Vitamin D and Hormonal Imbalances

3d vitamins.
3D text concept of Vitamin D. (Image: tongdang5/iStock/Getty Images)

Your body contains hundreds of hormones circulating within your blood or stored within various tissues of your body. Maintaining a proper level of each hormone proves important; too much or too little of a single hormone can lead to a hormonal imbalance. Vitamin D, an essential nutrient, plays a role in the production or biological activity of select hormones, and might therefore play a role in some types of hormone imbalances.

Effect on Parathyroid Hormones

Vitamin D in your body interacts with, and has an effect on the secretion of, hormones from your parathyroid glands. The glands -- located in your neck -- secretes parathyroid hormone, a signaling molecule that helps to regulate calcium in your body. The release of parathyroid hormone promotes the activation of vitamin D within your cells, which in turn leads to calcium regulation. A vitamin D deficiency can lead to the abnormal release of parathyroid hormone: since, in the absence of vitamin D, your body does not respond to parathyroid hormone, your hormone gland begins to produce very large amounts of the hormone to compensate. Over time, this can lead to a hormonal imbalance due to high levels of circulating parathyroid hormone.

Effect on Pituitary

A vitamin D deficiency can also have an effect on your pituitary gland, a small hormone in your brain that produces a range of hormones. One crucial aspect to regulating pituitary function is the control over pituitary cell growth; abnormal pituitary growth can lead to the development of tumors, which can in turn disrupt normal pituitary function and cause a hormonal imbalance. A study published in "Brain Pathology" in 2006 identifies vitamin D as important in regulating pituitary cell growth, and indicates that the vitamin might help to treat some pituitary tumors. As a result, vitamin D might help to prevent a pituitary hormonal imbalance in some cases.

Vitamin D and Estrogen

In some cases, treatment with vitamin D supplements can help to relieve the symptoms associated with rapid changes in hormone levels. Hormonal imbalances cause by abnormally low estrogen production in a woman's body can occur as a side effect of some cancer treatments, surgeries, or can occur naturally as a result of menopause. This low estrogen can prove harmful, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Taking vitamin D can help prevent the bone loss caused by low blood estrogen levels, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Considerations

You can help to prevent some types of hormonal imbalances by avoiding a vitamin D deficiency. Moderate sun exposure -- sometimes as little as a few minutes in the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. -- allows your skin to make vitamin D to sustain your hormone levels. If you live in a high-latitude climate or receive little sun exposure, you may require additional vitamin D intake via fortified foods or dietary supplements. Talk to your doctor about an appropriate level of sun exposure for adequate vitamin D synthesis, and to discuss the possible benefit of vitamin D supplements.

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