Women who experience painful menstrual cramps could find relief from high-dose vitamin D3, according to new research – which suggests the dietary supplement could provide an alternative to painkilling drugs that are currently used.
A study – published in JAMA’s Archives of Internal Medicine – revealed that women who suffer from primary dysmenorrhea (a common disorder characterised by painful cramping before or during menstruation) experience much less menstrual pain and have no need to take pain medications for any reason for up to 2 months after receiving a single high dose of vitamin D.
The small research study, led by Dr Antonino Lasco of the University of Messina, Italy, assessed the effect of a single oral dose of vitamin D3 – in the form of cholecalciferol – at 300,000 international units (IU) in 40 women who experienced painful menstrual cramps.
“To our knowledge, this is the first study investigating the effect of a single high dose of vitamin D in primary dysmenorrhea,” said Lasco and his colleagues.
“Our data support the use of cholecalciferol in these patients, especially when exhibiting low plasmatic levels of 25(OH)D [25-hydroxyvitamin D],” they added.
Writing in an accompanying commentary for JAMA (doi: 10.1001/archinte.172.4.367 ) Dr JoAnne Mason of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, USA, and colleagues wrote:“The strong benefit of vitamin D on dysmenorrhea observed by Lasco and colleagues provides important support for larger, long-duration randomised trials of vitamin D in the treatment of menstrual pain and other pain-related conditions in women.”
“If these findings are confirmed in future randomised trials, vitamin D supplementation may become an important new treatment option for women who experience menstrual pain disorders,” they added.
However, Mason noted that if 300,000 IU is required every 2 months “this would equate to approximately 5000 IU per day, considerably higher than the tolerable upper intake level set by the Institute of Medicine of 4000 IU per day.”
In the study, the Italian researchers randomly assigned 40 women with painful periods to receive either a dose of 300,000 IUs of vitamin D3, or an inactive placebo five days before the time the women expected to begin their next menstrual period.
Loco and his team then measure the intensity of menstrual pain (using a visual analog scale) in addition to recording the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – which the women were allowed to use as required.
After 2 months, baseline pain scores had decreased by 41% among women in the vitamin D group, said the researchers – who added that no difference was observed in the scores of who received the placebo.
The greatest reduction in pain was seen to be among women in the vitamin D group who had the most severe pain at baseline, added Loco and his co-workers.
The team also revealed that none of the women in the vitamin D group needed NSAIDs to manage pain during the two months of the trial, whereas 40% of those taking placebo used an NSAID at least once.
Source: Archives of Internal Medicine
Volume 172, Issue 4, Pages 366-367, doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2011.715
“Improvement of Primary Dysmenorrhea Caused by a Single Oral Dose of Vitamin D: Results of a Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-Controlled Study”
Authors: A. Lasco, A. Catalano, S. Benvenga