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Information on the latest vitamin D news and research.

Find out more information on deficiency, supplementation, sun exposure, and how vitamin D relates to your health.

Vitamin D may ease menstrual cramps

Painful periods or dysmenorrhea have always been a common problem for women. Millions of women suffer 4-7 days of severe abdominal cramps together with irritability, insomnia, depression, and generalized pain requiring medications like ibuprofen and antidepressants. Dr. Antonio Lasco and colleagues at the University of Messina in Italy took the first step in what I predict will be a major trip forward in relieving the suffering of these women by publishing their results from yet another randomized controlled trial.

US News & World Report 2/29/2012 Vitamin D3 Might Ease Menstrual Cramps

Antonino Lasco, MD; Antonino Catalano, MD; Salvatore Benvenga, MD Improvement of Primary Dysmenorrhea Caused by a Single Oral Dose of Vitamin D: Results of a Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-Controlled Study Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(4):366-367. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.715

First, the authors found that the lower the vitamin D level, the worse the periods. Second, the authors found that a single dose of 300,000 IU of vitamin D (equivalent to 5,000 IU/day) had dramatic results in relieving dysmenorrhea over the next two months. These results came despite the average baseline levels being around 30 ng/ml, a relatively high vitamin D level for a group or population. However, the paper came with a sensible warning in the form of an editorial, saying that no one should take 300,000 IU in an effort to stop painful periods based on one trial.

Elizabeth R. Bertone-Johnson and JoAnn E. Manson Vitamin D for Menstrual and Pain-Related Disorders in Women: Comment on “Improvement of Primary Dysmenorrhea Caused by a Single Oral Dose of Vitamin D” Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(4):367-369

I do not recommend taking a 300,000 IU mega dose. I understand the usefulness of a single high dose in a clinical study (you make sure everyone takes the medications), but I believe vitamin D should be taken daily, not every two months. The Vitamin D Council recommends 5,000 IU/day, which should raise blood levels to the 40-60 ng/ml range (a loading dose of 10,000 IU/day for ten days is also reasonable if your periods are really bad).

This is, in essence, the same dose they used in the study, spread out over two months. Although it is purely speculative, there may be a different optimal range for improving dysmenorrhea but that awaits further study. The good news is that approximately 5,000 IU/day had dramatic effects on of the most disabling conditions suffered monthly by otherwise healthy woman. Way to go Italy with yet another randomized controlled trial, which are now numbering over one hundred or so.

  About: John Cannell, MD

Dr. John Cannell is founder of the Vitamin D Council. He has written many peer-reviewed papers on vitamin D and speaks frequently across the United States on the subject. Dr. Cannell holds an M.D. and has served the medical field as a general practitioner, emergency physician, and psychiatrist.

3 Responses to Vitamin D may ease menstrual cramps

  1. This article resulted in the following blog post on pain
    Quick summary
    PAIN has been found to be associated with low vitamin D for decades
    People have been using vitamin D to relieve pain for hundreds of years
    Double blind clinical trials are now proving that Vitamin D reduces many kinds of pains
    – – – – – – – – – – – –
    A related post: take vitamin D daily or weekly, not quarterly nor annually
    Includes a chart of benefits vs dosing frequency

  2. gerardalferez says:

    Last month, I suggested to a 34-year old friend to take 5000 IU of Vit D daily due to her dysmenorrhea which she has been suffering from since her teens. Last Feb, only after few weeks of taking Vit D, her menstrual cramps lessened dramatically. This month, I’m happy to report that she did not suffer any pain at all which she attributed to Vit D.
    It’s interesting thing to note that Vit D supplementation still helps even though we’re living in a tropical country like the Philippines.

  3. Rita and Misty says:

    Greetings VDC, I’m trying to open the links to the journal articles included in Dr. Cannell’s blog, but for some reason these links don’t open correctly. I have someone who is interested reading the journal articles. Please would it be possible to have these articles? Many thanks!