vitamin D

Get Lots of Headaches? You May Lack This Vitamin

In All Health Watch, Cognitive Health, Diet and Nutrition, Featured Article

Frequent headaches are a way of life for many people. About 12 million Americans experience headaches several times a week.

In many cases they don’t know the cause. So they try to cope by using pain relievers.

The economic cost in America of headaches—missed work, medications, and medical treatments—is $31 billion a year. And sufferers pay in another way. Over-the-counter painkillers can be dangerous to your health, even deadly.1

But what if a safe, common vitamin could stop headaches?

A new study shows that lack of vitamin D may be the cause of many unexplained headaches. Finnish researchers discovered that men with low levels of vitamin D are twice as likely to have frequent headaches.2

Researchers at The Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition at the University of Eastern Finland analyzed the blood of 2,600 men. The subjects ranged in age from 42 to 60. Scientists asked them to report the frequency of their headaches. They charted the data for five years.3

Normal blood levels of vitamin D are 20-50 ng/mL.4 Researchers found that men with levels below 15.3 ng/ml typically suffered at least one headache a week. Those with vitamin D levels below 11.6 ng/mL were likely to have more frequent—even daily—headaches.4

The researchers theorize that vitamin D has anti-inflammatory properties that prevent swelling in the sensory neurons and the microglial cells in the brain. This prevents head pain. They also note that previous studies show vitamin D prevents musculoskeletal pain, a major cause of tension headaches.5

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Why You Need More Vitamin D

The new study adds to a growing body of evidence linking low vitamin D to certain diseases and conditions. Vitamin D helps control many body processes. It affects cell growth, protects cells from damage due to pollution and chemicals, and keeps hormones in working order.7

Vitamin D is essential to the nervous system, brain function, and bone strength. Deficiencies have been linked to Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and bone fractures.

Low levels of Vitamin D have been linked to heart attacks and strokes.

Vitamin D deficiency is extraordinarily common. A 2009 study showed that three-quarters of U.S. teens and adults don’t get enough of it.6

A simple blood test can determine your levels. Ask your doctor for a 25 (OH) D test. It’s a simple blood draw. Ideally, your number should be 40-60 ng/mL.

The best way to get vitamin D is from sun exposure. Try to get at least 20 minutes of sunlight a day with your arms and legs exposed.

For many of us, especially during the winter, this is not possible. And as we age, our bodies gradually lose the capacity to produce vitamin D from sunlight.7

Good food sources of vitamin D include wild-caught salmon and other oily fish such as sardines, herring, and mackerel. Mushrooms are also loaded with vitamin D.

The best way ensure you have enough vitamin D is to take a quality supplement. We recommend you take 5,000 IU a day.

After upping your vitamin D intake for one month, check back with your doctor. Get a follow up blood test to be sure that you have reached an optimal level.

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