Could Low Vitamin D Levels Affect Your Periods? Exploring the Connection
Published: 08:31AM 14 September 2023
Women's health is a complex and multifaceted subject, and one crucial aspect is the menstrual cycle. Regular periods are not only a sign of reproductive health but also an indicator of overall well-being. Irregular periods can disrupt a woman's life in various ways, affecting her physical and emotional health. One intriguing factor that has emerged in recent research is the role of vitamin D in menstrual health. This blog explores the connection between low vitamin D levels, irregular periods, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), shedding light on why upping your vitamin D intake may be essential for women's health.
1.Understanding Irregular Periods
A normal menstrual cycle typically spans 28 days, but variations are common among individuals. However, if your periods meet any of the following criteria, they can be considered irregular:
- The length of your menstrual cycle is more than 35 days.
- The length of your menstrual cycle is less than 21 days.
- You do not have a fixed period cycle.
Irregular periods can be caused by a multitude of factors, including hormonal, medical, and lifestyle influences:
Hormonal Factors: Hormonal changes during various life stages, such as menarche (onset of menses), menopause, or the use of birth control methods like pills, injectables, or patches, can lead to irregular periods. Thyroid disorders and conditions like PCOS can also disrupt hormonal balance.
Medical Conditions: Medical conditions like fibroids, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, or the presence of tumors can interfere with regular menstrual cycles.
Lifestyle Factors: Extreme weight fluctuations, emotional stress, eating disorders (such as anorexia and bulimia), and intense endurance exercises like marathon running can all contribute to irregular periods.
2. The Negative Effects of Irregular Periods
Irregular periods can have significant consequences for a woman's health. Depending on the underlying cause, they may lead to:
- Anemia: Irregular periods can result in excessive blood loss, leading to anemia, which can cause fatigue and weakness.
- Infertility: Disrupted menstrual cycles can make it challenging to conceive.
- Chronic Pelvic Pain: Prolonged lower belly pain can be a consequence of irregular periods.
- Pelvic Adhesions: Complications during pregnancy and future surgeries can occur due to irregular periods.
The Role of Vitamin D in Menstrual Health and PCOS
Vitamin D, often referred to as the "sunshine vitamin," plays a pivotal role in our health. It helps the body absorb calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium and supports normal immune system function.
Vitamin D Deficiency: When the body's vitamin D levels fall below the normal range of 30 - 100 ng/ml, it is considered vitamin D deficiency. Common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include bone pain, low immunity, fatigue, weakness, mood swings, obesity, hair loss, and muscle pain or cramps.
Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency: Several factors can contribute to vitamin D deficiency, including diseases like cystic fibrosis, Crohn's disease, celiac disease, or liver and kidney diseases that impair the body's ability to synthesize vitamin D. Aging, reduced exposure to sunlight, dark skin color, obesity, and certain medical procedures like bariatric surgery can also lead to vitamin D deficiency.
Why Is Vitamin D Crucial for Women?: Research indicates that women with low vitamin D levels are at a higher risk of developing life-threatening health conditions later in life, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Moreover, vitamin D is vital for regulating the menstrual cycle.
The Relationship Between Vitamin D Deficiency and Irregular Periods: International studies have shown that women with irregular menstrual cycles, particularly those with cycles longer than 35 days, tend to have vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D receptors (VDR) are present in the female genital tract, especially in the ovaries, indicating its importance in menstrual health.
Is Vitamin D Deficiency a Cause of PCOS?: Vitamin D also plays a crucial role in ovarian follicular development and egg maturation. Studies have found that women with PCOS often have lower vitamin D levels. The deficiency may contribute to conditions associated with PCOS, such as insulin resistance, irregular ovulation, and elevated androgen levels.
How Vitamin D Can Help Regulate Periods: Adequate levels of calcium and vitamin D are essential for timely egg maturation, a critical factor in regular menstrual cycles.
Why You Should Take Vitamin D If You Have PCOS: Adequate vitamin D intake, whether through natural sources or supplementation, can be beneficial for individuals diagnosed with PCOS. It may help regulate menstrual cycles, improve insulin sensitivity, enhance fertility, and reduce elevated androgens.
Sources of Vitamin D
1.Sun Exposure: The human skin can naturally produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Morning walks between 9 AM and 2 PM are optimal for getting your daily dose of vitamin D.
2. Diet: Certain foods rich in vitamin D include oily fish (salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel), red meat, egg yolks, mushrooms, and fortified foods.
3. Supplements: Dietary supplements are available for those who struggle to obtain enough vitamin D through sunlight and diet.
The scientific research suggests that there may indeed be a connection between low vitamin D levels and menstrual health. The reasoning behind this lies in vitamin D's role in hormone regulation, inflammation control, and pain management. However, it's essential to note that correlation does not necessarily imply causation. Further research is needed to establish a definitive link and to determine whether vitamin D supplementation could be a viable solution for menstrual irregularities.
Jayti Shah is a Clinical Nutritionist with a master's degree in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association (IDA). Over the last 9 years, she has helped 400 clients in their clinical and weight loss journeys. She works with SocialBoat as a nutrition consultant.
At SocialBoat, we offer custom diet plans and guided workouts to help you achieve your goals in a 360-degree approach. Our gamified experience ensures that you don’t find workouts boring and we reward you for being consistent with your efforts.
1.Asemi, Z., et al. (2016). Vitamin D Supplementation Affects Serum High-Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein, Insulin Resistance, and Biomarkers of Oxidative Stress in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. The Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association, 66(5), 584-588.
2. Jukic, A. M., et al. (2015). Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D and Anti-Müllerian Hormone Levels in Patients with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 100(4), 524-530.
3. Rostami, M., et al. (2016). The Effect of Vitamin D Supplementation on the Relief of Symptoms in Patients with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences: The Official Journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 21, 85.