Vitamin D: A PCOS Deficiency?
by Amy Medling, founder of PCOS Diva
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.
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?
Have your levels been checked?
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 every 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.
Are you ready to take the next step toward taking control of your PCOS? This free 32-page guide outlines the most basic issues and solutions for women with PCOS.
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
I am from India and am somewhat dark skinned. They say dark skin is like wearing a sun protection, can withstand sun longer and need more exposure for equivalent vitamin D synthesis. Unfortunately, my skin gets tanned way faster than any person, fair or dark, and makes my face kinda “dirty black” 😛
It’s been a hard time getting my D vitamins. I try supplementing it as well.
Even, after (10-20 minutes of exposure to sun) X (4-5 times a week) X (3-4 months), I had my Vit. D levels at 7 on this Jan 🙁
I doubt my vitamin D synthesis is “impaired”. Any thoughts?
Can we use a tanning bed? It’s cold outside 🙂
I don’t approve of tanning beds Ashley. I would rather you still try to get 15 minutes of sun outside a day if possible.
It is important to note that the time of year and latittude affect how one can produce vitamin D. The angle of the sun in winter months is such that no vitamin D can be produced from exposure. Where I live, one cannot make vitamin D from sun exposure October through April. It is vitally important, then, to supplement during this time to keep vitamin D levels healthy.
This is the information from the vitamin D council:
Season: Vitamin D Winter and latitude
What latitude you reside at will affect the length of your Vitamin D Winter. Vitamin D Winter is when no vitamin D production is possible due to the atmosphere blocking all UVB. This lasts for several months, with the duration of time increasing as you move further from the equator. 4
Estimated Vitamin D Winter months according to latitude:
Latitudes from zero degrees to around 35 degrees north or south allow year-round vitamin D production, though the amount produced will decrease as latitude increases. 3 5
Latitudes above 40 degrees north will experience Vitamin D Winter from around November through early March.
Latitudes below 40 degrees south, around June through August.
Latitudes above 50 degrees north, October through early April. 3
Latitudes below 50 degrees south, mid-April through July. 4
Thanks for the info Michelle!
Now I’m able to sort out things…
The last time I had my check-up at the doctor I was told I was vitamin D deficient. I also have PCOS. I never knew there was a link between the two. I have to say when I do lay out in the sun or when I am just outdoors more because it may be summer time, I feel 100x better. I also gain more energy. I wish I could just live at the beach. Maybe then all of these dumb health issues would just go away. After all, the beach is where we came from.
I have been diagnosed with PCOS when I try to conceive… and its been really hard to accept the condition and recently found that I have also deficiency of vitamin D and have to take a supplement for that. But everything its hard the pain, the hair loss, the inflammation everything… and trying for baby #2. Thanks for the support and information.
Debora – It gets better if you live the PCOS Diva Lifestyle!
Hello Everyone, the article on the role of vitamin D in the PCOS condition is very informative.
There are so many options available in the market for Vit.D supplementation, however none of them take care of the infertility aspect of PCOS , this was a comment given to me by a Gyanecologist when I had raised a query on my conception issues as I am suffering from PCOS from last 8 years, and trying to concieve for last 3 years.
I have been prescribed Oosure Plus , a product of myo inositol and Vitamin D3 , my doctor has assured that I would be able to concieve within 3 months of usage of this product.
One of my friend has benefited with a product called Oosure.
I hope that after 3 months i would blog on the same website with some good news.
People often think that it is just the people who live in the North who are affected, but I can tell you from a medical providers experience, this is not the case. Even people, and many people, who live in sunny states such as Arizona are deficient. It’s a good test to have done in a routine medical evaluation.
I have recently be diagnose with PCOS & my naturopath put me on 5 vitamin D tablets per day. After about 3 months, my cycle started becoming regular & still is. So I definitely agree rhat vit d supplementation regulates the hormonw function. My vit d test said 60 which the gp thought was fine but the naturopath said it should be over 100. Would highly recommend anyone with PCOS & irregular periods giving vitamin d supplementation a go. You will be suprised at the difference it makes.
