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March 15, 2023 7 min read

Have you ever experienced a headache that persists, despite drinking plenty of water and changing your headache medicine? It's possible that the root of the issue lies in your thyroid gland.

That's right, the little gland located in your neck can actually have a big impact on your overall health, including those headaches. But what can you do about it? Keep reading to find out how the thyroid gland relates to those stubborn headaches of yours and the treatment options to help you live to the fullest again.

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid is a gland shaped like a butterfly that measures about 2 inches in size and is located in the front of your lower neck. Despite its small size, this tiny organ plays a crucial role in keeping your body running at optimal levels.

One of the thyroid's primary functions is to produce thyroid hormones, mainly thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones regulate your metabolic cycle - the process by which your body converts the food you eat into energy for your cells to use. This is essential because every cell in your body needs fuel to perform its necessary functions.

Furthermore, the thyroid is a vital part of your endocrine system, a network of several glands that work together to manage various bodily functions. The endocrine system issues orders to your body, telling it what to do and when to do it to ensure everything runs smoothly. So when it comes to feeling your best, a normal thyroid function is absolutely essential.

What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism, also known as underactive thyroid, is a common thyroid dysfunction. It occurs when your thyroid gland doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone for your body's needs. With low thyroid hormone levels, your metabolism slows down, affecting every part of your body from head to toe.

One of the most common causes of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto's thyroiditis. This is a condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your thyroid gland. Another common cause is thyroidectomy, a surgery that involves removing your thyroid gland to treat thyroid cancer or hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid - a condition in which your thyroid produces too much hormone). Goiter and thyroid nodules are other causes of hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism symptoms often go unnoticed because they develop slowly over the years. Moreover, the symptoms can also be difficult to identify because many of them look like other health conditions, or people consider them as a natural part of aging. That's why it's important to have a thyroid function test even if you don't have every symptom.

Some of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, weight gain, thinning or dry hair, slowed heart rate, joint pain, muscle pain, cold intolerance, fertility issues, depression, and trouble concentrating.

What are migraine headaches?

A migraine headache is a type of severe headache that often presents with a variety of accompanying symptoms. Some of the most common migraine symptoms include nausea, extreme sensitivity to light and noise, dizziness, vertigo, and visual changes known as auras. The pain associated with a migraine is typically throbbing or pulsating and tends to be localized on one side of the head.

What sets migraines apart from other headaches, such as tension headaches, is their intensity and complexity. They can significantly impact an individual's daily life, causing difficulty with work or other responsibilities. However, with proper diagnosis and treatment, migraines can be managed effectively, allowing individuals to maintain their quality of life.

Migraines can be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, making them a complex and often difficult condition to manage. Migraine episodes are often triggered by various environmental factors, which can vary from person to person.

Some of the most common triggers for migraine episodes include stress, lack of sleep, exposure to bright lights, loud sounds, and certain smells, as well as certain foods, ingredients, and beverages like alcohol and caffeine. Certain medications and hormonal changes can also trigger migraines.

What is the connection between hypothyroidism and migraine headaches?

It's still a matter of discussion among experts whether hypothyroidism causes migraines or can be a risk factor for hypothyroidism. But the fact is that people with migraines are more likely to develop hypothyroidism. A study by the International Headache Society (IHS) found that 30% of people with hypothyroidism also have a history of migraine.

Another study found that people with headache disorders will have an increased 21% risk of new-onset hypothyroidism compared to those who have never experienced headaches. In the case of migraine, people with a history of migraine had a higher chance, about 41%, of new onset hypothyroidism.

In 2021, a small but significant yearlong study of 100 participants in India shed new light on the potential link between migraines and thyroid disorders. The study found that out of the 50 participants who suffered from migraines, a significantly higher number also had a thyroid disorder – particularly low levels of thyroid hormones – compared to the control group who experienced nonmigraine headaches.

While the study's sample size was small, these findings highlight the need for further research into the relationship between migraines and thyroid function.

Currently, no study has exposed a concrete explanation for the correlation. It has been speculated that headache disorders could trigger the immune system, making an individual more prone to develop hypothyroidism. Stress, environmental, and genetic factors could also contribute to the association.

