Should you take Vitamin D for PCOS?

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Vitamin D deficiency is relatively common in this country, and some studies suggest that over 60% of people with PCOS could be Vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D is best known for helping your body absorb calcium from food, which is important for keeping bones strong. Vitamin D could also benefit your immune system, keep muscles working well, and may possibly help prevent certain types of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. 

Sunshine Vitamin

We make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight during certain times of the year and hours of the day. The problem is that we don’t have much exposure if we live in a northern climate in the winter, if we spend a lot of time indoors, if we have darker skin, and if we use sunscreen. And of course too much exposure to UV light can cause skin cancer. So some of the reasons are vitamin D levels are low could be because we don’t have as much sun exposure as previous generations did.

Vitamin D in Food

Food sources of vitamin D include egg yolks, fatty fish, and fortified milk/dairy, and fortified cereal. The RDA for most people is between 400-800 IU per day, which is hard for most people to get from foods.

Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency

Symptoms of deficiency include fatigue, hair loss, bone or muscle pain, depression, and/or frequently getting sick.

What role does vitamin D have in PCOS?

  1. Supplementing with vitamin D may improve insulin resistance. This is important since insulin resistance and high levels of insulin make PCOS symptoms worse. 
  2. Supplementing with vitamin D may decrease inflammation. Inflammation can increase insulin resistance and increase your risk for heart disease. 
  3. Several studies suggest that supplementing with vitamin D can help improve fertility for women with PCOS.
  4. Supplementing with vitamin D may help mood, which is important since people with PCOS have a greater risk of depression than the general population.

*** Since people with PCOS are at greater risk for vitamin D deficiency, symptoms for deficiency can be vague, we don’t have a lot of good sources of vitamin D, and there are a lot of potential benefits to getting your vitamin D levels up if you PCOS, you may want to consider supplementing.

Supplements

If you suspect you have vitamin D deficiency, ask you doctor to test your levels since you may need a prescription strength supplement.

Most people can safely supplement with 1000-2000 IUs per day, though you can talk with your doctor about supplementing in even higher doses if they suspect deficiency. Some multivitamins have 1000 IUs of vitamin D you may want to consider taking (though the pill is big!). Here is the multivitamin I take.

Let me know if you have any other questions about vitamin D and click PCOS nutrition to contact me to talk about nutrition counseling for PCOS.

Can I Blame PCOS on My Lack of Energy?

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Yes! Assigning blame can be satisfying, right? Now before you hit the couch for the foreseeable future, let’s dive into how PCOS affects energy and more importantly, what can you do about it.

Not enough quality sleep

When people say they are tired all the time, the first thing I ask about is their sleep habits. Quality sleep not only makes you feel better, but also helps your metabolism function better, improves your blood sugar, prevents weight gain and food cravings, and makes your immune system stronger. So basically it helps with a lot of common PCOS problems. You may not be getting enough sleep or your sleep may be interrupted by obstructive sleep apnea or anxiety. If you suspect that you have sleep apnea (which is more common in people with PCOS), talk to your doctor about getting a sleep study. You can also talk to a doctor or therapist about managing anxiety which is also more common in those with PCOS.

A lot of people need to work on making sleep a priority. We need 7-9 hours per night. And sleep quality will improve if you turn your phone on silent and turn off the TV.

Insulin resistance

When insulin is not sticking to cells like it should and blood sugar has trouble getting into your cells, a few things happen that can make you tired. You body makes more insulin and your cells aren’t getting the energy they need to function well. If your body makes extra insulin, that can lead to a low blood sugar or “sugar crash” which can cause you to feel exhausted.

Eating meals and snacks with a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber can help keep blood sugar even throughout the day. This can help prevent ups and downs and also will slow down your body’s insulin production. Even blood sugar and less insulin can make you feel less tired.

Not enough movement

Moving your body each day can help insulin work better (improve insulin resistance), and blood sugar can get into the cells during exercise even without insulin. Adding more movement can help keep blood sugar even throughout the day. Exercise gets the heart pumping and this can “wake you up” and also help channel some anxiety to help your relax better later. A lot of people report sleeping better on days when they exercise. (Sleep better=more energy)

Any movement is good movement. If you are able to sneak in a few 10 minutes walks per day, that is awesome. Lunch time is a great time to walk since it can help prevent the afternoon slump. Do exercise that you like so that you will actually keep doing it!

Low levels of Vitamin D, Iron, or Vitamin B12

If you are deficient in any of these nutrients, your energy level is likely to suffer. You can always ask your doctor to check lab values if you suspect you have a deficiency.

Vitamin D deficiency is very common with people with PCOS. You can safely add a supplement of 1000 iu or look for a multivitamin with 1000 iu.

Iron deficiency is most common in pre-menopausal women especially those that are pregnant or have heavy menstrual cycles. It is also common in people who drink a lot of milk, eat a vegetarian diet, have celiac disease, or a history of bariatric surgery. If you are deficient and having trouble tolerating the supplement, talk to your doctor or dietitian to help you find a supplement that works for you.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is more common in people who take the drug Metformin or acid reducing medications or in people who follow a vegan diet or who have had bariatric surgery. You can safely add a 1000 mcg supplement of Vitamin B12.

Depression

People with PCOS are more likely to suffer from depression than most people, and depression causes a serious lack of energy. Talk to your doctor or mental health professional for help managing depression.

Hypothyroid

People with PCOS may suffer from an underactive thyroid, which can cause low energy levels. Talk to your doctor about having a full thyroid panel done if you suspect you have an underactive thyroid.

Bottom line – Yes PCOS can zap your energy! But, there are things that you can do to help improve your energy and feel better. I strongly recommend talking to your doctor about energy levels since you may need to have some blood work done.

Interested in getting some individual nutrition counseling to manage your PCOS symptoms? Click here to contact me for a discovery call.