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Vitamin D for Menstrual Health

Updated on August 24, 2011

Despite the fact that it is one of the few nutrients the human body can manufacture (with a little help from the sun) more than 70% of American adults are estimated to be vitamin D deficient.

This is bad news, because vitamin D is an extraordinarily important nutrient, involved in over 200 known interactions within the human body.

Vitamin D's most famous function is acting as a conduit, or delivery mechanism, for calcium. Vitamin D takes calcium from the intestines and carries it to the bloodstream, where it can be absorbed by your bones and teeth. For this reason, vitamin D is extremely important for building a strong skeletal system and preventing osteoporosis.

In fact, it is so important that vitamin D deficiencies in utero and during the critical years of early puberty have been tied to an increased risk of developing osteoporosis decades in the future.

Bone health is not the only function of vitamin D, however. It also provides many benefits to women who suffer menstrual and reproductive problems such as cramps, PMS, and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).

Relieving Menstrual Symptoms with Vitamin D

Vitamin D's role in bringing calcium to the bloodstream not only strengthens your bones, it also allows the calcium to be used in other ways by your body.

Calcium also plays an important role in muscle muscle health, and low or inadequate levels of calcium have been tied to increased risk of painful menstrual cramps.

Vitamin D also offers many other benefits to women's health.

Many women's health problems are caused by hormone imbalances, most commonly excessive levels of the hormone estrogen. Although scientists are not sure why, vitamin D deficiency has been linked in many studies to excessive estrogen. Excessive estrogen levels, also known as estrogen dominance, have been linked to increased risk of endometriosis, PCOS, breast cancer, menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea), heavy periods (menorrhagia), and many common symptoms of PMS, including fatigue, insomnia, and mood swings.

Vitamin D and PCOS

Vitamin D is especially important for women with PCOS.

In addition to helping maintain healthy hormone balance, vitamin D also plays an important role in preventing insulin resistance. Insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes and other health problems if left untreated, is nearly universal among women with PCOS. One recent study has found that adults with sufficient vitamin D had a 60% higher level of insulin sensitivity than those who were vitamin D deficient.

Increasing insulin sensitivity also helps control weight. More than half of women diagnosed with PCOS are overweight or obese, and their higher rates of insulin resistance also trap them in a vicious cycle that makes it harder to lose weight. Insulin resistance leads to weight gain, leads to increased insulin resistance, leads to more weight gain...

High levels of calcium have also been linked to improved weight control, and vitamin D can also help lose or control weight in this way.

Preventing Vitamin D Deficiency

The best way to ensure that you get enough vitamin D is to spend time in the sun. Glazed windows and sunscreen block the UVB rays necessary to manufacture vitamin D, and tanning beds generally are not good sources of vitamin D, because they are generally calibrated to favor UVA rays rather than UVB rays.

Remember to take proper precautions when spending time in the sun - too much sun can be as damaging as too little, and skin cancer rates are on the rise. Fortunately, even 15 minutes a day of sunlight on your face and hands is enough to benefit your vitamin D levels if you are light-skinned. Darker skinned women will need longer exposure to the sun (up to about 40 minutes for many African American women) because their higher levels of melanin slow down vitamin D production.

If you live in Northern latitudes, however, even spending time in the sun may not ensure that you get enough vitamin D. If you live in the northern United States, the sun's UVB rays literally might not be strong enough to ensure you an adequate supply of vitamin D from September to March!

Free range egg yolks are a great source of vitamin D. Photo by brianna.lehman.
Free range egg yolks are a great source of vitamin D. Photo by brianna.lehman.

Dietary Sources of Vitamin D

In this case, you will also need to increase your consumption of dietary vitamin D. The best sources include:

  • Grassfed dairy products. Dairy products produced by cows fed exclusively grass are higher in vitamin D than dairy products from conventionally raised cows. For more about the many benefits of grassfed dairy products, and how to find them, please visit Why Grassfed Is Best.
  • Pastured eggs. Studies have found that eggs produced by chickens raised on pasture are three to six times higher in vitamin D than eggs from hens kept in battery cages or "free-range" in giant warehouses. To find a source of real free range eggs, check your local farmer's market, contact the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association, or raise your own! Remember, vitamin D is found only in the yolk.
  • Fortified dairy products. Many dairy products in the United States are now fortified with vitamin D by law. Fortified orange juice is also available in many areas.
  • Coldwater fish such as salmon and cod. Cod liver oil is also an excellent source, if you can stand it. (Few can.)

Do you suffer from menstrual cramps? Learn how a healthy diet can help fight cramps in 20 Ways To Relieve Menstrual Cramps.


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    • Virtual MoonLodge profile image

      Kathryn Harris 3 years ago from Colorado

      I appreciate the information you are providing and I plan to promote your hub to my intended audience. Thank you !

    • profile image

      harjot 5 years ago

      great information for healthy life..... thax 2much

    • Melis Ann profile image

      Melis Ann 6 years ago from Mom On A Health Hunt

      I had not heard of pastured eggs before - I love finding something new! I've been revamping our vitamin selection for myself and my kids and vitamin D was my first priority.

