Water Challenge, Clear Urine, & Migraines

“Drink more water” is as old a statement as humanity.

Not too many people know what that means and how dangerous that can be. Even TV show hosts, who are doctors, call for clear urine as the goal. The general population is following whatever this Dr. says on TV even if it is dead wrong. Pun intended.

Clear urine can lead to death. I bet you did not know that!

Urine has a reason to be colored. It takes toxins out of our bodies and toxins are not transparent. A healthy urine is light yellow that you can see through and smell like… well… healthy urine! Not like water. Why is clear urine bad for you? Can too much water hurt you? How and why?

First, let’s look at what urine is and why it needs to have color: urine is used water from our cells that contains toxins from leftover medicines, vitamins, foods, whatever the body used and considers trash or whatever it could not use and considers harmful. Thus urine has a biologically very important function! Clear urine implies that the body is not working! If urine is too dark, it means that there is not enough water to wash all the toxins out so one better drink more water. But how much water? And how does water get to clear toxins?

Cellular biology tells us that cells have little pumps that allow certain nutrients inside, such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, glucose, etc. Water can go through little water channels that need no pumps. Water flows wherever there is less water by osmosis, via the osmotic gradient such that if inside the cell there is more water than outside, water will leave the cell. If there is more water outside than inside the cell, water will head inside. It balances to equalize the two sides in water. In order for it to stay stuck in either side, something must grab a hold of it. It is also important to note that water goes in and out freely because it has no electric charge. But other elements inside the cell, such as sodium, which is positive, cannot use the osmotic gradient. They need electricity to be pushed against density!

Inside the cell sodium (Na+) holds onto water thereby keeping the cells nice and plump–volume hydrated. However, the more water a person drinks, the more water will also enter the inside of cells because of water’s osmotic balancing. Each cell has a certain size that is flexible but not the cells in a person’s head! There is a bone (skull) that encloses all cells and so cell size is limited. Drinking too much water thus puts pressure on the skull. The skull is bone and has no pain sensors. The brain has no pain sensors either. However, there is a little layer of tissue called the meninges that is between the skull and the brain. All brain pain sensors are on the meninges, which is squeezed to death by the pressure of the water building up in the brain, pressing the brain against the skull. This causes headaches and for those who are migraineurs, migraines.

There is another problem, which is called hyponatremia. “Hypo” means not enough and “natria” means sodium (Na+). As more and more water enters the cells, less and less sodium is available to grab water and keep water inside the cells. This ends up in a potential fatal condition of hyponatremia. Sodium has a vital role in brain and other cell health. Sodium is positively charged and is part of sodium chloride (salt) in which chloride (Cl-) is negatively charged. Sodium is inside the cells and chloride is outside. The two create voltage differential such that the cells are able to generate voltage power to function.

Hyponatremia thus also means lack of enough voltage and so the brain and other cells (heart for example) that use voltage stop producing voltage and cell death may follow. When a person goes this far, it becomes known as water toxicity! It is particularly dangerous for athletes since hormones participate in preserving fluids, placing a block to fluid release, thereby further increasing hyponatremia. It is not unheard of that athletes die from too much water; it is also not unheard of that water challenge participants also die of water toxicity. What is less known is that hyponatremia is also responsible for migraines.

Migraine brains have more sensory neuron connections than regular brains and so they use more voltage to run the brain. More voltage use requires more voltage need! However, since the standard of salt intake heads to the “lower is better” dogma, migraineurs pay the price! No wonder we have a migraine epidemic!

So how much water should you drink? And how much salt and other electrolyte minerals/nutrients should you also take a day?

There are a variety of water calculators on the internet. In general the recommended water intake in ounces is half your weight in pounds. So if you weigh 130 lbs, your water intake should be 65 oz or 8.125 glasses of 8 oz water. But this is not totally correct.

Weighing 130 lbs in 120F with 90% humidity, or weighing 130 lbs in -40F with 10% humidity or after a heavy exercise or a sick-day with diarrhea will each lead to a slightly adjusted water intake. A person weighing 130 lbs in 7000 feet elevation needs more water than the same person at sea level! There are many variations. But at least you have a guideline: half your weight in ounces is the minimum you must drink every day in pure water and must also replace salt loss.

Soft drink, coffee, tea, milk, soups, alcohol, smoothies and shakes do not count into this!!! Be aware that water is water and not coffee–coffee is blood vessel constricting and it prevents water from entering your cells. Tea is diuretic (all teas! Even herbal!). All the rest are sugar filled even if you do not add sugar–alcohol is fermented sugar too. The only thing that may matter is soup but how much soup do you eat a day?

