There are very few studies exploring vitamin D and migraine. That didn’t stop me from reading the scientific literature to get me closer to a possible connection. Could supplementing with vitamin D help prevent migraine symptoms? We’re all looking for pieces to our personal “migraine puzzle.” I watched a series of videos from a neurologist who strongly believes that there is a relationship. This study suggests that vitamin D may play a role. From what I have read, I think the answer is yes for some people and possibly for many.
What Is Vitamin D?
First, a little about vitamin D. It’s not really a vitamin but a hormone. I’ll continue to refer to it as a vitamin, but it’s a critically important hormone like thyroid hormones, insulin and fertility hormones. Your body makes vitamin D when sunlight penetrates your skin. Depending on the time of year, your skin type and the amount of protection from the sun (sunscreen and clothing) you wear, your body makes different amounts. When you take supplements or consume vitamin D in foods, your body converts that to the active, hormone form. Vitamin D plays an important role with about 3 dozen types of tissues in your body.
What Is The Recommended Daily Allowance?
When the Institute of Medicine came up with the recommended daily allowance for vitamin D, it based the recommendation on how much they believe is safe and supportive of bone health. Their work did not include considerations for what the safe, or optimal, amount would be for supporting vitamin D’s role for its many other important functions in the body. The recommended daily allowance for vitamin D for an adult under 70 years old is 600 IU/day. They did not address the optimal amount.
This is difficult due to the fact that your body makes varying amounts, and a number of factors impact an individual’s need. For example, people with dark skin have more melanin in their skin and do not make as much from the sun. People who are obese tend to store vitamin D in fat rather than allow it to be used in circulation. Both of these groups may need more vitamin D than the average person who is not obese and has light skin.
Standardized Testing Is Needed
To know how to supplement properly and get enough but not too much, it is important to know your Serum vitamin D level. In the United States, the reference range is 20 to 50 ng/mL. On some lab reports the range is different and some medical groups recommend different ranges. My most recent lab report has a reference range of 30 to 100ng/mL. Approximately 40% of Americans have low vitamin D. That statistic would be much higher if we were using the standard lower limit of 30ng/mL.
There’s little data on the rate of low vitamin D in people with chronic or frequent migraine and the studies I looked at suggested that the rates are about the same. So why look into this further? Well, there may be something to having higher levels of vitamin D to improve sleep. Consistent, restorative sleep is critical to managing migraine. For tips on managing sleep, check out our sleep blog.
Studying Sleep and Migraine
Dr. Stasha Gominak is a neurologist and sleep disorder specialist. She has an interesting series of videos on YouTube about sleep, vitamin D and migraine. Dr. Gominak is passionate about her work and believes that she has a big part of migraine figured out. She knows that many of us have poor sleep, sleep disorders, inadequate vitamin B12 levels and inadequate vitamin D levels. Her website has some excellent information and you can click to an especially good part of it HERE.
According to Dr, Gominak, attaining and maintaining a vitamin D level of 60ng/mL-80 ng/mL will help restorative sleep and therefore help migraine. She says that below 60ng/mL and above 80ng/mL, sleep and migraine are likely to be worse. Earlier I mentioned that the “normal” reference lab range for vitamin D is 20-50ng/mL. The Vitamin D Council has a different opinion about what levels are adequate and optimal. Their website has excellent information about this important hormone and getting the right amount for your health.
Testing Your Vitamin D Level
So, what to do? First, know your vitamin D level. Ask your doctor to specifically order a 25(OH)D blood test as this is the best measure of your vitamin D status. Get your doctor’s opinion and do your own research so you can make an informed decision about your next steps. The vitamin D Council has a handy reference for how to supplement with vitamin D to attain the targeted levels. Vitamin D works synergistically with a number of nutrients like magnesium, vitamin K and zinc. The Vitamin D Council has good info on those nutrients, too. You have probably already read our blog on magnesium and have that supplement covered.
My next call will be to my doctor to request a follow-up level as my level was 29ng/mL a year ago. I have been supplementing and sleeping significantly better. I need to know where my current level is so I can makes some changes, if needed. Monitoring and maintaining vitamin D levels can be part of successfully managing migraine. For more discussion about managing migraine, join our closed Facebook group. Let us know how we can help.
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