Can Vitamin D Supplements Prevent Your Migraines?

Vitamin D is known as the "sunshine vitamin" because it's produced by your skin when exposed to sunlight. Deficiency of this vitamin, however, is a common, worldwide problem that has been linked to numerous health conditions, including migraine and other pain-related disorders.

While a precise link between migraines and vitamin D deficiency has not been teased out, emerging research suggests that people with migraines who take vitamin D supplements may reduce their migraine frequency—an impressive and progressive finding.

The Connection

Research has found that vitamin D deficiency prevalence and migraine prevalence are both higher at higher latitudes. The number of migraine attacks increases in winter and decreases in summer—this correlates to vitamin D levels in the blood, which are lower in the winter (when there is less sunlight) and higher in the summer (when there is more sunlight).

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.

How Vitamin D May Prevent Migraines

In addition to the various migraine/vitamin D connections, investigators have discovered that increasing blood vitamin D levels with a vitamin D supplement helps prevent migraines. 

Two studies, in particular, showcase this finding and present a very early but promising link between vitamin D and migraines.

First Study: Vitamin D3 Supplement vs. Placebo Pill

In one study 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, investigators found that the migraine patients 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 role of vitamin D as being the factor that decreased the number of migraines in the treatment versus the placebo group.

Second Study

In another study 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 simvastatin, or two placebo pills twice daily.

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

Results revealed that 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 percent decrease in their number of migraine days by the end of the 24-week study. 

Should You Take Vitamin D?

If you do suffer from migraines, it's reasonable to consider having your vitamin D level checked at your next doctor's appointment. That said, be sure to check with your insurance company first to see if the test will be covered—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 doctor 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 Institue of Medicine (IOM) reports a level equal to or above 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) as "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 only take it 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 stave off your migraines is indeed very exciting news. Vitamin D supplements are available over-the-counter—they are usually inexpensive and generally very well-tolerated. Nevertheless, this finding needs more investigation, meaning more and larger studies need to be done to see if the above results hold true. 

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Article Sources
  • Gazerani P et al. A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, parallel trial of vitamin D3 supplementation in adult patients with migraine. Curr Med Res Opin. 2019 Apr;35(4):715-23. DOI: 10.1080/03007995.2018.1519503

  • Song T-J, Chu M-K, Sohn J-H, Ahn H-Y, Lee SH, Cho S-J. Effect of Vitamin D Deficiency on the Frequency of Headaches in Migraine. J Clin Neurol. 2018 Jul;14(3):366-73. DOI: 10.3988/jcn.2018.14.3.366

  • Togha M, Razeghi Jahromi S, Ghorbani Z, Martami F, Seifishahpar M. Serum Vitamin D Status in a Group of Migraine Patients Compared With Healthy Controls: A Case-Control Study. Headache. 2018 Nov;58(10):1530-40. DOI: 10.1111/head.13423

  • Prakash S, Mehta NC, Dabhi AS, Lakhani O, Khilari M, Shah ND. The prevalence of headache may be related with the latitude: a possible role of Vitamin D insufficiency? J Headache Pain. 2010 Aug;11(4):301-07. DOI: 10.1007/s10194-010-0223-2

  • Buettner C et al. Simvastatin and Vitamin D for Migraine Prevention: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Ann Neurol. 2015 Dec;78(6):970-81. DOI: 10.1002/ana.24534