San Diego, CA (PressExposure) October 19, 2009 -- Headaches are one of the most common health complaints of adults. There are three types of headaches; tension, migraine, and cluster. The tension headache is the most common and often results from muscle tension around the neck and shoulders. Migraines may be due to hormonal imbalances within the brain. Cluster headaches usually affect men and are in some ways the most obscure of the three headache types. Headaches are usually treated with drugs, often painkillers such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Migraine headache drugs are more complicated and sometimes involve the use of antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs that often have significant side effects.
However, there are natural alternatives to drug use for helping get rid of headaches. In one study, eight patients with chronic tension-type headaches and low vitamin D levels were put on a vitamin D and calcium regimen. All eight patients reported significant lessening of their headaches after supplementing with calcium and vitamin D. It appears that vitamin D and calcium can also help people with migraine headaches, including women who are in the postmenopausal phase of their lives. Several different hormonal changes accompany both menopause and its aftermath, post-menopause. These two changes in a woman's life can result in many different ailments, including migraine headaches. In a small study, treatment with vitamin D and calcium dramatically reduced both the frequency and duration of migraine headaches within two months of starting the supplement therapy.
Vitamin D and calcium supplementation may also reduce headaches associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS). There are four main PMS-related symptoms: headache, breast tenderness, tiredness and depression. Vitamin D and calcium can help prevent all of these monthly symptoms. The amounts of calcium and vitamin D taken for headaches should be moderate, since too much vitamin D can actually cause headaches. The RDA for vitamin D is 400 IU/day for most people, so they should take between 400-1000 IU/day for headaches. If there are any questions about long-term supplementation with vitamin D, they should consult their physician. Calcium supplementation usually ranges from 500 mg/day to over 1000 mg/day. Some people should also supplement with 250-400 mg/day of magnesium, as will be explained below.
Unfortunately, supplementing with large amounts of calcium may also cause headaches in some people. Why would calcium cure a headache in one person and cause one in the next person? Some people do fine on calcium alone, especially if they live in a warmer climate with plenty of sunshine. These people also tend to do better on diets that are higher in protein and fat. The excess calcium in their diet is used to neutralize the acidity of the protein in their diet. If people live in colder climates, supplementing with both calcium and vitamin D is recommended. However, there is another type of person that does not do well with calcium alone, or calcium with vitamin D. They need additional magnesium to balance out the calcium supplementation. These people tend to do better on a high complex-carbohydrate diet, instead of eating a lot of protein and fat.
Calcium contracts muscles and magnesium relaxes muscles. Therefore, you might think that calcium is bad for tension headaches since it contracts muscles. However, different people have different biochemical make-ups. A cup of coffee may cure a headache for one person and cause one for the next person. This may be due to the caffeine in the coffee constricting blood vessels in the brain. If someone's blood vessels are too loose (dilated) coffee may help their headache by increasing the tone of the blood vessels; if the blood vessels are already constricted to begin with, coffee may cause or worsen the headache. The same idea can apply for calcium and magnesium. If someone's muscles are tight to begin with, taking calcium without magnesium may cause a headache due to increased muscle tension on the nerves in the head. If someone's muscles are too lax and not firm enough, the calcium can help tone them the way they should be, helping their interaction with the surrounding nerves and helping the headache go away. People who are interested in this headache theory should read some articles about metabolic typing.