What about salt and potassium? The FDA guideline is 4700 mg potassium and between 1500 to 2350 mg sodium. Migraineurs need about 50% more sodium than non-migraineurs so if you are a migraineur, go for the 2350 mg to start with! That is one level teaspoon! If you eat less salt or drink less water, you will get a migraine if you have a migraine-brain, guaranteed!

When you get a migraine, contact me!

Comments are welcome!



Schwedt, T.J., Multisensory Integration in Migraine. Current Opinion in Neurolology, 2013: p. 248-253.

Tso, A.R., et al., The anterior insula shows heightened interictal intrinsic connectivity in migraine without aura. Neurology, 2015: p. 1043-50.

Campbell, D.A., E.M. Tonks, and K.M. Hay, An Investigation of the Salt and Water Balance in Migraine. British Medical Journal, 1951: p. 1424-1429.

Longo, D.L., et al., Harrison’s Manual of Medicine 18th Edition. 2013, New York: McGraw Hill Medical.

Liu, H., et al., Resting state brain activity in patients with migraine: a magnetoencephalography study, in The Journal of headache and Pain. 2015. p. 16-42.

Peter Whoriskey More scientists doubt salt is as bad for you as the
government says April 6 at 8:24 PM, The Washington Post

Cogswell, M.E. et al., Sodium and potassium intakes among US adults: NHANES
2003–2008 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012.

Gautam Bhave, M.D., Ph.D. and Eric G. Neilson, M.D. Volume Depletion versus Dehydration: How Understanding the Difference Can Guide Therapy. American Journal of Kidney Disease 2011 August ; 58(2): 302–309

Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. Institute of Medicine. The National Academic Press. 2005

About Angela A Stanton, Ph.D.

Angela A Stanton, PhD, is a Neuroeconomist focusing on chronic pain--migraine in particular--physiology, electrolyte homeostasis, nutrition, and genetics. She lives in Southern California. Her current research is focused on migraine cause, prevention, and treatment without the use of medicine. As a forever migraineur from childhood, her discovery was helped by experimenting on herself. She found the cause of migraine to be at the ionic level, associated with disruption of the electrolyte homeostasis, resulting from genetic variations of all voltage dependent channels, gates, and pumps (chanelopathy) that modulate electrolyte mineral density and voltage in the brain. In addition, insulin and glucose transporters, and several other variants, such as MTHFR variants of B vitamin methylation process and many others are different in the case of a migraineur from the general population. Migraineurs are glucose sensitive (carbohydrate intolerant) and should avoid eating carbs as much as possible. She is working on her hypothesis that migraine is a metabolic disease. As a result of the success of the first edition of her book and her helping over 5000 migraineurs successfully prevent their migraines world wide, all ages and both genders, and all types of migraines, she published the 2nd (extended) edition of her migraine book "Fighting The Migraine Epidemic: Complete Guide: How To Treat & Prevent Migraines Without Medications". The 2nd edition is the “holy grail” of migraine cause, development, and prevention, incorporating all there is to know. It includes a long section for medical and research professionals. The book is full of academic citations (over 800) to authenticate the statements she makes to make it easy to follow up by those interested and to spark further research interest. It is a "Complete Guide", published on September 29, 2017. Dr. Stanton received her BSc at UCLA in Mathematics, MBA at UCR, MS in Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University, PhD in Economics with dissertation in neuroscience (culminating in Neuroeconomics) at Claremont Graduate University, fMRI certification at Harvard University Medical School at the Martinos Center for Neuroimaging for experimenting with neurotransmitters on human volunteers, certification in LCHF/ketogenic diet from NN (Nutrition Network), certification in physiology (UPEN via Coursea), Nutrition (Harvard Shool of Public Health) and functional medicine studies. Dr. Stanton is an avid sports fan, currently power weight lifting and kickboxing. For relaxation (yeah.. about a half minute each day), she paints and photographs and loves to spend time with her family of husband of 45 years, 2 sons and their wives, and 2 granddaughters. Follow her on Twitter at: @MigraineBook, LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/angelaastantonphd/ and facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DrAngelaAStanton/
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9 Responses to Water Challenge, Clear Urine, & Migraines

  1. Patrick says:

    Hi Angela A Stanton,

    I found your article very instructive going right to the causes to effect and great vulgarisation of what should stay simple.

    I have reccuring headaches for over a decade now and did a lot of search, tests and pain relief temporary solution toward find one day how to cure this.

    I have the prodromes, so may I ask you first why would repeatedly clear water pee occurs during a migraine headache knowing that I also refreshed with water already and don’t think it is dehydration?

    What do you mean exactly when wrote the body doesn’t work well if pee is too clear?
    Sodium deprivation? Is it ok to try eating food rich in sodium or salt?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Patrick,

      Let me explain what clear urine means so you understand what I mean by “your body doesn’t work well if pee is too clear” as you put it.

