Boosting Female Hormones with Vitamin D
Vitamin D and female hormones are both regulated by the endocrine system. Estrogen and progesterone are two “female” hormones that are vital for reproductive health. Estrogen is responsible for developing secondary sexual characteristics, regulating the menstrual cycle, and maintaining bone and cardiovascular health.
Progesterone is essential for maintaining a pregnancy. The endocrine system is a complex system that uses feedback loops to control hormone levels. An increase or decrease in one hormone can have effects on many other hormones. For example, to function optimally, estrogen and progesterone require the support of other hormones, such as vitamin D.
Table of Contents
The Importance of Maintaining Balanced Vitamin D and Female Hormones
Balanced vitamin D and female hormones are essential for optimal health and well-being. Estrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle and decline after menopause. These hormones respond to signals from the brain and hormones such as follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone.
Estrogen and Progesterone
Too little estrogen can cause
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Brain fog
- Decreased libido
- Hot flashes
- Trouble sleeping
- Decreased bone density
- Increased risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.
Too much estrogen can cause irregular periods and worsen estrogen-dependent conditions such as endometriosis, fibroids, and breast and uterine cancer.
During menopause, fluctuating and then decreasing estrogen and progesterone levels can cause hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and mood swings, in addition to an increased risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.
The primary source of vitamin D is exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun. Vitamin D deficiency is common, especially in the winter and in people with darker-pigmented skin. Vitamin D deficiency can be associated with the following symptoms:
- Bone pain
- Mood changes
- More frequent infections
- Hair loss
- Muscle weakness
- Poor sleep
Changes in diet, increased stress, medical conditions, and some medications can affect hormone balance and cause symptoms in susceptible women. Researchers are working to understand how vitamin D levels affect estrogen and progesterone levels.
The Link Between Vitamin D and Estrogen
Studies have revealed a correlation between vitamin D and female hormone levels in the body. In one study, researchers found that women with low vitamin D levels had lower estrogen levels as well.1 This association has led to more studies to explore the connection between these hormones.
Vitamin D plays a key role in regulating fertility. Vitamin D deficiency may increase the risk of endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome. Increased vitamin D levels are associated with decreased androgens (testosterone and other “male” hormones). Vitamin D therapy may help reduce androgen levels in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.2
Another study found that increased vitamin D levels were associated with decreased estrogen and progesterone. This association may be important for reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancers.3
Low vitamin D and estrogen levels are risk factors for metabolic disease and decreased bone density. Both estrogen and vitamin D increase bone deposition and increase bone density.
In one study, researchers found that vitamin D and estrogen worked together to maintain metabolic health. Higher vitamin D levels were associated with better cholesterol, blood pressure, and glucose levels. A combination of low estrogen and low vitamin D was linked to the highest risk for metabolic disease.4
Researchers also explored the potential relationship between vitamin D deficiency, low estrogen levels, and weight gain. The Vitamin D, Diet, and Activity (ViDA) study included postmenopausal women who were overweight or obese and had low vitamin D levels. The treatment group took 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day.
The women followed a low-calorie diet, exercised for 225 minutes per week, and had regular meetings with a dietician. The vitamin D group did not lose any more weight than the placebo group. However, after supplementation, women with normal vitamin D levels lost more weight (19 pounds) than those with low vitamin D levels (12 pounds).5
More research, primarily randomized clinical trial data, is needed to better understand the relationship between vitamin D and female hormone levels and their potential impact on disease.
Strategies for Increasing Vitamin D Levels
While more research is needed to understand the potential links between vitamin D and estrogen, vitamin D deficiency is common and can adversely affect your health.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is 600 IU for most adults. However, most people are not getting enough vitamin D. In the United States, about 6% of adults are severely deficient in vitamin D, and 24% of adults have vitamin D levels below the healthy target.6
Sunshine exposure, dietary sources, and supplements are options to replenish your vitamin D levels.
Ultraviolet Light Exposure
The most natural way is through exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun. Spending time outdoors, especially during midday when the sun’s rays are strongest, allows the body to synthesize vitamin D. However, it is important to balance sunlight exposure with proper sun protection to avoid the risk of skin damage.
To get enough vitamin D, you don’t need much sun exposure; just 20 minutes per day, twice a week, is sufficient. UVB radiation is most easily accessible between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Sunscreen use, geographic location, skin tone, and season all influence whether your body produces enough vitamin D from UVB light exposure.
Dietary Sources of Vitamin D
In addition to sunlight exposure, consuming foods rich in vitamin D can also help increase vitamin D levels in the body.
