to identify which trigger to focus on and control. In most cases, people discover more than 1 potential trigger that they could be reacting to.

File:Domino effect 003.gif

Triggers are like a domino effect. Is dehydration one of your dominos?

Can you anchor it and stop the movement? To complicate things, these triggers may also be sensitivities that influence each other, like dominos pushing each other down in a row. It’s like how when you’re stressed, you eat more junk food, have worse sleep, and others! All of those add up and affect your migraine threshold and the conditions of your attack.

What domino effect can we suspect around dehydration? Could dehydration be hidden in another trigger? The first thing that came to mind was alcohol, but that is easy to control and track trigger.

We represented the logic on the board with a Venn diagram, which helped us represent potential areas where you could also be dehydrated.

Now, we had to do a classification of those triggers. We manually classified and reviewed the triggers and were rewarded with certain important insights. Indeed, we found more than 900 suspected triggers potentially associated with dehydration. Usually, these complementary triggers would be environment-related or activity-related.

From the observation of 26 million suspected triggers associated with migraine and headache attacks (as recorded by Migraine Buddy users contributing to research), we can conclude that dehydration is a suspected component in at least 20% of all triggers.

Migraine Buddy and the Healint Team

I hope this article answered your questions! We can only do it thanks to the Migraine Buddy community. In the meantime, please hydrate yourself as much as possible. Your body will thank you!

Migraine Buddy and Further Research

We want to push this research further to reach even more actionable conclusions! Please send in any of your suggestions for further research to the Migraine Buddy team through jenny@healint.com

Make your suggestions today!

Jenny from Migraine Buddy

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