Knowing the Facts
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is an extremely common hormonal disorder which may lead to various diseases. PCOS affects up to 22.5 % of adolescent women of reproductive age in India
It has been estimated that 1 billion people worldwide have Vitamin D deficiency or insufficiencya
30 minutes of exposure of the skin over the arms and face to sunlight, without application of sunscreen, preferably between 10 am to 2 pm (as maximum ultraviolet B rays are transmitted during this time) daily is adequate to prevent Vitamin D deficiency
There are varying degrees (50- 90%) of Vitamin D deficiency in Indian population who also take low dietary calcium, according to various studies
Prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency in women with PCOS is about 67 % – 85 %
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is an extremely common disorder affecting up to 22.5% of Indian women women of child-bearing age. PCOS results from a hormonal imbalance affecting women and girls of childbearing age. Women with PCOS usually have at least two of the following three conditions:
- Absence of ovulation, leading to irregular menstrual periods or no periods at all
- High levels of androgens (a type of hormone) or signs of high androgens, such as having excess body or facial hair
- Cysts (fluid-filled sacs) on one or both ovaries—”polycystic” literally means “having many cysts”
PCOS is a hormonal disorder with a potential to lead to various diseases. It also continues to be a common cause of infertility among women. Although signs and symptoms vary, problems with ovulation and elevated androgen levels occur in the majority of women with PCOS.
Signs and Symptoms to watch out
- Enlarged ovaries with numerous small cysts
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Weight gain, especially around the waist. If a woman of this age group is overweight, chances of developing PCOS is higher
- Extra hair growth on face and body (Hirsutism) or thinning hair
- Pelvic pain and depression may be possible symptom
- Gradual hair loss (Alopecia)
- Acne, skin tags or dark patches (Acanthosis nigricans)
- In some cases inheritance also plays a role in PCOS. A mother or a sister can pass on higher chances of having a PCOS to the daughter or the sister
With any of these symptoms, consulting a doctor would be the first right thing to do. They’ll ask about the family history, do regular body and ovaries check along with some blood tests to know the exact issue. Early treatment may reduce risk of infertility too.
Understanding Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and its synthesis in the body is dependent on multiple factors like latitude, atmospheric pollution, clothing, skin pigmentation and duration and time of exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is a part of the “Calcium – Vitamin D – Parathyroid hormone” endocrine axis, meaning all these are hormonally connected and problems with any one of them, may lead to problems with other.
In the kidney, inactive Vitamin D changes into an active form of the vitamin. The active form of Vitamin D helps control calcium and phosphate levels in the body; important for calcium metabolism and balance in the body.
Symptoms which may indicate Vitamin D deficiency
- Bone Pain/Joint Pain
- Noticeable and unexpected muscle weakness
- Tiredness, fatigue and forehead sweating
- Feeling depressed
Adequate calcium intake along with Vitamin D is necessary to maintain the bone mass of an individual. Vitamin D adequacy during adolescence helps reduce the risk of osteoporosis later in life. Vitamin D deficiency and low calcium intake are important risk factors for osteoporosis. Vitamin D deficiency causes low bone mass, muscle weakness and therefore increased risk of fractures.
As per expert WHO consultants, 30 minutes of exposure of the skin over the arms and face to sunlight, without application of sunscreen, preferably between 10 am to 2 pm (as maximum ultraviolet B rays are transmitted during this time) daily is adequate to prevent Vitamin D deficiency.
It has been estimated that 1 billion people worldwide have Vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency. There is widespread prevalence of varying degrees (50- 90%) of Vitamin D deficiency with low dietary calcium intake in Indian population according to various studies.
Vitamin D deficiency affecting factors
- Food trends and food habits are changing swiftly contributing to low dietary calcium and Vitamin D intakes
- Phosphates and Phytates (specifically in Indian diet) containing high fiber diet may lead to depletion of Vitamin D stores and thus increase calcium requirement further
- Modernization, particularly in urban Indians is leading to increased numbers of hours spent indoors. When outdoor, most of the skin surface is covered by clothing or sunscreen causing inadequate sun exposure to meet the daily Vitamin D needs
- Increased pollution can obstruct the ultraviolet rays to adequately form Vitamin D in the skin
- Dark skinned people, particularly when aged, make less Vitamin D than light skinned & young individuals
- Repeated, unplanned, and unspaced pregnancies in women, who particularly are deficient from before, can aggravate Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D and PCOS connection
- Some studies have shown that Vitamin D status influences female reproductive and pregnancy outcomes. Vitamin D deficiency is common among women affected by PCOS.Vitamin D plays a physiologic role in reproduction including development of ovarian follicles and its processing. Women with PCOS may also be at elevated risk of Vitamin D deficiency. It has also been suggested that the metabolic problems associated with PCOS are mainly due to a deficiency of Vitamin D.
- Prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency in women with PCOS is about 67 % – 85 %
- Prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency is 67%– 85% in women with PCOS. If Vitamin D deficiency were causally related to PCOS and the subsequent development of metabolic and hormonal dysfunction in PCOS, Vitamin D supplementation would be a promising alternative for the prevention and treatment of PCOS. Vitamin D deficiency is common in women with and without polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and may be associated with metabolic and endocrine disorders in PCOS.
- Vitamin D supplementation can lower the abnormally elevated serum anti-mullerian hormone levels and increase serum anti-inflammatory soluble receptor for advanced glycation end-products in vitamin D-deficient women with PCOS. Consulting a doctor for further education is a better option.
Naturally reducing risk associated with PCOS
- Losing weight can turn out be very useful for making periods normal, and may also help reducing hair growth and depression
- Eating well may also play an important role. Diet must be planned in such a way that the blood sugar and insulin levels remain in control
- Quitting smoking may also help
Naturally reducing risks associated with Vitamin D Deficiency
- Increasing direct sun exposure of skin between 10 am – 2 pm without sunscreen for 30 min a day
- Having fortified milk, juices and cereals
- Eggs are a convenient way to get Vitamin D, which is found in eggs yolk. Adding egg with yolk to meals can be helpful
- Some fatty fishes in meal can also help to get Vitamin D like salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna, etc.