New research suggests that a diet high in salt may be responsible for headaches. Previously, research had suggested that headaches were linked to high blood pressure, and high blood pressure caused headaches, but now researchers suspect that salt is an independent cause of headaches.
Exploring the Link between Salt and Headaches
In this study, published in the BMJ Open, researchers looked at the incidence of headaches in people on either a typical American diet or the DASH diet. DASH stands for Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension–it’s a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, and overall a reduced consumption of fat.
They found that the incidence of headaches was similar for people on either diet. However, there was a significant difference between people who ate a diet higher in sodium and those who ate less sodium. The people with the higher sodium intake had about a third fewer headaches than those who had lower sodium intake.
How to Reduce Sodium Intake
If you think that sodium might be at least partly to blame for your headaches, you can try to reduce sodium intake.
The best thing you can do to reduce your sodium intake is to cook more of your food from scratch. Prepared foods tend to contain a lot of sodium. This includes foods like jarred pasta sauce. Starting with tomato paste as opposed to tomato sauce can make a big difference in your sodium consumption.
Foods prepared at restaurants–especially fast food restaurants–use a lot of salt in preparing your food. You can ask about added salt in your foods and try to avoid foods that have added salt, but you’re probably still going to get more than you would at home.
Use labels to guide you to lower-sodium alternatives. When you do use canned foods, you can also reduce sodium intake by rinsing the food before eating.
Still Have Headaches?
If you have reduced your sodium content but haven’t noticed any reduction in the frequency or severity of your headaches, it may be that diet was never your problem. Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) is a common, but often unrecognized, cause of headaches. If you haven’t been able to get help from your doctor in reducing headaches or if your current headache treatment isn’t working, perhaps TMJ treatment can help.
To learn whether it can help you, please call (803) 781-9090 for an appointment with a Columbia, SC TMJ dentist at Smile Columbia Dentistry today.