We could all do with a few extra minutes spent outdoors in the sunshine…particularly on a chilly day. But spending more time in the sun can be especially beneficial for PCOS patients. Why, you ask? Because the ‘Sunshine Vitamin’ —- Vitamin D along with Calcium can make a world of difference for your PCOS symptoms!
Why Should Women With PCOS Care About Vitamin D Deficiency?
Many of us are deficient in Vitamin D, particularly those of us who live in a cold, wet climate or those who are perpetually indoors during the day. It’s highly impossible to get enough Vitamin D through diet alone. You need about 15 minutes of sunlight (minus the sunblock) for your body to produce adequate vitamin D levels. While this seems rather doable, you’d be surprised to hear how many of us are actually deficient in Vitamin D.
But things get tougher for women battling with PCOS as Vitamin D deficiency is highly prevalent in them. In fact, if you have PCOS, you are 3 times more likely to have Vitamin D deficiency with levels lesser than 25 nmol/liter in the blood. Various studies have found that as many as 67–85% of women with PCOS have low serum concentrations of Vitamin D, which can exacerbate symptoms of PCOS, like:
- Insulin resistance
- Ovulatory and menstrual irregularities
- Lower pregnancy success
- Elevated cardiovascular disease risk factors
And that means there is a place for vitamin D supplementation in the management and treatment of PCOS.
In a Turkish study, scientists found that Vitamin D replacement therapy had a beneficial effect on Insulin Resistance in obese PCOS patients. Another study from Medical University of Graz, Austria concluded that vitamin D treatment might improve glucose metabolism and menstrual frequency in PCOS women. They also found that triglyceride and estradiol levels significantly decreased in these subjects by the end of 24 weeks.
Researchers from AHEPA University Hospital, Thessaloniki, Greece had similar findings. They put 15 obese women with PCOS with documented chronic anovulation and hyperandrogenism on 1 μg 1-α-hydroxyvitamin D3 per day for 3 months. At the end of the trial, the subjects had
- Decreased insulin resistance
- Increased insulin sensitivity
- Improved lipid profile
So, you see, treatment with the vitamin D can be of great value in the management of PCOS.
But Where Does Calcium Fit Into Treatment Of PCOS?
Good question! And the answer is really simple – the body needs Vitamin D for the synthesis of calcium. When your vitamin D levels are low, the body cannot absorb enough calcium. Simply put – most of us who are deficient in Vitamin D will also likely have a calcium deficiency.
Now calcium is closely tied to menstrual cyclicity, as it plays a crucial role in follicle maturation and egg development. And as we mention, calcium and vitamin D go hand in hand to regulate normal menstrual cycles. This was further proven by an observational study at Columbia University, published in 1999.
Total of 13 premenopausal PCOS women with documented chronic anovulation and hyperandrogenism were evaluated. Of these:
- 4 women had amenorrheic or absence of periods
- 9 had a history oligomenorrhea or infrequent menstrual periods
- 2 had dysfunctional bleeding
- 9 had abnormal pelvic sonograms with multiple ovarian follicular cysts
- All had hirsutism
- 2 had alopecia or excess hair loss
- 5 had acanthosis nigricans or dark patchy skin pigmentation
After receiving Vitamin D repletion with calcium therapy for 2 months, menstrual cycle normalized completely for 7 patients, and the 2 patients with dysfunctional bleeding found complete resolution to their problems. 2 of the patients even became pregnant, and the other 4 maintained normal menstrual cycles. Hence, the researchers concluded that Vitamin D and Calcium dysregulation could be responsible for the arrested follicular development in women with PCOS, and may contribute to the development of this disorder.
In fact, so effective is this therapy that scientists from Tehran combined Metformin with Calcium + Vitamin D supplementation to assess its benefits in infertile women suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome. 100 infertile PCOS women were randomly divided into two groups.
- One group got metformin 1500 mg/day,
- While the other group was treated with metformin 1500 mg/day plus Calcium 1000 mg/day and Vitamin D 100000 IU/month for 6 months.
The improvements in the group who got Calcium + Vitamin D supplementation along with metformin far surpassed those of the group that got metformin alone. Thus, this research became a beacon of hope for infertile women with PCOS. It proved that something as simple and affordable as calcium & vitamin D supplementation could have positive effects on weight loss, follicle maturation, menstrual regularity, and improvement of hyperandrogenism.
Plus further studies have found that calcium plus vitamin D co-supplementation for 8 weeks has beneficial effects on inflammatory factor and biomarkers of oxidative stress. These studies involved overweight and vitamin D-deficient women with PCOS, even when no metformin is involved.
Vitamin D & Calcium For PCOS: What Does All This Mean?
All this scientific evidence points in one direction – starting on Vitamin D and Calcium supplements can aid your PCOS treatment plan. While we’d love to get all our essential vitamins and minerals through a healthy PCOS diet and lifestyle, this may not always be possible in this case. We’ve already discussed that women with PCOS are highly susceptible to Vitamin D deficiency, which can decrease absorption of Calcium.
Getting your daily recommended dose of sunlight can be downright impossible if your climate doesn’t offer any, or when you’re stuck indoors at your office desk through the day. Plus many of us on a PCOS diet avoid dairy….which is one of the best sources of calcium.
This is why we recommend you take 5000 IU of Vitamin D along with a low dose of 500mg of Calcium per day. Unlike Vitamin D, you can naturally increase your calcium intake by eating foods rich in calcium, like dark green leafy vegetables, bone broth, nuts, beans, tofu and gelatin. As long as you’re eating plenty of seasonal, fresh vegetables, you don’t need to supplement with higher doses of calcium, which have been linked with risk of kidney stones and heart disease.
Have you tried Calcium and Vitamin D supplements for PCOS? If so, we’d love to hear more about your experience!