The effect of diet on various body functions has become a popular topic among those most concerned with good health. Unlike weight loss and heart disease, the menstrual cycle is not commonly discussed in association with diet-related issues, but it has been suggested that diet plays a role in this natural, monthly cycle. Vitamin D has been identified as one of the dietary components linked to the menstrual cycle.
The Menstrual Cycle
Menstruation is the process by which a woman’s body sheds the lining of the uterus in a flow of blood. When this process becomes a regular, monthly occurrence, it is referred to as the menstrual cycle. The length of the cycle varies, and can be from 21 to 35 days, or up to 45 days in teenage girls. The menstrual cycle is controlled by hormonal fluctuations. Some of these hormones, originating in the ovaries, are involved in the metabolic processing of vitamin D and the regulation of calcium absorption in the intestines.
Vitamin D production in the body is initiated when the sun’s UV rays reach exposed skin. This fat-soluble vitamin is necessary for calcium absorption, making it a requirement for any event in the body that uses calcium. Some fish and fish oils have vitamin D; however, dietary sources are enhanced by fortified foods such as cereal flours and milk, and supplements.
Vitamin D Deficiency
With the number of foods containing vitamin D being limited, and the risk of skin cancer from harmful UV rays, becoming vitamin D deficient is easy unless you make informed choices. Be aware of what foods are fortified with vitamin D and choose them over unfortified varieties. For some people, supplements may be one route of getting an adequate supply. Weak muscles and bones from a condition known as osteomalacia can result from vitamin D deficiency in adults. Two hundred IU, international units, of vitamin D daily should be enough to meet the needs of adults, the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies states.
Vitamin D and the Menstrual Cycle
A 2000 study by Dr. Susan Thys-Jacobs published in the "Journal of American College of Nutrition" reported that calcium supplements relieve the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, and that vitamin D deficiency was evident among women who suffer from this malady. Premenstrual syndrome is a condition that is often typified by mood and behavioral changes including depression and anxiety.
Calcium and vitamin D metabolism are affected by hormones that fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle. A deficient state in these nutrients has been implicated in premenstrual syndrome, an affliction that millions of women contend with every month.
- The National Women’s Health Information Center: Menstruation and the Menstrual Cycle
- National Institute of Health, Office of Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D
- Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies: Dietary Reference Intakes: Vitamins
- "Journal of the American College of Nutrition"; Premenstrual Syndrome; Thys-Jacobs, S; Vol.19, No. 2; 2000