Dehydration, of any cause, can cause migraines.

Many (or most) people have not thought much about the role dehydration may play in the following scenario: go out for a few drinks, have more than planned, enjoy every moment, and wake up with a terrible migraine. While alcohol can cause migraines for several reasons, dehydration is one common cause.

Several observational studies reported water deprivation as both a trigger and prolonger of headaches and migraines. It has been hypothesized that migraines resulting from water deprivation reflect changes in the intracranial hydration level and total plasma volume.

Keeping hydrated prevents dehydration migraines

People that suffer from dehydration migraines know to keep hydrated, preferably not with sodas or sugary drinks. One ME user reports getting dehydration migraines on occasions like playing tennis in the hot sun while on vacation and forgetting to keep drinking. Result: Self inflicted migraine that needs a few hours lying quietly in a dark room. Now he uses ME if it happens.

Does drinking water clear a migraine?

If dehydration can cause migraines, it seems reasonable to assume that drinking water is a great idea when trying to get rid of them.

In one of the few studies that examined the role of water intake in headache symptoms, a group of people suffering from chronic headaches was instructed to consume an additional volume of 1.5 liters water/day in addition  to what they normally consumed.

Water slightly reduces migraine duration and intensity

This University of North Carolina Department of Nutrition study found that water intake did not reduce the number of headache episodes but did reduce their duration and intensity. (1)

A Maastricht University Department of General Practice study showed that increasing water intake in patients suffering from chronic headaches produced a small reduction in the total number of hours and intensity of headaches episodes. (2)

Yet another Maastricht University Department of General Practice study found that an increase in the daily water by 1.5 litre slightly improved migraine symptoms. (3)

The findings of these studies are promising, as we have at least three studies that basically say the same thing: drinking more water may make your migraine episodes a little more bearable. This may also mean drinking more water will help you avoid excessive medication and feel better during the day.


If you are suffering from migraines and are considering increasing your daily water intake, keep in mind that overhydration can lead to hyponatremia, a dangerous (sometimes fatal) condition in which sodium drops too much.

Overhydration is rare in healthy individuals and occurs when a high quantity of water is consumed in a very short period of time. In other words, drinking more water is still good advice, in most cases, but binge drinking is as bad or worse than binge eating.

Even someone who is not suffering from migraines should arguably drink at least 8 cups of water per day and eat fluid-rich foods in order to maintain a proper balance of fluids and electrolytes and function at the optimal level.

Your body is constantly engaged in a constellation of biological processes that are in a way or another influenced by water and achieving or maintaining an optimal hydration level is highly recommended for people with and without migraines.

  1. Popkin, B. M., D'anci, K. E., & Rosenberg, I. H. (2010). Water, hydration, and health. Nutrition reviews68(8), 439-458.

  2. Spigt, M. G., Kuijper, E. C., Schayck, C. P., Troost, J., Knipschild, P. G., Linssen, V. M., & Knottnerus, J. A. (2005). Increasing the daily water intake for the prophylactic treatment of headache: a pilot trial. European journal of neurology12(9), 715-718.

  3. Spigt, M., Weerkamp, N., Troost, J., van Schayck, C. P., & Knottnerus, J. A. (2011). A randomized trial on the effects of regular water intake in patients with recurrent headaches. Family practice29(4), 370-375.