Both migraine and hypothyroidism are more common in women

Thyroid disorders are more common in women than men, and this holds true for hypothyroidism. But that's not all: women who have just given birth are also at an increased risk of developing thyroid disease.

Although the exact cause of women's higher risk of thyroid disorders is still unknown, researchers suspect it may be because autoimmune disorders affect women twice as often as men.

Unfortunately, women also have a higher likelihood of experiencing headaches, such as migraines. Studies by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence have shown a significant disparity between the prevalence of migraines among women and men. Shockingly, 33% of women will experience a migraine at some point in their lives, while only 13% of men will suffer from this condition.

Headaches attributed to hypothyroidism, according to the IHS

The International Headache Society (IHS) has a classification system for headaches attributed to an underactive thyroid. According to this system, an individual may be diagnosed with a headache attributed to hypothyroidism if they have a confirmed diagnosis of hypothyroidism and experience pain on both sides of their head that typically improves after successful treatment for hypothyroidism.

To further support this diagnosis, there must be evidence suggesting that hypothyroidism may have contributed to the onset of the headache, which includes meeting at least two of the following criteria:

  • The headache developed prior to the diagnosis of hypothyroidism or led to its discovery

  • There is a significant, simultaneous worsening of the headache and hypothyroidism

  • The headache improves or resolves completely following the improvement or resolution of the hypothyroidism

In addition, the headache must have the following characteristics:

  • It occurs on both sides of the head

  • It is constant in nature

If an individual's symptoms align with these criteria, a healthcare provider may diagnose a headache attributed to hypothyroidism, provided that no other diagnosis appears more likely.

Is a migraine increase your risk of hypothyroidism?

Since the connection between migraine and hypothyroidism isn't fully understood yet, it's still not clear whether having one health problem makes having another one more likely. But yes, it's possible since it's common for individuals to experience both migraine and hypothyroidism simultaneously.

Migraines may increase the likelihood of developing hypothyroidism. On the other hand, hypothyroidism may also make you more prone to developing migraine and experiencing severe migraine episodes.

If you are having a migraine episode and feel that the symptoms suggest underactive thyroid, it would be best to visit a health facility and have a blood test to determine the health of your thyroid.

What is the treatment for migraine headaches with hypothyroidism?

Thyroid hormone replacement therapy

If you suffer from both hypothyroidism and migraines, thyroid hormone replacement therapy can be a helpful solution to alleviate your hypothyroid symptoms, including migraines. Many patients with both overt and subclinical hypothyroidism have reported an improvement in migraine symptoms after taking thyroid replacement medication, indicating a potential connection between the two conditions.

The most common thyroid hormone replacement is levothyroxine, which is the synthetic version of the hormone thyroxine (T4). It's important to note, however, that headache is a common side effect of levothyroxine.

One alternative to levothyroxine is natural desiccated thyroid (NDT), which is currently regaining its popularity. NDT is derived from pig thyroid glands, making it a natural option for those who prefer a more holistic approach to healthcare. Available in both medication and supplement forms, NDT contains both T4 and T3 thyroid hormones. This is why it's seen as more effective than levothyroxine, which only contains one thyroid hormone (T4).

There are numerous brands of NDT out there, including the NDT supplement VitaliThy, which is manufactured in Vietnam. Aside from containing both T4 and T3, VitaliThy is also gluten and lactose-free. Thus, it's a great option for those with certain food sensitivities. The best thing is that you can buy this desiccated thyroid online.

Migraine medications

In some cases, your doctor may recommend you take medications for migraines. These include:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen

  • Triptans, which come in oral tablets, nasal sprays, and injections

  • Ditans and geptans

You can also consider preventative medications to lower your risk of experiencing a migraine episode. These include beta-blockers, Botox injections, calcium channel blockers, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants.

Conclusion: thyroid disease is closely linked to migraine

For individuals with hypothyroidism, headaches can be a common occurrence. The relationship between the two is not fully understood, and it is unclear whether headaches are a symptom or a possible cause of hypothyroidism.

However, for those who also suffer from migraines, thyroid hormone replacement like VitaliThy, a natural desiccated thyroid you can buy online, may offer relief by reducing the frequency of migraine attacks. With this NDT supplement, you can say goodbye to headaches and hello to a brighter, pain-free day!

Wojciech Majda
Wojciech Majda

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