Vitamin D enhances fertility in both men and women
It feels great being out in the summer sunshine, especially after one of Edmonton’s notoriously long winters. The sun’s rays on the skin fill us with warmth and vitality, and the long bright days encourage activity.
The bright sun isn’t just a mood booster – it’s also a vital source of vitamin D. Many people know that vitamin D helps with strong bones, immunity, and even as a cancer preventive, but less well known is its essential role in human fertility.
Having optimal blood levels of vitamin D improves fertility in both women and men while also enhancing the health outcomes of newborn babies. This is a critical health issue in a northern city like Edmonton, where obtaining vitamin D through sunlight exposure is negligible in the wintertime.
Vitamin D’s Role in Fertility
Vitamin D is unique because it can be produced by the skin in response to UVB rays from the sun or ingested in food. It’s important for calcium absorption and bone health, and it also plays a key role in many of the body’s hormone processes.
In men, vitamin D improves semen quality and raises testosterone levels. A recent study found that men who were deficient in vitamin D had fewer motile sperm and a higher rate of sperm abnormalities.
In women and in animal studies, low vitamin D levels have been correlated with impaired fertility and endocrine conditions such as
endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). The impact on fertility shows up even in cases of assisted reproduction. One study of IVF cycles using donor eggs found dramatic differences in outcomes based on the women’s vitamin D levels. Of those women with adequate vitamin D, 59% gave birth, while only 31% with insufficient vitamin D levels gave birth.
Studies have found higher rates of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and preterm birth in pregnant women with low vitamin D levels. All of these conditions, of course, affect the health and well-being of the infant.
Challenges for Northern Climates
Here’s where it gets tricky. At Edmonton’s far northern latitude, the sun’s angle is not high enough to produce vitamin D in the skin from October through March. In a 2009 study of patients at three medical practices in Edmonton, blood tests revealed that only 31.75% of people had adequate levels of vitamin D. Unless you’re a snowbird who winters in Arizona, it’s critical to get extra Vitamin D in the winter months when we can’t get it from sunshine.
Vitamin D is found in foods such as butter, beef liver, egg yolks, and certain fatty fish including cod liver oil. It is also added to some fortified juices and cereals.
If you’re not keen on increasing your intake of liver and cod liver oil, consider a good quality vitamin D supplement. The Vitamin D Council suggests that doses of 5,000-10,000 iu per day are appropriate in cases of deficiency. Ask your doctor to test your vitamin D levels before beginning a protocol, and then monitor them every few months so you can see if the supplements are making a difference. Taper off to a maintenance dose once you have reached healthy levels.
If you are wanting to implement a natural fertility protocol, it’s helpful to also take supplements such as beta-carotene, a B-vitamin complex including folic acid, calcium, zinc, and magnesium. Consulting with a holistic practitioner can help you figure out what supplements are suitable for your situation so that you can customize them for your health along with diet and lifestyle changes. It can take 3-6 months to see the effects of a natural supplement protocol on your body, so if you’re trying this approach, be patient and stick with the program for the long term.
Now get outside and get some sun while it lasts!