We all know that sunshine is good for our moods, and people living in the North tend to be more depressed in the dark days of winter, but did you know that sunshine is also good for your reproductive health and fertility?
I’m talking about the vitamin D that you get from the sun, which is so important that it’s even considered to be a hormone!
There are several forms of vitamin D: D1 is produced by your skin from exposure to sunlight; D2 is a synthetic version that is added to foods; and D3 is naturally occurring in foods.
There are receptors for vitamin D in many different cells of your body, including your brain, gut, uterus, ovaries, and breast tissue (and the prostate and testes for men). These cells are also able to produce their own version of vitamin D.
One of the jobs of vitamin D is to balance your body’s function of differentiation and proliferation, which is essential in growing your endometrium each menstrual cycle and for successful implantation and development of a fetus. This would also help with development of your eggs each cycle, and with the development of the sperm.
Another job of vitamin D is to regulate melatonin (a hormone needed for regulating sleep), and proper melatonin production is needed for balanced estrogen and progesterone. So if your vitamin D is not right, your melatonin won’t be right, and your estrogen and progesterone balance will suffer. All of this has a huge effect on your overall cycle health and fertility. Some specific things it affects could be PMS symptoms, the health of your luteal phase (post-ovulation), and issues like PCOS.
If you’re a science geek like me, you would be happy to know that a systematic review found that vitamin D can help with:
- improved estrogen and progesterone balance
- improved PCOS symptoms (more regular cycles and improved metabolic signs)
- improved IVF outcomes
- improved sperm count and motility
If you want to find out what your vitamin D levels are, this is something that doctors can test for and you can then supplement accordingly. In addition to improved fertility, vitamin D helps with bone development and reducing your chances of osteoporosis and bone fracture and well as potentially helping reduce the risk of cancer.
We’re supposed to get 80-90% from sunlight and for the majority of people this just does not happen (we don’t get daily sun on our skin, we wear clothes, we are inside at work all day).
So if you aren’t getting enough sunshine (which frankly, is most people in the Northern hemisphere), taking a D3 supplement is a great idea!