So now that I found this post again, I wanted to actually give my comments on the subject, in case it might help someone else. I read this article a while back and kept thinking I should take some vitamin d supplements and see if I noticed a difference. A week or two later I was feeling really down, and complete anxiety about the coming winter months and snow. I started taking 2 vitamin d pills per day, I think they are 1,000 IU each. After a few weeks I was feeling much happier and significantly less anxiety. Then my period came. Usually I bleed so heavy that it is basically hemorrhaging for about 4 days, with massive clots. This period was lighter, significantly less painful, and just… easier. I upped my dose to 3 pills per day while I have had pneumonia and was out of my prenatals, and now I am on my period again. Significantly lighter, no pain, and honestly, not bad at all. I also haven’t felt anxious for weeks. Obviously there are other things that maybe could be to “blame” for the changes, but from what I can think of, the only change in my day to day life is vitamin d. I wanted to go in and have a blood test done to test my levels, but I am too scared to stop taking the vitamin d for a few weeks for my levels to drop back down.
I don’t know if that is at all helpful, but it’s been wonderful to experience these changes. I manage my constant bleeding (24/7, 365 days a year) with clomid now, but the doctor has suggested I try a few months off of it to see what happens, and I have been very nervous. But I am hopeful that maybe it will go better with the changes I’ve already experienced.
I’m not crazy! My OB/GYN’s office insisted there was no correletion between my significant Vitamin D deficiency and PCOS and the two had no affect on the other! Why do I continutually waste my money on these doctors whom I prove wrong every time!? So frustrating
There is no correlation. A “vitamin D deficiency” is actually just a magnesium deficiency. A magnesium deficiency exacerbates the symptoms of PCOS. One does not cause the other.
I just found your website for the first time and I have found a lot of really cool stuff here. My comments on Vitamin D — yes, absolutely! I will tell you that several years ago when I first started hearing about Vitamin D making an impact on being able to lose weight, I started taking vitamin D pills and even the drops, in fairly large quantities. I never got my Vit D levels tested then, but nothing measurable really happened to change my health – didn’t lose weight, the fatigue and body aches didn’t go away etc. It wasn’t until I started taking a natural source of Vitamin D (cod liver oil) that really good things started to happen. I’ve now been taking several teaspoons of high potency cod liver oil a day for about 5 months and I have experienced a major health turnaround. (And yes, it tastes absolutely foul, but it’s working! )
I was just diagnosed with PCOS in the past month!!! This article really hits home with me about 5 months ago I started having muscle and bone pain, weight gain , depression, and exhaustion. My blood results came back with a very low vitamin d level ( mine was 12 and the dr. Said a good number is 50) I was prety much bed ridden. I am now finally starting to feel better after large doses of vit. D and healthy eating. I don’t wish this on anyone so please check your D levels
You are very misinformed. Please stop giving desperate people bad information. High doses of vitamin D will cause so much harm. It is fat soluble and if too much is taken your body cannot get rid of it.
Please, please, please!!! look into this information more so that you can be more educated and not hand out harmful information!
Becky, not everyone who checks the site is desperate and not all the information is bad. If anything, it could possibly be outdated but I’m not sure of that. The resources are listed and you can check those out.
The message is simple: Have your vitamin D levels checked because there are some women with PCOS who are deficient. PCOS may be the reason the levels are so low.
I am one of those women and I appreciate the article being written. When you go to the store, you don’t have to grab a bottle of 50,000ui of vitamin d. You can get a bottle with 400ui.
If there is another reason your levels are low. Find out why, don’t just accept the prescription.
It is good to find out why your levels are low but most people are misinformed of the reason. PCOS is a collection of symptoms and can’t cause anything, it’s not a disease. So PCOS cannot be the reason for low levels of storage D. Proper testing of ALL D levels (not just storage like everyone talks about) is incredibly important. Taking synthetic fat soluble vitamins (in this case a hormone) is a bad idea no matter the dose, get D from food and the sun only if you want to avoid toxic build up.