Vitamin D & PCOS
Now that the weather is warming up, exposure to sunshine will help increase vitamin D levels. While an adequate vitamin D level is important for many different aspects of health and wellness, it may be particularly helpful for those with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is the most common hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age. At this time, there is no clear cause of PCOS, but it often involves abnormal production and breakdown of estrogen and testosterone, insulin resistance, and difficulty regulating fat and glucose breakdown. This article will explore the connection between vitamin D deficiency and PCOS, and hopefully motivate people to spend more time outside this spring and summer.
What are the symptoms of PCOS?
Before discussing the relationship between vitamin D and PCOS, it is useful to understand this syndrome more thoroughly. Common symptoms of PCOS include: menstrual cycle irregularities, and physical signs of high testosterone, like excess body hair on the face, hair loss from the scalp, and acne. A lack of ovulation may underlie infrequent or absent menstruation, which has negative implications for fertility. Due to the difficulties with regulating blood sugar, insulin, and lipids, women with PCOS can struggle with weight gain and obesity, and are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
While the name suggests that ovarian cysts are an integral part of the diagnosis, they do not have to be present in order for the diagnosis to be made. Extensive lab testing isn’t necessary to diagnose PCOS, however, it is important to undergo some testing to rule out other causes, like thyroid dysfunction. In addition, testing blood glucose levels and cholesterol will evaluate the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It is important to seek out a healthcare professional if this sounds familiar, not only to help treat bothersome symptoms, but also to help prevent development of associated conditions.
Naturopathic Support for PCOS
There are a number of naturopathic options for managing PCOS, from botanical medicine, to diet and lifestyle changes. Correcting a vitamin D deficiency is just one factor, but research demonstrates compelling reasons to do so.
One paper found that in women with a vitamin D deficiency and PCOS, insulin resistance was more severe compared to women with PCOS and no vitamin D deficiency. Insulin resistance indicates poor blood sugar control, and these findings indicate that vitamin D plays a role in the development of insulin resistance in those with PCOS.
Another study found that in women with PCOS and deficient vitamin D levels, supplementing with vitamin D helped to improve insulin resistance and elevated lipids. This means that correcting vitamin D deficiency could reduce the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Other beneficial effects of vitamin D supplementation, outside of improving insulin resistance, have also been demonstrated. One study found that correcting vitamin D deficiency in women with PCOS was correlated with shortened menstrual cycles, lowered levels of triglycerides in the blood, and improved acne and facial hair growth. Again, these improvements lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes, which is a very important aspect of treating PCOS.
Naturopathic doctors in BC are able to check vitamin D levels in the blood, which will help determine appropriate and individualized dosing of this vitamin. While it is often necessary to take supplemental vitamin D, especially in the winter months, it can be found in salmon, sardines, eggs, and shiitake mushrooms. In addition to food sources and supplements, sunshine is a source of vitamin D. As the weather warms up, enjoy the feeling of sunshine on your skin, but make sure to take necessary precautions to avoid sun damage. Correcting a vitamin D deficiency will be one facet of treating PCOS, and will likely not be the whole story. If you are struggling with symptoms that suggest PCOS, make sure to talk to your health care provider.
Vitamin D Injections
Juniper Family Health now offers vitamin D intramuscular injections, which can eliminate the need for daily oral supplementation. Talk to one of the naturopathic doctors to determine whether this is an appropriate option for you.
To book an appointment with a Naturopathic Doctor at Juniper Family Health please call 778-265-8340 or book online here.
 Patra S. et al. Vitamin D as a predictor of insulin resistance in polycystic ovarian syndrome. Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews. 6(3): 146-149, 2012.
 Dastorani M. et al. The effects of vitamin D supplementation on metabolic profiles and gene expression of insulin and lipid metabolism in infertile polycystic ovary syndrome candidates for in vitro fertilization. Reprod Biol Endocrinol 16(1): 94, 2018.
 Irani M et al. Vitamin D supplementation decreases TGF-B1 bioavailability in PCOS: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 100(11): 4307-4314, 2015.