Low Potassium and Migraines: Is there a Link?

low potassium and migrainesWhenever I am researching migraines or talking to other migraine suffers I am amazed at what can cause migraines.  The one that I came across today that sparked my interest is the link between low levels of potassium and migraines.  Since I recently have had an increase in my migraines and at the same time have had more muscle cramps I decided it was time to look in to this.

What is Potassium

Potassium is a mineral that when dissolved in liquid becomes an electrolyte.  Potassium helps your organs and tissues function properly.  Additionally it helps maintain your fluid levels helping to keep blood pressure stable.

A low level of potassium is called hypokalemia.  This can cause constipation, fatigue, abnormal heart beat, muscle weakness, muscle spasms and headaches.  Too much potassium can also be a problem, and can cause stomach pain, irregular heart beat and weakness.

Causes of Low Potassium

While the natural thought would be that diet is the cause there are other reasons why you might have low potassium.  These can include: antibiotics, diarrhea, vomiting, sweating, ibuprofen use and magnesium deficiency.

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Why Low Potassium May Trigger a Migraine

As is usual for migraines, the medical community is not sure why or if there really is a correlation that has been scientifically proven between migraines and low potassium.  However, there is enough evidence that some prescription pain killers actually have potassium in them!

In my research I immediately narrowed in on a few of the causes for low potassium: vomiting, ibuprofen use and magnesium deficiency.  All of these can be tied to migraines:

  • Those of us unfortunate enough to experience vomiting may be lowering how much potassium is in our body.
  • Those of use using ibuprofen might have the trait that causes our bodies to become depleted.
  • Magnesium has also been linked to migraines

Therefore it is reasonable to see that if we are not eating enough fruits and veggies to get the right potassium and we have another factor that comes into play that we might have migraines triggered by low potassium.

What can You Do

Since this is one of those areas that is a bit in the grey, you should reach out to your doctor and discus this and have a blood test to check out your potassium levels.  Do not just randomly take a supplement for potassium without your doctor as too much potassium is also bad for you.

You could in the mean time you can track how much potassium you eat and also increase the amount of foods you eat that contain potassium.  Fruits and veggies are a great way to add potassium to your diet, below is a list of foods high in potassium to get you started.  To track your intake use an app such as My Fitness Pal.  I use this and love it because it tracks my food and calories and it also tracks potassium and some vitamins.  Don’t forget to keep using a migraine diary to see if you can find the correlation for you.

Foods with Potassium

  • Bananas
  • Potatoes
  • Cantaloupe
  • Raisins
  • Broccoli
  • Meat – red meat and chicken
  • Soy

As with any medical problem you are trying to solve, check in with your doctor to ensure your safety.  In the meantime, eat an extra banana or two!

Your Turn – Do you watch your potassium levels and have you ever noticed a correlation between your migraines and potassium?

Resources:

http://nutrition.about.com/od/foodfun/p/potassium_foods.htm

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/219477.php

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000479.htm

 

Comments

  1. Dawn Herring says:

    I’ve had 3-4 (?migraine) headaches this week, and coincidentally my doctor called me to report my potassium was low. I decided to check online for a possible connection.

  2. Just FYI my 13 yr old daughter has had migraines for the last 2 years and lately they have occurred during her soccer matches and practices. I had noticed that she also had some muscle cramps so I decided to up her hydration and potassium levels pre activity. Guess what…no migraines for the last 6 months. She went from 2 per week to none in 6 months. There is definitely a link here.

  3. awesome. Going to treat my mom with potassium bicarbonate, 2 tsp per day for her migraines.

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