Studies show that vitamin D can help with the regulation of insulin flow and balancing blood sugar, which helps the body’s natural hormone cycles to function effectively.
Here, gynaecologist and women’s health specialist, Dr Tania Adib, explains how “the sunshine vitamin” can help regulate post-menopausal symptoms.
There has been a lot of publicity in recent years around the role of this vitamin in the body. Women in particular are recommended to supplement their diet to help with their general health. This becomes even more important during and after the menopause, as lack of vitamin D can play a big factor in menopausal symptoms.
Where does vitamin D come from?
We think of this vitamin as a nutrient, but it is also considered to be a pro-hormone, which means your body can convert it into a hormone. Our bodies are unable to produce vitamin D unassisted, and the primary source is sunlight. When skin is exposed to sunlight, a chemical reaction takes place, producing this sunshine nutrient. This is then converted and processed producing calcitriol, a steroid hormone.
What are the links?
Many of the symptoms experienced because of low levels — such as fatigue, low mood, mood swings, muscle weakness and joint pain — mirror those that are experienced during the menopause. So low levels can in fact exacerbate symptoms. It’s really important to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D but especially at these times because as women get older it is more difficult to obtain through sunlight or diet alone.
I would recommend getting levels checked by your GP to ensure adequate supplementation.
Oestrogen, progesterone and thyroid
There is evidence to suggest that this multi-purpose vitamin could be capable of influencing several different hormones, including thyroid hormones and sex hormones, such as oestrogen and progesterone.
It seems to play a role in the activity of oestrogen. It is believed that it allows oestrogen to be activated at receptor sites. Without sufficient vitamin D, levels of active oestrogen tend to be low, so it’s important to maintain healthy levels at the end of and after menopause.
More research is needed in this area but it seems that vitamin D has a balancing effect on oestrogen; reducing levels if too high and increasing when too low. This may be due to vitamin D contributing to the healthy function of oestrogen receptors, ensuring they are less sensitive in conditions when oestrogen is plentiful, and more sensitive when oestrogen is scarce.
Does vitamin D improve the health of the vagina?
There are some studies that show that vitamin D may improve vaginal dryness. I have found that it works best in combination with another supplement, sea buckthorn, which contains folate, biotin, vitamins B1, B2, B6, C and E, protein building blocks (amino acids), fatty acids and minerals. In my patients, supplementing with both vitamin D and sea buckthorn has a noticeable effect on vaginal dryness and has been a lifesaver for many of my patients at the end of menopause.