Vitamin D Supplementation to Prevent Migraine

Vitamin D deficiency is a common worldwide problem that has been linked to numerous health conditions, including hypertension, sleep disorders, autoimmune diseases, chronic inflammation, and migraine. However, emerging research suggests that people with migraines who take vitamin D supplements may reduce their migraine frequency—an impressive and encouraging finding.

Vitamin D May Help Prevent Your Migraines

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Vitamin D and the Brain

Vitamin D is often called the "sunshine vitamin" because it's produced in the skin when exposed to sunlight. Once synthesized in the skin, it travels through the lymphatic system to the liver and kidneys, where it is converted into an active hormone. This hormone then circulates through the bloodstream and binds to vitamin D receptors in the brain.

Experts believe that by binding to these receptors, the vitamin D hormone may regulate the release of neurotransmitters, like serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine. And because vitamin D has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, it helps protect the brain from oxidative stress—something that is closely associated with increased migraine risk.

What We Know So Far

According to the National Headache Institute, one of the most common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency is headache. Even so, the precise relationship between vitamin D and various subtypes of primary headaches—including migraines and tension headaches—is still unclear. There are a few theories that provide good leads.

Increases Serotonin

A connection between migraines and serotonin is well-established, and some antidepressant medications that increase serotonin levels are even prescribed to patients to prevent migraines. Furthermore, the vitamin D hormone is believed to play a distinct role in the function and release of serotonin. This leads researchers to suggest that vitamin D supplementation may reduce migraine headaches, especially in those with a vitamin D deficiency.

Reduces Oxidative Stress

In short, oxidative stress is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. People who experience chronic migraines may have especially high levels of oxidative stress between migraine attacks, and most migraine triggers may further increase those levels. Vitamin D is known to reduce oxidative stress and may therefore help prevent migraines and reduce sensitivity to migraine triggers.

Studies have found that people with higher blood vitamin D levels are significantly less likely to experience migraine headaches than those with deficient vitamin D levels.

Builds Immunity

People who live at high latitudes where temperatures are colder and there is more cloud cover are at a higher risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency. The colder the weather, the less likely people are to spend time in the sun. As a result, they may also be more susceptible to developing certain health conditions, such as seasonal headaches. For people living at high latitudes, vitamin D supplementation may be especially beneficial.

Effectiveness

Increasing levels of vitamin D in the blood may help prevent migraines. Two studies, in particular, demonstrate a very early but promising link between vitamin D and migraines.

Vitamin D3 Supplements

In a 2019 study published in Current Medical Research and Opinion, 48 participants with migraines were randomly assigned to receive either a daily vitamin D3 supplement or a placebo pill. Over the 24-week study period, the participants used a diary to record their migraine symptoms.

When comparing the migraine diaries at the end of the study, researchers found that the participants taking the vitamin D3 supplement had a significant decrease in their migraine frequency compared to the placebo group.

Even more, over the first 12 weeks of treatment, blood vitamin D levels increased significantly in the group taking vitamin D3. This supports the theory that vitamin D was the primary factor that led to a decreased number of migraines in the treatment group versus the placebo group.

Vitamin D3 Plus a Statin

In another study published in the Annals of Neurology, 57 adult migraineurs were assigned to take either a vitamin D3 supplement twice daily along with a cholesterol-lowering medication called Zocor (simvastatin), or two placebo pills twice daily.

Research has found that certain cholesterol-lowering medications like simvastatin can protect against vitamin D deficiency by helping to increase vitamin D blood levels. 

When compared to the placebo group, the participants who took both the vitamin D supplement and simvastatin had a greater decrease in their number of migraine days over the 24-week study period.

More specifically, nearly one-third of the participants taking the vitamin D supplement and simvastatin experienced a 50% decrease in their number of migraine days by the end of the 24-week study. 

Should You Take Vitamin D?

If you do experience migraines, it's reasonable to consider having your vitamin D level checked at your next healthcare provider's appointment. That said, be sure to check with your insurance company first to see if the test will be covered, as the out-of-pocket cost can be pricey. 

Dosing

Based on your individual vitamin D level, where you live, and the time of year, your healthcare provider will calculate your vitamin D dose.

Keep in mind, there is no standard guideline stating what a "target" vitamin D level should be for a person with migraines.

For the general population, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) reports that a level equal to or above 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) is "sufficient," while other sources, like the Endocrine Society, recommend a target vitamin D level of 30 ng/mL or higher.

Toxicity 

As with any medication or supplement, it's important to take vitamin D only under the guidance of a healthcare professional. While not common, excessive vitamin D supplementation can lead to toxicity and cause a variety of symptoms, such as:

  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Excessive urination
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Kidney stones
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation

A Word From Verywell

The idea that a vitamin D supplement could help fend off your migraines is indeed very exciting news. Vitamin D supplements are available over-the-counter and are generally inexpensive and very well-tolerated. Nevertheless, the relationship between vitamin D and migraines needs more investigation with larger studies to ensure these findings hold up.

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10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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