Research links low vitamin D levels to the risk of chronic headaches. Initially, researchers noted that the prevalence of chronic headaches correlated with latitude. People in higher-latitude locations like Anchorage were more likely to experience chronic headaches. Since our body needs sunlight to produce vitamin D, people at higher latitudes tend to have lower vitamin D levels, especially during the long winter. With many of us in Anchorage suffering from low vitamin D levels right now, this is an important factor to take into account. Some studies suggest that nearly 90% of some populations in Alaska may not meet recommended levels of vitamin D in their blood. If you find yourself developing more headaches than usual, it’s a good idea to consider the possible role of vitamin D.
However, it’s also important to note that low vitamin D is only one of many factors leading to chronic headache. Not all people with headaches have low vitamin D, nor will they see their headaches go away if they take additional vitamin D. If vitamin D doesn’t improve your headache, talk to an Anchorage TMJ dentist at Excellence in Dentistry.
Low Vitamin D Is Common
In 2017, researchers presented powerful evidence of the link between headaches and low vitamin D. They reexamined data from the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study (KIHD), which includes about 2600 men age 42-64 when the data was collected in 1984-1989. Researchers excluded men from the original study who lacked either headache data or vitamin D levels.
Researchers found that 68% of the men studied had low vitamin D levels.
A much smaller fraction, 250 men (9.6%), had chronic headaches at least once a week. Men who reported chronic headaches tended to have lower vitamin D levels than those that didn’t report headaches. Then researchers divided the study population into four groups based on their vitamin D levels. They found that the group with the lowest vitamin D levels was twice as likely to report chronic headaches than those with the highest vitamin D levels. Researchers also found that headache risk was seasonal. Men who were examined outside the summer months of June through September were more likely to report chronic headaches.
In 2020, a data meta-analysis examined 22 studies that analyzed the connection between vitamin D and headaches. Of these studies, 18 showed a link between vitamin D levels and headaches. The connection was especially strong for migraine headaches.
Although vitamin D deficiency is linked to chronic pain and headaches, we still don’t understand the mechanism. It might be linked to the anti-inflammatory properties of vitamin D. Since inflammation is a key factor in migraine, this might explain the migraine connection well.
Will Vitamin D Help Your Headaches?
If you get chronic headaches that worsen over Anchorage’s long winter, you should consider whether low vitamin D levels might be to blame. One way to test the theory is to improve your intake of vitamin D. The easiest source of vitamin D is fatty fish like tuna, mackerel, and salmon.
If you don’t like fish, probably the best way to get vitamin D is with fortified foods. Otherwise, you can take vitamin D supplements.
It’s worth noting that the evidence showing that vitamin D supplementation will treat headaches is much weaker. Multiple studies show that vitamin D supplementation reduces headache frequency. In one placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial, vitamin D supplementation reduced headache days for migraineurs from 6 to 3 days per month. However, this study was very small: just 48 participants.
If Vitamin D Doesn’t Help Your Headaches in Anchorage
If you try improving vitamin D intake and your headaches don’t improve, you should consider other possible causes. One possible cause of chronic headaches doctors often overlook is TMJ. TMJ causes headaches because it puts your jaw joints and muscles out of harmony. This leads to excess stress in your jaw muscles and tension on your jaw joints. Since your jaw muscles are the largest muscles in your head and stretch all the way to the sides of your head behind your eyes, this can easily lead to headaches. In TMJ, the muscles can also sometimes pinch branches of the trigeminal nerve, which can lead to migraines.
If your headaches are accompanied by other TMJ symptoms, such as jaw pain, jaw joint sounds, tinnitus, and teeth wear, then it’s likely TMJ is to blame for your headaches. Unlike vitamin D supplementation, with TMJ treatment, you might see not only fewer headaches but less severe headaches as well.
TMJ treatment can resolve headaches and other symptoms without drugs. To learn whether TMJ treatment can help your headache, please call (907) 349-0022 today for an appointment with an Anchorage TMJ dentist at Excellence in Dentistry.