We have been told time and time again to avoid exposure to direct sunlight so that our risk of cancer can be reduced. It comes from a place of good intentions but the sun is one of the most effective sources of Vitamin D and by avoiding it many Americans are actually finding that they are now Vitamin D deficient. The Washington Post points out that Vitamin D deficiency has reached an alarming rate, “A 2010 study in Nutrition Journal found that 42 percent of U.S. adults were deficient in Vitamin D, with the highest rates among African Americans and Hispanics. Children are also at risk: A report in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine showed that 12 percent of children had Vitamin D deficiencies, and an additional 40 percent exhibited higher but still insufficient levels.” Fortunately, while sun exposure is a great source of Vitamin D (and 10-15 minute of direct exposure can significantly and safely increase Vitamin D levels), it is not the only source, it can be found in foods such as cod liver oil, tuna, sardines, milk, yogurt, beef, calf liver, egg yolks, cheese and more. What many people do not realize is that a lack of Vitamin D can actually have a negative impact on many functions of the body and can even impact reproductive health.
Vitamin D plays a role in the conversion of hormones within both the male and female body. In women, Vitamin D levels may influence the ability to develop mature eggs, may impact IVF outcomes, may impact endometriosis, may impact PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), and may impact levels of progesterone and estrogen which directly impact fertility. In men, Vitamin D may impact sperm count as well as sperm quality and impacts testosterone levels. According to USC Fertility, research is relatively new regarding the impact of Vitamin D deficiency on reproductive health but it has been shown to play an important role in both mice and human studies, “In the world of reproduction, the importance of vitamin D was initially shown in experiments with mice. Mice who are either deficient in vitamin D, or who lack the vitamin D receptor, can demonstrate underdevelopment of the uterus and inability to form normal mature eggs, resulting in infertility. If pregnancy is achieved, the fetuses of these mice show impaired growth. Reproduction is normalized in mice with vitamin D supplementation, but not with calcium alone, suggesting that vitamin D’s role in female reproduction is not related to helping the body absorb calcium. In humans, the vitamin D receptor is present in many female organs, including the ovary, uterus, and placenta. The active form of vitamin D (calcitriol) has many roles in female reproduction. Bound to its receptor, calcitriol is able to control the genes involved in making estrogen. The uterine lining produces calcitriol in response to the embryo as it enters the uterine cavity, shortly before implantation. Calcitriol controls several genes involved in embryo implantation… A recent study found that women with higher vitamin D levels were significantly more likely to achieve pregnancy from IVF compared to women with lower levels of vitamin D. This study was repeated in another IVF center, which confirmed a four-fold difference in pregnancy rates between vitamin D replete and deficient women. In another study looking at the recipients of donor eggs, vitamin D levels in the recipients were associated with clinical pregnancy, emphasizing that the critical role of vitamin D in pregnancy may be within the uterus. Though more research is needed, it appears that vitamin D levels are associated with IVF success, and that its most important role in reproduction may be at the uterine lining.”
If you have not had your Vitamin D levels checked, it is important to consult your naturopathic physician who can not only check your Vitamin D levels but take a look at your complete health. Achieving whole body and mind health is important for any stage of life and is particularly important when trying to conceive. Vitamin D through sun exposure, food and supplementation can enhance your body’s health by regulating hormones and other normal functions within your body and may even restore reproductive health.