      To start with, urine is not water but urine. Urine is the combination of water mixed with toxins your body wants to get rid of. These toxins are not colorless and so the color of the “water” leaving as urine should reflect that there are toxins in it. Colorless urine is a sign of “just water” meaning no toxin.

      How can that be? If you have a deficiency or oversupply of either sodium or potassium by having too little or too much of one or the other, water will simply move through “aquaporin” channels, through which most solutes cannot leave either because they are too large or because they have an electric charge and need active transport. Active transport requires sodium and potassium (it also requires other minerals but these two are the most critical).

      The lack of enough salt is also one of the biggest problems in migraine–you can find more information about that in my book “Fighting The Migraine Epidemic: A Complete Guide: How To Treat & Prevent Migraines Without Medicine” that is available everywhere as paperback and as e-book only from amazon. Here is an amazon link for both: https://www.amazon.com/Fighting-Migraine-Epidemic-Complete-Migraines/dp/154697637X/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1518636023&sr=8-1 and you are also welcome to join my migraine group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/MigraineSufferers/

      It is also important to note that sodium is part of salt; 40% or so to be precise. Salt is sodium chloride. In the US salt is not listed on the label, only sodium but in some other countries they list both or only salt.

      Back to the body not working well: if there is not enough sodium or potassium, the active transport doesn’t work efficiently, and the toxins are not fully removed from the cells. If you keep on drinking, the water literally goes in through your mouth and out the other end for no reason; it is unable to clear any toxins.

      There is another scenario that can happen if you drink too much water and you are diluting what minerals you have in your electrolyte by drinking too much water. Too much water creates insufficient electrolyte mineral density. This can lead to water toxicity, which can be fatal.

      To be sure you are properly hydrated, you need to calculate how much water you need–as a migraineur by “water need” we mean only water you drink and not what comes with your food! Very important distinction. And then you need to follow the right amount of sodium and potassium, by eating a potassium-high diet (not in fruits but meat, fish, non-starchy high fiber veggies) with the right balance of sodium (salt). For more information, please read my book and join my migraine group.

      See you there,


  2. Migraineur says:

    Fantastic article! thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Holly Kelly says:

    I’ve suffered from migraines since I was in high school. I’m 30 now. I have a variety of factors that contribute to my migraines, but what do you know about salt supplementation and high endurance activity? Even with proper hydration days before the activity I always find myself getting a migraine after a long hike in the mountains. Would you recommend salt supplementation daily (if my diet is normally low in salt) or only during activity. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Be Healthy says:

      Hi Holly,

      Great question and the answer is yes to salt supplementation. You cannot “pre-hydrate” your body for a hike enough. You need to keep on hydrating during the hike and after. There are three ways to properly hydrate:

      1) put salt into your bottle of water and drink as you bike
      2) take salt pill as you bike and after (that is harder to do during biking but if you hate the taste, that is an option)
      3) drink whole milk after bike. Milk is more hydrating than any other fluid–there are several articles on this but this one is an easy to read summary.

      Also, low salt diet is actually dangerous. A study in The Lancet came out just recently showing that for healthy people, the less salt they eat the more likely they will end up with heart trouble. I would show the image of the data I created but as a comment I cannot enter an image only a link and it is not online without access to that academic article. It is also the case that when you perspire you lose salt as well as water so you need to replace salt as well as water.

      I wish you the best,


  4. Linda says:

    Does your protocol work for all kinds of
    headaches? Not sure if mine are migraines. They are daily but not servere. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Linda,

      The protocol is specific to migraine though some people who tried it for cluster and stress headaches said it also helps. To tell if you have migraines or not, you need to see if you have any “prodromes” which are symptoms that show often hours before the migraine and can last through the migraine. Some common prodoromes are:
      – auras (only 20% of people have them though but most well known),
      – nausea
      – vomiting
      – irritable, nervous, anxious
      – sensitive to bright light, smells, noises, touch
      – irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
      – restless leg syndrome (RLS)
      – dizziness
      – vertigo
      – difficulty coming up with simple words
      – stuttering
      – garbled words
      – one eye is smaller than the other
      – constipation
      – extreme urination

      These are the most common but there are at least 100 more. If you have any of these before or during your headache, you are likely having a migraine. However, with all this said and done, if you do have this symptoms, first you need to have all other medical possible conditions excluded–like cysts or tumors or other conditions that may cause migraines such as a pinched nerve in the neck or upper back, sinus infection, ear infection. These are typical to show up as migraines when in fact they are not but they may lead to migraines. In these cases you need to have these causes treated and if you still have pain then consider it as migraine.

      I hope this is helpful!



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