Can vitamin D help menstrual cramps?



Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
@EmmaThornton
Ask Emma


08 August 2018

Severe period pain

Severe period cramps, also known as primary dysmenorrhea, occur during and around menstruation. It is a common problem that is often accompanied by vomiting, back pain, diarrhoea, hip pain and nausea. 

Each month the body prepares for the arrival of a fertilized egg by forming a thick lining in the womb. If an egg does not come however, then prostaglandins (hormone-like substances) cause the uterus to contract in order to shed this lining. This can bring on pain, alongside the other symptoms mentioned above. Also, sometimes the uterus contracts too forcefully and this puts pressure on the blood vessels. As the oxygen supply is then reduced for a short while, pain can become even more intense.

So, the pain here is caused by your cycle but there are other reasons for severe cramp which are known as secondary dysmenorrhea. This refers to conditions such as endometriosis, a problem where the tissues that usually line the inside of the uterus grow outside it. This is much more painful than regular period cramp and can include other symptoms like pain during sex, difficulty getting pregnant and pain when going to the toilet.

The research

As period pain affects all women to varying degrees, it is no wonder that we look for new ways to treat the problem. No one likes to rely on painkillers after all, and sometimes the hot water bottle just doesn’t cut it. That’s why some scientists have delved into the issue of whether or not vitamin D can help period pain.

A study conducted in Italy in 2012 seemed to show positive results on this issue. Here researchers enrolled 40 women suffering from primary dysmenorrhea and gave one half a strong vitamin D supplement and the other half a placebo. Participants had to note down their period symptoms over a two month time span, as well as their use of painkillers. 

The results showed that in comparison to the control group, those using a vitamin D supplement experienced a big improvement in their menstrual symptoms.1 Therefore, this research suggests that a large dose of vitamin D may ease severe period pain and it could reduce reliance on painkillers too. 

However, although this shows promising results, we must approach the research with caution as this was very small study that may not be representative of the population as a whole.  Also, as these participants were being closely monitored by experts, they were given a much higher dose of vitamin D than you would consume at home. This means participants were more likely to see a difference in their symptoms than if you were to consume a regular dose of vitamin D at home. What’s more, consuming large quantities of vitamin D comes with its own risks so although the results of this work are promising, more research is needed into smaller doses.

Why might vitamin D help?

As I already mentioned, prostaglandins can contribute to period pain as they lead to your uterus shedding its lining each month. However, sometimes too many of these prostaglandins are produced which can worsen the problem further as this causes the uterus to contract more frequently and more strongly than normal. 

The treatment for this issue relies upon contraceptives and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs however, with a bit more research vitamin D could become another option. This is known to reduce the amount of prostaglandins that are produced by the body and so in this way it could decrease pain.  

Should you increase your vitamin D intake?

Although there is still more research needed into the effects of vitamin D on menstrual cramp, there is little harm in you increasing your intake a little in order to test out the theory for yourself. If it works then great but if not then don’t worry - your body needs vitamin D anyway so consuming more of it will do your overall heath some good. I’m sure you’re aware that vitamin D helps bone health for example, as well as muscle and immune function.  

There are a number of foods that are loaded with vitamin D including mackerel, salmon, milk, almond milk and tofu but some people may wish to try out a supplement as well. In this case I’d recommend trying BetterYou’s Dlux Vitamin D Oral Spray  as this is a high strength product meaning you’ll see the most benefit from using it. This spray also bypasses the digestive system meaning your body can absorb it quickly regardless of any digestive issues or stress. What’s more, this spray has a natural peppermint flavour meaning it is both beneficial to your body and tasty!

As I discuss in my blog 5 vitamins and minerals to help you through your period, there are lots of things your body needs to get you through your period comfortably. So, although it may benefit you to increase your vitamin D intake at this time, it is equally important that you consume other vitamins and minerals too. Although you should try to do this through your diet as much as possible, you could also turn to our Balance Mineral Drink for an extra boost. This provides magnesium, zinc, calcium, potassium and vitamin D and it has a refreshing strawberry taste flavour.

1 https://www.webmd.com/women/news/20120228/vitamin-d-may-ease-painful-periods#1 

Agnus castus

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A traditional herbal remedy used to relieve the symptoms of PMS
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Here's what I recommend

As the A.Vogel  Women’s Health advisor, I recommend Agnus castus to help relieve premenstrual symptoms such as painful periods.

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