International Women’s Day was celebrated on March 8. In honour of that, I wanted to discuss an article that I recently read regarding vitamin D and dysmenorrhea (aka menstrual cramps), which affects almost 50% of menstruating women.
One of the Theories Behind Menstrual Cramps
It has been theorized that the pelvic pain that women who suffer from dysmenorrhea (severe menstrual cramps) experience is triggered by an excessive production of prostaglandins by the uterus. These prostaglandins are made from omega-6 fatty acids before menses, and control vasoconstriction and uterine contractions.
Why Vitamin D Might Be the Answer
Interestingly, vitamin D may act as an anti-inflammatory and regulate the expression of important genes involved in the production of prostaglandins, which decreases the activity of the prostaglandins.
The Study Details
The study looked at 40 women between the ages of 18 and 40 who experienced at least 4 consecutive painful menstrual periods over the past 6 months and had a serum 25(OH)D level of < 45 ng/mL. They were not taking calcium, vitamin D, oral contraceptives or other medications, and they had not used an IUD (intrauterine contraceptive device) during the previous 6 month period. The participants were able to use other means of birth control, and were allowed to use NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) as needed, as long as they recorded their use.
The women were randomly assigned to receive either a single oral dose of 300,000 IU vitamin D (cholecalciferol) or placebo 5 days before their expected start of their next menstrual period.
The Study Results
After 2 months, baseline pain scores decreased by 41% among the women in the vitamin D group, but there was no difference among the women in the placebo group. Interestingly, the greatest reduction in pain was among women in the vitamin D group who had the most severe pain at baseline. In addition, none of the women in the vitamin D group needed to take NSAIDs to manage pain at 1 and 2 months, in comparison to 40% of the women in the placebo group used NSAIDs at least once.
The Take-Away Message
I thought that this study is particularly interesting to Canadian women because vitamin D levels tend to be significantly lower in Canadians due to our northern hemisphere. I would say that the take home message is that this is yet another reason for all of us to get our vitamin D levels checked. If you find out that you have low vitamin D levels and experience menstrual cramps, this might be something you should try! As always, it is important to work with a healthcare professional (such as a naturopathic doctor) who can look at your whole case and health history in order to give you a complete and integrated treatment plan for your menstrual cramps.
** Please note that this is NOT medical advice and that you should talk to your healthcare provider before taking this supplement
If you’d like to sit down with me to discuss what I can do to help you with your menstrual cramps, CONTACT ME HERE to set up your complimentary 15 min discovery call/meeting and we can get started.
Here are a few more posts on women’s health that you might also be interested in:
- Women’s Health or Fertility
- What To Do If You’re ALWAYS Tired
- What’s a Menstrual Cup?
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
- Birth Control Does What Else?!?
- Endometriosis & Estrogen Dominance
- Trying to get pregnant? Test your ferritin levels!
- Anderson P. Can Vitamin D Treat Pain? Medscape News Today; Feb 27 2012.
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