Vitamin D May Alleviate Period Pain

May 12 2016No Commented

Categorized Under: Health food nutrition, Health product reviews, Healthy eating, Healthy lifestyle

I read with interest a review written by Amber Tovey, from the Vitamin D Council, about how women with low levels of Vitamin D may be more prone to experiencing painful periods.

She was referring to a report done by researchers this year which concluded that a weekly high dose (50 000 IU) of oral Vitamin D supplementation for eight weeks in patients with primary dysmenorrhea and Vitamin D deficiency, could improve pain intensity.

She tells us that Dysmenorrhea or Painful Menstrual Cramps affect up to 90% of women who are of reproductive age.

period pain

90% of women of reproductive age have experienced Dysmenorrhea or Period cramps

She reports “Painful cramps begin to occur after the uterus produces high amounts of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins cause the uterine muscles to contract and help the uterus shed the lining. Excessive amounts of prostaglandins can cause the uterus to contract too strongly or too frequently, leading to pain. Therefore, most primary dysmenorrhea medications aim to suppress prostaglandin synthesis. These medications include contraceptives and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).”

Since past research has found that vitamin D reduces the production of prostaglandins, researchers recently conducted a study to evaluate the effects of vitamin D supplementation on primary dysmenorrhea in women with vitamin D deficiency.

The researchers enrolled sixty women with primary dysmenorrhea aged 18-30 years, having at least four recent consecutive painful menstrual cycles during the past six months and low vitamin D status
(< 30 ng/ml). Women were excluded if they had taken contraceptives within the past two months, since contraceptives would affect the pain severity caused by dysmenorrhea.

Divided into 2 groups, half of the group were given 50,000IU of Vitamin D a week for 8 weeks and the other half, a placebo.

These were the results of the study

  • A total of 50 out of the 60 women completed the study. Among the 50 women, 31 had severe vitamin D deficiency (< 10 ng/ml) and 19 had moderate vitamin D deficiency (10-19 ng/ml).
  • Baseline characteristics were not significantly different between the treatment and placebo groups.
  • After two months of treatment, vitamin D status significantly increased in the treatment group from a mean of 9.7 ng/ml to 55.4 ng/ml; whereas the vitamin D status of the placebo group did not significantly increase.
  • At baseline, in the vitamin D group, pain was mild in 3 patients (13%), moderate in 16 patients (69.6%) and severe in 4 patients (17.4%). After treatment, 95.7% of patients had mild pain, 1 (4.3%) had moderate pain and none of them had severe pain (p < 0.001).
  • Pain intensity reduced significantly in the vitamin D group after 8 weeks of treatment and one month after the end of treatment (p < 0.001).
  • The number of NSAID used by the patients was not significantly different between the two groups at baseline. At the end of treatment, the number of tablets used by the women in the vitamin D group decreased significantly, and there was a significant difference between the two groups (p < 0.001).

Amber tells us the researchers concluded

Based on the study findings, it seems that Vitamin D supplementation with a weekly dose of 50,000 IU for eight weeks could improve pain intensity and decrease the need for using NSAID in patients with primary dysmenorrhea and Vitamin D deficiency.”

While the study presents promising results, the small sample size and the short duration of treatment limited the study’s findings. Therefore, further randomized controlled clinical trials with greater sample size, longer duration and daily dosing of vitamin D are needed to confirm the efficacy of vitamin D for treatment of primary dysmenorrhea.

However, if you have dysmenorrhea, take at least 5,000 IU/day of vitamin D3. Heavier women may need 10,000 IU/day.

In New Zealand, we are limited to 1000IU of Vitamin D per tablet/capsule, in an over the counter product.  This means you need to take a minimum of 5 x 1000IU tablets a day to get this dosage.  As well as this and as the study reports, most of the women were very deficient in Vitamin D, so a much higher dosage may be needed initially to ” top up” deficient levels, before results are obtained.

You can view our Vitamin D supplements here

You can request a Vitamin D blood test, which will cost around $50.  You can go directly to Labtests here in New Zealand and request this test yourself, or alternatively, ask your GP to organise this test for you (they will still charge you for this blood test). Your GP can prescribe you 50,000IU tablets, often taken at a dosage of once a week in very deficient people and once a month in others.  A dosage like this should really help to boost deficient Vitamin D level in the body, so then a dosage of just the 1000IU could maintain this  level.

Vitamin D is synthesized by the action of Sunlight on the skin, however if relying on this source, you need to read this blurb I have previously written on Vitamin D from sunlight.  This blurb also provides a link to more info I have written on Vitamin D.

Foods that are rich in Vitamin D include:

Fish liver oils – cod, halibut, herring, tuna, butter, egg yolks, milk and sprouted seeds.

Henry Osiecki tells us that Factors that increase the demand for Vitamin D include:

Those who drink alcohol, have bile problems, cancer, Crohns disease, cystic fibrosis, darked skinned people, the elderly, those with hypoparathyroidism, intestinal disorders, insulin dependent diabetes, kidney disorders, lack of exposure to the sun, in lactation, those with liver disease, multiple sclerosis, obesity, pancreatic disease, during pregnancy, in those with rickets, schizophrenia, in smog exposure, those with ulcerative colitis, those who use anti convulsants (eg phenytoin and phenobarbitol), steroid medication and Vegetarians.

oily fish

Leanne James
Founder Ideal Health



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