Does Low Vitamin D Cause Headaches?

Does Low Vitamin D Cause Headaches?

Vitamin D is a critical nutrient for health, even though it has been historically overlooked. Nowadays, there is increasing recognition that we need vitamin D and that many people may not be getting enough.

In particular, vitamin D deficiency is much more common than many people realize and it is also very difficult to recognize. Many of the symptoms are fairly generic and may be associated with a range of different conditions.

This includes feelings of fatigue (1,2,3), generalized aches and pains (4,5,6), depression (7,8,9) and a compromised immune system function (10,11).

One related question is: Does low vitamin D cause headaches?

With the various symptoms discussed above, this kind of impact does make sense. In light of this new studies are coming out focusing on this question.  

Current Research

With the growing interest in vitamin D, there has been a considerable amount of research conducted about the effects of vitamin D deficiency on the body.

Nevertheless, research on any single area or symptom is typically limited. After all, there are many different possible interactions between a nutrient and the body. This also means that any given deficiency could cause a large range of symptoms.

In a similar way, a single symptoms can come from many different issues. For example, the site The Hearty Soul highlights some other deficiencies that can cause headaches.

These patterns create major challenges and make it harder to find all of the outcomes of a deficiency. Nevertheless, there has been some research that focuses on the connection between vitamin D levels and headaches.

One recent study considered serum concentrations of 25(OH)D in older men. The compound 25(OH)D acts as a measure of vitamin D and is commonly used in many research studies.

In this particular research piece, the authors found that the average concentration of 25(OH)D in men with frequent headache was 38.3 nmol/L. In contrast, the average for those without frequent headaches was 43.9 nmol/L and the difference was statistically significant.

As a result, men with frequent headaches tended to have lower vitamin D levels than those that did not (12).

A similar outcome was found in a large-scale study that considered the general population. In this case, the research involved 11,614 participants, making it a particularly interesting study.

The authors found that there was a significant association between low vitamin D levels and headaches.

However, this only applied to non-migraine headaches and not for migraines (13).

Now, both studies are observational, so they cannot prove that the headaches were caused by vitamin D. However, the pattern is too important to ignore.

Research also indicates that vitamin D supplements may be relevant for people that suffer from headaches. In particular, one study found that vitamin D supplementation could help to decrease the frequency of migraines among patients who have them regularly (14).

Recent research focused on 157 patients, both men and women with a average age of 37. Of those in the study 77.1  percent were diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency. The study indicated that headaches occurred 20 percent more frequently ( 1.20 times greater ) in those patients who had a vitamin D deficiency, represented by serum D levels of ( < 20 mg/mL ).The study did not link headache severity to vitamin D deficiency.          

However, not all studies agree with this idea.

For example, one study found that supplementation with vitamin D did not affect headaches or experienced pain (15). Here the supplementation levels were 25 or 10 ug/day, which translates to 1,000 or 400 IU, respectively.

The Balance of Evidence

Realistically, the question ‘does low vitamin D cause headaches?’ is a challenging one to answer.

There simply hasn’t been enough research on the topic to really know.

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Likewise, the studies that have been conducted use different approaches and methods. This makes it hard to compare them to one another.

For example, two studies discussed above looked at the outcomes of vitamin D supplementation on headaches, and found opposite results. However, one of these considered migraines (16), while the other focused on headaches in general (17).

With this in mind, it isn’t too surprising that the studies had different outcomes. After all, migraines are different than typical headaches.

Likewise, it’s very possible that the answer to is yes in relation to headaches in general, but doesn’t apply when talking about migraines.

Indeed, that idea is reinforced by the earlier study, which found an association between low 25(OH)D levels and non-migraine headaches, but not migraine headaches (18).

A meta-analysis on the topic also suggests that there is no connection between vitamin D levels and migraines (19).

But, as for general headaches, there simply isn’t enough research out there to be certain. Additional research is need to really answer this question. At this time there is a casual association between serum vitamin D levels and migranes. 

The connection appears to be stronger for regular headaches rather than migraines. However, much more research is needed before there is a definitive answer to the question

Does Low Vitamin D Cause Headaches?

There truly isn’t enough research to say whether or not low levels of vitamin D causes headaches. But, the idea does certainly make sense.

After all, vitamin D deficiency is already associated with a wide range of symptoms, including many generalized ones. The site Healthy Way highlights many of these symptoms in detail. 

For that matter, vitamin D deficiency could also cause headaches indirectly.

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For example, some researchers have suggested a possible connection between low vitamin D levels and inflammation, then between inflammation and migraines (20,21). The same association could be true for regular headaches as well.

Likewise, some researchers argue that the connection between low vitamin D and headaches could be lifestyle based (22). As such, the same factors that contribute to low vitamin D could also lead to headaches.

After all, low vitamin D could potentially be caused by a person spending most of their time indoors. Such a pattern could easily result in other habits that lead to health issues.

Vitamin D also interacts with other compounds in the body, including calcium and magnesium. Some such interactions could contribute to the development of headaches. Indeed, magnesium deficiency causes headaches as a symptom (23) and low levels of magnesium can contribute to vitamin D deficiency (24).

Overall, these patterns suggest that there may be a connection between low vitamin D and headaches, even if the relationship is indirect.

But, what does this mean for individuals?

Well, for one thing, it is a reminder that vitamin D is important for health. As a result, avoiding vitamin D deficiency is critical if you want to feel better overall.

Likewise, there is a chance that vitamin D supplementation could help reduce the severity or frequency of headaches, especially if you aren’t dealing with migraines. Supplementation for achieving optimal serum D levels certainly makes sense as does knowing what your own levels are.      

Finally, vitamin D is well tolerated and commonly prescribed as a supplement. This makes it a good choice if you have any symptoms of vitamin a D deficiency or if you’re simply concerned that you aren’t getting enough of the vitamin.

Have you found any connection between vitamin D and headaches in your own life? What about other symptoms?​

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