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.
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.