Did you know that Vitamin D is not really a vitamin after all?
It is actually a precursor hormone and is a key factor in maintaining hormonal balance. In fact, it is the building block of a powerful steroid hormone in your body called calcitriol.
There has been a lot of talk about Vitamin D lately probably because upwards of 75% of the world’s population is Vitamin D deficient, and it can put one at risk of a myriad of health issues like rickets, tuberculosis, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, type-1 diabetes, high blood pressure, increased heart failure, insulin resistance, depression, obesity breast and other cancers.
It is estimated that many of these diseases could be reduced by as much as 50% or more if vitamin D deficiency was corrected by increasing vitamin D intake through sun exposure, fortified foods, or supplements. (1)
In addition, if you are suffering muscle pain, weak bones/fractures, low energy and fatigue, lowered immunity, symptoms of depression, mood swings, and sleep issues, you may have a Vitamin D deficiency.
What does the research say?
3 out of 4 women with PCOS may have Vitamin D deficiencies.
In recent years, there have been some studies done regarding PCOS and Vitamin D levels. A study done at the Medical University of Graz in Austria showed that almost three of every four women with PCOS may have vitamin D deficiencies. The study looked at 206 women affected by PCOS and found that 72.8% had insufficient vitamin D levels. (2)
Genetic variation in Vitamin D receptors
Another study from the Royan Institute in Iran theorized that women with PCOS may have a genetic variation that affects how effectively vitamin D functions in the body. The researchers stated, “The findings of the present study indicate that genetic variation in the vitamin D receptor may affect PCOS development as well as insulin resistance in women with PCOS.” (3) Perhaps these genetic variations may contribute to insulin resistance and PCOS.
In a very small Columbia University study of 13 women with PCOS, five were found to have obvious vitamin D deficiency and three others had borderline-low vitamin D status.(4) All 13 women were treated with vitamin D2 at a dose of 50,000 IU once or twice a week, and also received 1,500 mg of supplemental calcium per day.
Of the nine women with irregular periods prior to vitamin D treatment, seven experienced a more normal cycle within two months and the other two became pregnant. The authors of the study suggest that abnormalities in calcium balance may be responsible, in part, for the arrested follicular development in women with PCOS.
Vitamin D may help with Insulin Resistance
Studies have shown that women with PCOS have mostly insufficient vitamin D levels, and vitamin D replacement therapy may have a beneficial effect on IR in obese women with PCOS. (5) People with higher levels of this vitamin are 40% less likely to develop diabetes. The vitamin helps the pancreas secrete insulin. It also reduces systemic inflammation, which influences insulin resistance. (6)
What can I do about my Vitamin D levels?
Ask your doctor to check your levels. If he/she gives you a hard time, be a Diva and take these medical studies to the office. You will want to ask for a 25-hydroxy vitamin D, or 25(OH)D. The test results will be expressed in nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). The Grassroots Health Scientists Panel of 41 expert vitamin D researchers and medical practitioners believe based on evidence, that the serum level should be between 40-60 ng/ml. (7)
If you don’t have insurance or just want to do your own test, Grassroots Health offers affordable Vitamin D testing. When you order your kit from Grassroots Health, you will also be participating in the world’s largest Vitamin D project to solve the deficiency, “D*action”. You may choose to enroll for a 1-time test with your health information or you may even participate in the 5 year project where you provide your health information along with a vitamin D test each 6 months for the 5 year period.
Strive for 15 minutes unprotected sun exposure every day.
Your body can’t create vitamin D on its own. Instead, it’s designed to make it through sun exposure. Try to get 15 minutes unprotected on your hands, face and arms (although it is hard in the dead of winter in New Hampshire where I live!).
Eat Vitamin D rich foods.
I often feature wild salmon in my PCOS Meal Plans. It is a perfect PCOS food not just for Omega 3’s but also for Vitamin D. Mackerel and sardines are also a good choice. Egg yolks are a good source as well. Don’t rely on fortified dairy or processed breakfast cereals.
Supplement Vitamin D.
Have your levels tested, and then ask your doctor about supplements. If you are low in Vitamin D, you may require large amounts initially to get you up to optimal levels. For a long time, vitamin D therapy was prescribed as Vitamin D2. Vitamin D2 is actually much less effective than natural Vitamin D3. Be sure you are supplementing with D3 which is a more bio-available form for the body.
I take PCOS Diva Super D. It is a carefully researched and sourced supplement that provides the level of vitamin D that I need for my PCOS diet supplement, together with vitamin K1 and K2 to optimize absorption. Best of all, I can count on its safety and effectiveness because it is sourced from a reliable nutraceutical company that is GMP certified.
For more info on the dosage, Carole Baggerly, director of GrassrootsHealth explains, “Clinicians and their medical associations are creating clinical practice guidelines based on the documented science as well as their clinical experience and establishing recommended serum levels at least at 30-60 ng/ml (75-150 nmol/L) with recommended intakes from 1000-2000 IU/day based on age. It is recommended that everyone test their vitamin D serum level for a baseline measurement and adjust their intake to reach the desired serum level.” And then be sure to have it retested to see how the therapy is working.
Amy Medling, best-selling author of Healing PCOS and certified health coach, specializes in working with women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), who are frustrated and have lost all hope when the only solution their doctors offer is to lose weight, take a pill, and live with their symptoms. In response, Amy founded PCOS Diva and developed a proven protocol of supplements, diet, and lifestyle programs that offer women tools to help gain control of their PCOS and regain their fertility, femininity, health, and happiness.
(2) Wehr E et al, Association of hypovitaminosis D with metabolic disturbances in polycystic ovary syndrome, Eur J Endocrinol. 2009 Jul 23.
(3) Mahmoudi T et al, Genetic variation in the vitamin D receptor and polycystic ovary syndrome risk, Fertil Steril. 2009 Jun 5.
(4) Thys-Jacobs S, Donovan D, Papadopoulos A, Sarrel P, Bilezikian JP. Vitamin D and calcium dysregulation in the polycystic ovarian syndrome. Steroids 1999 Jun;64(6):430-5.
(5) J Endocrinol Invest. 2010 Apr;33(4):234-8. Epub 2009 Oct 9.The effect of vitamin D replacement therapy on insulin resistance and androgen levels in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.
(6) Vitamin D deficiency and Type 2 Diabestes by Z. Oxfirat and T. A. Chowdhury, Postgrad Med J, 1/2010