      It's important to also find vitamins that come from sources where unnecessary toxins are not added such as artificial colors or plastics.

    • Melanie Gladney profile image

      Melanie Gladney 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Great article! I don't think enough women know about the importance of Vitamin D. I certainly didn't until I had mine tested and it was "critical low." Taking supplements did make me feel somewhat better. Thanks for bringing this information to the public.

    • profile image

      Dieketseng Rakwata 6 years ago

      Good information.Thanks for sharing it with us.Thank you

    • Sun-Girl profile image

      Sun-Girl 6 years ago from Nigeria

      nice info, great read and thanks for sharing.

    • YadiraE profile image

      YadiraE 6 years ago from Puerto Rico

      great hub!!

    • profile image

      Gina 6 years ago

      Great info! I stop having my menstruation cycles for the past eight years. I was given birth control pills to help with that. I also had high hormonal levels and they were all over the place. After reading an article on the internet I decided to have my vitamin D level checked and it was extremely low. By that time I was pre diabetic and was diagnosed with PCOS. I was so frustrated because I was in my mid twenties. I was overweight and depressed...I also decided to change the way I used to eat and go organic. I now started taking vit D supplements with other otc supplements(mag/cal/zink,B complex vit, omega 3). All the efforts were paid off after eight years I have finally got my menstruation cyle back on my own. I no longer take birth control pills or prediabetic and I'm so happy now. What makes me happier is that I stood up and take charge of my self better than my doctors could. No one knows your body better than you. Start assessing your symptoms and take charge of your health!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      A very informative hub. My Doctor recently recommended I take a Vitamin D supplement to help with my depression. As I sleep some very odd hours and seldom see any sun during Winter, he explained that although Doctors don't normally recommend Vit supplements (preferring us to get our vitamins through natural sources), this was one exception.

      At time of posting I just took my first tablet, and have already decided to nickname vitamin D as 'The Happy Vitamin'. Let's hope I am right :)

      PS. I also suffer from Endometriosis, reproductive problems, fatigue, mood swings and insomnia, which you list here as side effects from vitamin D deficiency.

    • profile image

      pioner 7 years ago

      you have a nice article and very informational. i really like it. It explains the importance of vitamin D in our diet.

    • ImanAlipk profile image

      ImanAlipk 7 years ago

      I really love health related articles, very nice.

    • profile image

      Jennifer Gait 7 years ago

      An interesting post. I was not aware of the menstrual effects if vitamin D deciciency, but very aware that deficinecy is associated with many cancers and that supplementation with vitamin D reduces the recurrence of brerast cancer.

      While it is difficult for those living in the northern hemisphere to get enough sun to raise their vitamin D during the winter months, apparently if sufficient vitamin D is generated through sun exposure in the summer months, it can carry you through the winter. However, it seems to me that supplementation is also a good idea in the winter.

    • hubmattry profile image

      hubmattry 7 years ago

      nice hub thanks

    • lilly_dens profile image

      lilly_dens 7 years ago

      great huB! now i know what to do to prevent menstrual cramps. thanks!

    • Diane Inside profile image

      Diane Inside 7 years ago

      I love this hub, very informative, I do have painful periods but I love milk and drink plenty of it so I can't imagine that I would be deficient in Vitamin D but maybe I am maybe that's why I crave milk so much. lol Thanks for great info.

    • humahub profile image

      humahub 7 years ago from pakistan

      great hub

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 7 years ago from Texas

      Hi kerryg, I found this hub while researching my hub and it fits nicely with my topic. You have provided a lot of great information on vitamin D. I wanted you to know that I have provided a link to this hub on the article I just published titled, Vitamin Supplements for Perimenopause and Menopause. This should assist in creating traffic to both our hubs! :)

    • shareitt profile image

      shareitt 7 years ago

      Thank You, the home remidies will really help.

    • profile image

      farhanhussain4321 7 years ago

      you have a nice hub and very informational hub. i really like it your hub

    • BV911 profile image

      BV911 8 years ago

      I love your hubs! I will definitely try to spend more time in the sun, but i can't take cod liver oil, not even the capsules.

    • krista.zamora1980 profile image

      krista.zamora1980 8 years ago from New York, New York

      great hub! very informative.

    • Mrs. Obvious profile image

      Mrs. Obvious 8 years ago from Northern California

      I suffer from SAD and wrote a hub on my story of dealing with the symptoms of that and low functioning thyroid. I really like the scientific view that you were able to explain so well. Thanks for a great hub. Here is a link to my hub.

    • midnightbliss profile image

      Haydee Anderson 8 years ago from Hermosa Beach

      well explained lens, now I know why vitamin D is important for our health and body, I should spend more time outside, under the sun every morning.

    • anglnwu profile image

      anglnwu 8 years ago

      Lots of good information. I learned something new today--grass-fed dairy products are higher in dietary vitamin D.


    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 8 years ago from Canada

      Great hubs, kerryg. I was particularly interested in the bra one. Thanks for collecting these so we can check them all out so easily!