Have you ever wondered why we feel better on sunny days and have unexplained headaches and fatigue when it’s grey and miserable outside? While the connection between weather conditions and well-being is evident on many occasions, scientifically it is not well researched and still unclear. Bio-meteorology is the only interdisciplinary study that looks into the relationship between atmospheric conditions and people.
Rapid drops in atmospheric pressure may affect blood pH, blood pressure and tissue permeability. There are well-researched and known ways weather can effect human health, such as joint pain during the cold front, and less researched, but quite common symptoms that affect cardiovascular system and cause headaches and fluctuations in blood pressure. In this article, I would like to concentrate on the potential connection between atmospheric conditions and migraines and elevated blood pressure.
There is anecdotal evidence that weather can affect vasodilation or vasoconstriction, but not enough scientific evidence as to why this is happening and what can be done to alleviate the symptoms. Some scientists believe that a rapid change in weather – and possibly the ionization of the air – can alter the chemical balance in the human body, causing painful conditions such as headaches. Low air pressure, thickening clouds, rising humidity and temperature fluctuations appear to trigger or aggravate more migraine attacks than any other weather pattern. But why is this happening? Studies suggest that natural electromagnetic field influences brain patterns, irritates nerves and changes body chemistry. There is also a possible negative effect of changes in the earth’s electromagnetic field during solar storms on headaches and migraines, but this is not well researched. More evidence is available, however, to support the theory of ionization as trigger. Ions are particles in the air with either too many negative electrons (negatively charged), or with missing electrons (positively charged). Positive ionization is said to cause the release of excessive serotonin into the bloodstream. It results in constriction and dilation of blood vessels in the brain and the back of the eye. This triggers the headache or migraine and can also affect our eyesight.
The reduction of solar radiation by cloud cover may also affect our well-being. By increasing the brightness level, the autonomic nervous system is affected by constriction changes in the eye pupil. This increases the rate of physical activity and leads to a general feeling of well-being. The sun’s rays cause chemical changes in neurotransmitter or hormone synthesis in the brain, perhaps stimulating production of the hormone epinephrine, which stimulates the mind and body. On the other hand, lack of light is often associated with states of relaxation, tiredness, and sleepiness. So this might be the reason we feel lazy and drowsy on the rainy day.
Unfortunately we can not escape weather changes, but we can try to control the way it affects us:
- avoid foods and drinks that further affect vasoconstriction, such as caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, smoking, etc.
- make sure that you sleep enough but do not oversleep. It is very tempting to stay in bed longer on a grey rainy day, but it can further contribute to headache and lethargy.
- try to avoid stress – just do whatever you can do at work and leave the brainstorming sessions for another day.
- take a good multivitamin supplement and add magnesium on top. Nitric Oxide (NO) helps to dilate blood vessels too and available as a supplement. Beetroot is a very rich source of NO.
- try to avoid antihistamines and decongestants as these medications constrict blood vessels.
- go for a jog or do some other moderately intensive exercise – preferably outside. I know this might be the last thing on your mind, but exercise does promote vasodilation and increases the blood flow, which helps to avoid headache. It also gives you energy and brightens your mood.
- try to be outside more often. Even if it’s just going off one stop earlier before your destination and walking – it is still better then nothing. One of the theories regarding why we are so susceptible to weather changes, is the fact that we spend too much time indoors. In theory – the more you expose yourself to the world outside your door – the less atmospheric changes will affect you. Try to go for a walk in the park or a light jog even if it’s raining – you’ll feel much better after exposing yourself to it.
- get yourself a day lamp for sunshine simulation. Some people say it helps. Air Ioniser might help also. In fact, it has been researched as a potential treatment for SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and depression.
This article is inspired by my sister and my mom, who are “walking barometers” and have always been greatly affected by the weather.