Potential dietary sources of vitamin D include:
- Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines
- Vitamin D-fortified breakfast cereals
- Vitamin D-fortified breakfast milk
- Fish oils
- Beef liver
- Egg yolks
- Cheddar cheese
Including these foods in your diet can boost vitamin D levels and support estrogen function.
Supplementation Options for Vitamin D and Estrogen Balance
In cases where sunlight exposure and dietary sources are insufficient, consider vitamin D supplements. Various forms of vitamin D supplements are available, including capsules, tablets, and liquid drops. Talk to your doctor about your risk for vitamin D deficiency.
Additionally, a healthcare provider may prescribe hormone therapy to address low estrogen or high androgen levels and support hormonal balance.
Lifestyle changes that can help reduce symptoms associated with changing hormone levels include:
- Consuming a nutritious diet
- Working on sleep hygiene
- Decreasing stress
- Losing excess weight
- Exercising regularly
Achieving and keeping vitamin D and female hormones in balance is a complex process that often requires professional guidance. Hormone imbalances can have a significant impact on overall health, and attempting to self-diagnose and self-treat can be risky.
While the scientific evidence surrounding vitamin D’s role in maintaining hormonal balance is still evolving, optimizing vitamin D levels may have potential fertility, metabolic, cardiovascular, and bone health benefits.
When deficient, vitamin D and female hormones are both associated with changes in appetite and metabolism. If you are ready to start a weight-loss treatment plan, talk to a treatment specialist at Invigor Medical. New GLP-1 agonists, like semaglutide, have clinical and research support for their weight-loss benefits. Treatment specialists at Invigor Medical can help you suggest an individualized weight-loss plan. Ask about vitamin D supplementation as well.
How is vitamin D linked to female hormones?
While the research is still young, vitamin D can control the production of estrogen and progesterone by controlling enzymes involved in their production. Vitamin D and estrogen also impact cardiovascular, metabolic, and bone health.
What are the signs and symptoms of low vitamin D?
Vitamin D deficiency can cause muscle and bone pain, muscle weakness, increased susceptibility to fractures and infections, mood changes, and fatigue.
Why are so many people low in vitamin D?
Anyone who lives away from the equator will not get much vitamin D production from ultraviolet B light exposure. Vitamin D deficiency is more common in the winter. Increased skin pigmentation and sunscreen block ultraviolet light penetration, which decreases vitamin D production in the skin.
How much vitamin D should women take?
The recommended daily amount of vitamin D is 600 IU for people aged 1 to 70.
What foods are high in vitamin D?
If you cannot get enough ultraviolet light exposure, focus on consuming fatty fish, vitamin D-fortified cereals and milk, and UV-exposed mushrooms.
- Harmon QE, Kissell K, Jukic AMZ, Kim K, Sjaarda L, Perkins NJ, Umbach DM, Schisterman EF, Baird DD, Mumford SL. Vitamin D and Reproductive Hormones Across the Menstrual Cycle. Hum Reprod. 2020 Feb 29;35(2):413-423. doi: 10.1093/humrep/dez283. PMID: 32068843; PMCID: PMC7986370.
- Chu C, Tsuprykov O, Chen X, Elitok S, Krämer BK, Hocher B. Relationship Between Vitamin D and Hormones Important for Human Fertility in Reproductive-Aged Women. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2021 Apr 14;12:666687. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2021.666687. PMID: 33935976; PMCID: PMC8081388.
- Knight JA, Wong J, Blackmore KM, Raboud JM, Vieth R. Vitamin D association with estradiol and progesterone in young women. Cancer Causes Control. 2010 Mar;21(3):479-83. doi: 10.1007/s10552-009-9466-0. PMID: 19916051
- Huang, Hui MD; Guo, Jing MD, Ph.D.; Chen, Qingyu MD, Ph.D.; Chen, Xiaotong MD; Yang, Yabo MD, Ph.D.; Zhang, Wangjian Ph.D.; Liu, Yong MD; Chen, Xiaoli MD, Ph.D.; Yang, Dongzi MD, Ph.D. The synergistic effects of vitamin D and estradiol deficiency on metabolic syndrome in Chinese postmenopausal women. Menopause 26(10):p 1171-1177, October 2019. | DOI: 10.1097/GME.0000000000001370
- Mason C, Xiao L, Imayama I, Duggan C, Wang CY, Korde L, McTiernan A. Vitamin D3 supplementation during weight loss: a double-blind randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 May;99(5):1015-25. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.073734. Epub 2014 Mar 12. Erratum in: Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Oct;100(4):1213. PMID: 24622804; PMCID: PMC3985208
- Amrein, K., Scherkl, M., Hoffmann, M. et al. Vitamin D deficiency 2.0: an update on the current status worldwide. Eur J Clin Nutr 74, 1498–1513 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41430-020-0558-y