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The Link Between Headaches and Vitamin D Deficiency

Everyone experiences a headache at some point. Whether a dull throb that accompanies stress or the sharper pain of a migraine attack, headaches are a universal affliction. If your go-to remedies are to pop an aspirin, rest, or apply a cold compress, you may overlook a lesser-known factor: vitamin D deficiency.

The connection between vitamin D and headaches intrigues researchers in endocrinology and neurology and our team at The Endocrine Center in Houston, Texas. Here’s what our specialists want you to know about vitamin D’s role in headache prevention.

Vitamin D in your body

Vitamin D is unique among vitamins, acting more like a hormone in the body. It regulates calcium and phosphorus, which, in turn, support your bones and teeth. In addition, vitamin D is integral to several other bodily functions, including your immune and neuromuscular systems.

The primary source of vitamin D is sunlight. When you expose your skin to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, your body produces vitamin D. You can also get vitamin D through certain foods and supplements. 

Severe and prolonged vitamin D deficiency affects the intestines’ absorption of calcium and phosphorus, resulting in calcium disorders — one of which is hypocalcemia or low calcium levels in the bloodstream. Hypocalcemia can trigger secondary hyperparathyroidism, where the parathyroid glands become overactive in an effort to stabilize blood calcium levels.

The link between vitamin D deficiency and headaches

Emerging research found in the National Library of Medicine (NLM) has delved into the association between vitamin D levels and headaches. The findings suggest several potential links:

Vitamin D and inflammation in migraines

Inflammation often triggers migraines and increases attacks in certain seasons, suggesting a link between vitamin D and migraine attacks. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to excessive inflammation and potentially more pain. 

The study also showed a reverse relationship between vitamin D levels and C-reactive protein, an inflammation marker. Taking vitamin D can decrease this inflammatory factor.

Vitamin D, magnesium, and headaches

Migraines and headaches may also be linked to vitamin D through its role in magnesium absorption. Magnesium is crucial for healthy nerve transmission and can protect against neuronal cell death. 

Vitamin D deficiency can lead to reduced magnesium absorption, which may trigger more migraines. The study suggests that supplementing with magnesium can benefit migraine patients.

Vitamin D and nitric oxide

Vitamin D reduces nitric oxide production, a key mediator of migraines. During headache attacks, nitric oxide levels increase in the blood. Vitamin D may help decrease migraine attacks by reducing nitric oxide synthesis.

Vitamin D’s impact on serotonin and dopamine

Vitamin D can influence the release of serotonin and dopamine, both of which are connected to migraines. Apart from its role in migraine, vitamin D deficiency can cause depression, which is common among headache patients.

Vitamin D and brain receptors

The study also revealed evidence of the connection between headache and vitamin D, based on vitamin D receptors, 1-alpha-hydroxylase, and vitamin D binding protein in the brain, mainly in the hypothalamus. Essentially, certain vitamin D receptor gene variations are linked to migraines without auras.

Vitamin D and other primary headaches

Research also shows a strong link between low vitamin D levels and chronic muscle pain, suggesting a connection to chronic tension-type headaches. Additionally, cluster headaches show seasonal patterns — another nod to vitamin D’s involvement.

How to get more vitamin D: Sunlight, diet, and supplementation

Your vitamin D needs differ from your neighbor’s, so we run tests, ask questions, and delve into your health and medical history before treating you. However, most healthy adults need about 15 mcg of vitamin D daily. If you’re running low, we may suggest:

Sunlight exposure

Optimizing sun exposure without increasing the risk of skin cancer is important. A few minutes of direct sun on your arms, legs, face, or back without sunscreen is a good rule of thumb.


Eating more fatty fish, fortified dairy, orange juice, and egg yolks can help boost your vitamin D levels.


Supplements can be a safe and effective way to increase vitamin D levels, but discuss it with our specialists first to determine the appropriate dosage for you.

There is a link between headaches and vitamin D deficiency, and we can help. Call The Endocrine Center or schedule an appointment online to find out if vitamin D deficiency is the culprit behind your headaches.

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