Dehydration Headaches

Some of you have complained to me about headaches that pop up seemingly out of nowhere. I’ve heard about headaches that start small and suddenly jump to feeling like your whole head is throbbing and about to explode. I’ve heard about headaches that just sit in one spot on your head driving you crazy. I’ve heard about that headache that’s just annoying when you’re sitting still, but moving your head at all is enough to spike your pain and make you feel like you’re about to be sick. No, you’re not the only one. Most of my clients have, at one point or another, complained about headaches that feel like they show up out of nowhere and won’t go away no matter what.

I have a simple question you should all be asking yourselves – “Could my headaches be caused by dehydration?”  If you have been a client of mine for any length of time, you know that I am always pushing the importance of drinking enough water. You’re probably tired of hearing it at this point – but deal with it. You’re going to hear about it again. Drinking the right amount of water for you every day without fail may help keep your headaches at bay. Dr. Howard LeWine of Harvard University is quoted as saying that “Dehydration causing headaches is much more common than is generally recognized in the medical profession.” – see? It’s not just me. Harvard says so, too.

So what do you do if you find yourself beginning to get a headache that you suspect might be caused by dehydration? According to Dr. LeWine, the first thing to do is take a deep breath and relax, then reach for some water. Slowly drink about 32 oz and try to hold still. I am going to stress that you should drink it SLOWLY. Drinking water too quickly can make your headache worse and if you’re feeling nauseated along with the headache, too much water too quickly can send you over the edge and cause vomiting. Nobody wants that. That’s not only going to hurt, but will actually just make your dehydration worse. If you can avoid sunlight or bright lights, do so. Give yourself an hour or two of deep breathing and slow drinking before you go reaching for your go-to headache medicines.

If getting enough water into your system per day sounds like a big deal, try some simple tricks to sneak it in there. Set alarms to remind you to drink something! Most people can chug 8 oz of water without a problem in just a few gulps. All you need to do is do that 8 to 10 times a day and you’re there! I’m noticing more and more of you are wearing FitBits – you can program alarms into them. The good thing is they’re silent vibrating alarms that aren’t going to bother your coworkers and that you’re not going to miss since your FitBit should be on your wrist all day. Honestly, after a week or so – most people I know who try this method end up going through the water before the alarm goes off just to avoid having to listen to or feel it. Alarms are just annoying.

Start your day by drinking 24 oz of water when you wake up. Most kids character cups hold about 12 oz of water. Knock back one, walk around, dress a kid, brush some teeth, whatever. Then drink another. Before you’ve even walked out the door for the day you’ve got 24 oz out of the way. You’d be amazed how many of you tell me you don’t drink anything at all until you get to work – and then you’re usually starting with coffee. Coffee is not water. It does not count.

Try keeping a 32 oz cup with a lid and a straw with you. How many times have you idly sipped at a drink and not realized you had finished it until you heard the slurping sound at the end? If you can do it with a Double Dr. Caf-Wow (I should trademark that) then you can do it with some water. Toss in a lemon or lime wedge for some flavor if you need it.

Finally, try to remember that your hydration needs aren’t just dependent on it being hot. Factor in how much you weigh, your activity level, the weather, your elevation, your stress level, etc. It’s a safe estimate that you should be drinking a ½ oz for every lb of body weight – but that may not always be best. If you have questions, feel free to contact me. Remember, my goal is your overall health and well being – I would rather you ask questions and be just as committed as I am than not ask any questions and feel alone and discouraged.

Remember, It’s cool to be a loser!

–          Alison

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