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Dr. Pablo Dayer, St. Luke's Hospital

Suffer from PMS? Make sure to get enough vitamin D

Healthcare professionals have known for many years that vitamin D plays a pivotal role in the health of bones and teeth. Recent research has led to a deeper understanding of the impact vitamin D has on our overall health. One such study conducted by scientists at the University of Massachusetts found a relationship between vitamin D and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Many women experience various emotional and physical symptoms of PMS. The most common examples include headaches, backaches, breast tenderness, acne flare-ups, cramps, bloating, nausea, anxiety, irritability and tearfulness. In some cases, the symptoms are severe enough to significantly interfere with daily life.

Researchers have found that a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D could help minimize and control some of the symptoms of PMS. In fact, women who have a high dietary intake of vitamin D are 70 percent less likely to experience symptoms of PMS. Food sources that are rich in vitamin D include dairy products, fatty fish, eggs, fortified orange juice and fortified cereals.

Birth control pills and antidepressants are commonly prescribed to women to help treat symptoms of PMS. Although effective, both types of medications have a lengthy list of possible serious side effects. However, there are only a small number of minimal side effects for consuming too much vitamin D.

Lack of exposure to sunlight is a risk factor for vitamin D deficiency since the body is designed to produce vitamin D through sun exposure. Other risk factors include obesity, having a darker skin color and various medical conditions that interfere with the body's absorption of vitamin D.

If you have any of the risk factors for vitamin D deficiency and are experiencing symptoms of PMS, you should talk with your physician to ensure you are getting adequate amounts of vitamin D. Unfortunately, many women are not even close to getting the recommended amount of vitamin D. Simple changes in your lifestyle such as diet modification, moderate sun exposure and vitamin D supplements may bring you an enormous amount of relief.

Dr. Pablo Dayer is a nephrologist at St. Luke's Hospital. Call 314-205-6600 or visit his Meet the Doctor page.

This article was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on November 18, 2010.