Vitamin D is essential for hormone health, and even further it’s essential to have adequate vitamin D for PCOS. Below you’ll learn what vitamin D does, how it relates to PCOS, and how to ensure you’re getting enough.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, found in some foods we eat, that plays a role in several body processes. Our bodies can also produce vitamin D when our skin is exposed to the UV rays from the sun.
Vitamin D is an important vitamin (and also a hormone!) needed by the body because it aids in calcium absorption, strengthens bones, reduces inflammation, supports the immune system and other important body systems.
How does Vitamin D relate to PCOS?
Vitamin D deficiency is very common in women struggling with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Common symptoms of PCOS, including heightened androgen levels, insulin sensitivity, infertility, irregular menstrual cycles can all be intensified by a vitamin D deficiency.
The good news is that adequate vitamin D intake could help improve several PCOS symptoms and co-experiences, including insulin resistance, high androgens, inflammation, and fertility.
There is research to suggest that vitamin D may help to lower androgen levels in women with PCOS. Several studies have shown evidence for positive effects of vitamin D supplementation on improving metabolic markers, lowering insulin levels and LDL cholesterol.
How much is needed?
The recommended daily intake (RDA) of vitamin D for women in there 20-40s is 15 mcg (600 IU). This recommendation assumes that people are getting minimal sun exposure as well. Depending on a variety of factors, including deficiency and medical conditions like PCOS, vitamin D needs may be much higher.
People that live in areas with little sun exposure may need to get more vitamin D through food and supplementation. Because melanin reduces the amount of vitamin D that can be synthesized by the sun, those with dark skin may also need also need to consume more vitamin D.
It’s essential to have your vitamin D levels tested via serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentrations. This will help determine how much vitamin D you need.
How to get more vitamin D?
As previously mentioned, we can obtain vitamin D through sun exposure and the food we eat. Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel) is a great source of vitamin D. A 3 oz. serving of cooked trout has approximately 16 mcg. Taking cod liver oil is another good source of vitamin D that can provide 34 mcg in just 1 tablespoon.
Other foods that provide vitamin D include mushrooms, liver, sardines, egg yolks, red meat, and cheddar cheese.
Because there aren’t a lot of foods that naturally contain vitamin D, certain foods have been fortified with vitamin D. Ready-to-eat cereals, dairy milk, plant-based milks, and orange juice are common foods that are often fortified with vitamin D.
If you aren’t able to consume adequate vitamin D through your diet or sun exposure, vitamin D supplements may be beneficial. Always speak with your medical provider before starting a new supplement.
Want personalized PCOS nutrition support? Learn more here or book a (free!) call to learn more about the 1:1 Peace with PCOS Program, where I help women with PCOS balance hormones so they can eliminate symptoms and experience peace with their bodies and food.
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Written by Heidi Nolt and Katie Massman, RDN
Azadi-Yazdi, Maryam, Azadeh Nadjarzadeh, Hossein Khosravi-Boroujeni, and Amin Salehi-Abargouei. “The Effect of Vitamin D Supplementation on the Androgenic Profile in Patients with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials.” Hormone and Metabolic Research = Hormon- Und Stoffwechselforschung = Hormones Et Metabolisme 49, no. 3 (March 2017): 174–79. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0043-103573.
Lin, Ming-Wei, and Meng-Hsing Wu. “The Role of Vitamin D in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.” Indian Journal of Medical Research 142, no. 3 (September 1, 2015): 238. https://doi.org/10.4103/0971-5916.166527.
“Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin D.” Accessed July 18, 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/.