Vitamin D can often be the missing link in cases of infertility. It is such an important vitamin because it has an effect on over 2,000 genes in the body.
Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is known as the `sunshine vitamin’ because it is produced by the skin when it is exposed to the sun. If we spend enough time out in the sun on a daily basis, most of us could make enough vitamin D. However many of us don’t get enough consistent sun exposure to maintain normal vitamin D levels throughout the year, with levels dropping for most people over the winter time.
Vitamin D3 can also be found in foods such as eggs, cod liver oil, mushrooms, fatty fish such as tuna and salmon and cow’s milk, but it can be difficult to get enough in the diet.
Vitamin D3 is considered to be a hormone rather than a nutrient. It helps the body create sex hormones such as progesterone and estrogen which in turn affects ovulation and healthy hormone balance.
A deficiency in vitamin D3 has been associated with various autoimmune conditions as it has a regulatory effect on the immune system. As many fertility issues can be as a result of an underlying auto immune condition it is important to get vitamin D levels checked.
Taking vitamin D has been shown in studies to have a positive impact on IVF outcomes (1). According to a 2014 study vitamin D3 modulates reproductive processes in both men and women. The study concluded that `in women undergoing in-vitro fertilization, a sufficient vitamin D level (≥30 ng/ml) should be obtained as this is associated with higher pregnancy rates. Vitamin D supplementation might improve metabolic parameters in women with PCOS. A high vitamin D intake might be protective against endometriosis’ (2)
In men, vitamin D is essential for the healthy development of the nucleus of the sperm cell, improves semen quality and sperm count, and helps support healthy testosterone levels.
So what are the signs you might be deficient in Vitamin D?
Typical symptoms include: Infertility, excess sweating, muscle weakness, chronic infections, weak bones, bone pain, chronic pain, tiredness, depression (affects levels of serotonin in brain), digestive issues and asthma. People with darker skin are at a bigger risk of developing vitamin D deficiency.
To allow your skin the opportunity to make vitamin D, It is recommended to spend 10 - 15 minutes every day out in the sunshine with no sunscreen throughout the year. In summer it is best to avoid the heat of the day so before 10am and after 3.00pm. Your skin will manufacture vitamin D when it is in contact with the sun.
If you are trying to conceive as a minimum it is recommended be taking 1,000 – 2,000IU of vitamin D3 per day, possibly more depending on your test results. I would also recommend taking Cod Liver Oil daily as it is wonderful for fertility. Cod liver oil is a great source of vitamin D as well as vitamin A and important omega 3 essential fatty acids.
1. Grzechocinska B et al, The role of Vitamin D in Impaired Fertility Treatment, Neuro Endocrinol Lett, 2013, 34 (8) 756 – 62
2. Lerchbaum E, et al Vitamin D and Female Fertility Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol, 2014 Jun, 26/3) 145 -50.