Headaches after riding? Not anymore!

Since I started back riding 6 years ago, I’ve experienced headaches after most of my harder rides. These headaches would always turn into a migraine if I didn’t find a way to stop them. As a migraine sufferer since I was a child [some come on instantly], every headache turns into a migraine unless I find a way to stop it. Sure in the past, I have relied on my share of pharmaceuticals – both prescription and OTC. They did not help and only gave me new problems! When I started waking up to a healthier lifestyle many years ago, I started looking for natural means to take care of these torturous episodes. Over time, I found many that helped. I also determined most of the causes for these headaches/migraines. Yet, the ones I would get after riding were the most elusive and continued to escape me. I couldn’t figure out why I got them, and they tended to be the hardest, if not impossible, to stop.

Until now.

I know I’m not the only one who experiences this problem. I have a good friend who experiences the same thing after certain rides. I’ve heard of others having this problem, too. So when I discover an answer to something, I’m always excited to share it in the hopes that it will help others, too. Caveat though – every individual is different. So while this works for me, it may or may not work for you. (Keep in mind. I’m not a doctor, and you should always consult your health-care giver before trying “something new”.) So with that bit of CMA [cover my…umm…arse-sets] out of the way, let’s get into the meat of the matter.

I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts and on at least one podcast the book, “Your Body’s Many Cries For Water” and other books by Dr. Batmanghelidj (aka Dr. Batman for short). In the aforementioned book, he devotes an entire chapter to salt. I was surprised by what I read. I had no idea of the importance of sodium in our diets. The main (achem…lame)-stream media has done a great job striking fear into people’s hearts on this very necessary mineral. Do some people consume too much? Do some people need to be concerned? Yes to both but not everyone…not even close. I read the chapter with great interest and started taking in a tad more salt, but it wasn’t until I read another one of his many books, “Allergies, Asthma and Lupus”, that I started getting more “Ah-Ha’s”, paying more attention and increasing my salt consumption even more. However, it turns out that it still wasn’t enough.

Last month, I began to take an even greater notice of my eating and drinking habits and how my body responded to various factors. One day, I had an inspiration, but let me backtrack for a moment, first. A couple years ago, I had already made the connection that if I wasn’t consuming enough water during and after my rides that my appetite would double, triple or worse. I, also, knew that if I didn’t drink enough that a headache was certain. So on this day, I had consumed a great many fluids but hadn’t had much in the way of salt. The true Eureka! moment came when I found myself adding more and more salt to a certain dish I was eating. I just couldn’t get it to the level where my palate was satisfied. I finally realized that I had just added a ½ tsp of salt to my dish in order to make my tongue happy. Flash! Off went another light bulb. I remembered from Dr. Batman’s books that when salt hits the tongue, it sends a signal to the brain that isn’t received if one bypasses the tongue and consumes, for example, a salt pill. Then, I asked myself, “What if I need even MORE salt?” I do tend to perspire quite a bit when riding. So perhaps, I was vastly underestimating my need for salt all this time.

That’s not all. It turns out that certain hormones, namely progesterone cause the body to lose sodium. So while men have a bit of this hormone, it’s more of an issue for women.


So, I have been taking twice the salt that I was previously. I used to add it to my drinks a while back but quickly dropped that method. I simply didn’t care for the constant taste of salt in my drinks. So, how do I take it? Straight on to the tongue. I let it dissolve to a certain degree and then quickly wash it down with 8-16oz of water. What dose do I consume? I would share that part, but you need to do your own research on the topic. I highly recommend Dr. Batmanghelidj’s books. Also if you are low carb, your sodium requirements are much higher than everyone else’s. (I wanted to include that because more and more athletes are turning to the low carb way of life and need to be aware of the facts in this regard. See books by Dr. Jeff Volek, PhD, RD & Dr. Stephen Phinney MD, PhD.)

How have things been since I’ve increased my intake? Awesome! No more headaches or migraines!!

Well…except once when first, I pulled a “forgetful card”, and then, I pulled a “dunce card” after that. You see on one day, I completely blanked in the morning and failed to take in any sodium. Oops. I went for a quick ride later that morning. When I arrived back home, it hit me. However because I did such a brief ride, I ASSumed that I wouldn’t need as much. Oh, never mind the fact that it was extremely humid, and as a result, I sweat a river, enough to drench my clothes and then some. Yeah, let’s ignore that part. D’oh! What happened? Ha! I ended up having the worst migraine I’d experienced in probably 2 years. “Here’s your sign! That will teach you!” Yep. It sure did.

Since then, I’ve been almost OCD about making certain I get enough sodium in my body each day. Now, those after-ride headaches are a thing of the past! Yeah! ::slamdunk:: Score one for the natural way of curing issues!!

Plus, you know what? That increased salt intake has had some additional positive effects on my body. I’ll save that for another post. Stay tuned!