Every 28 days or so, millions of women turn to painkillers like Advil and Midol to ease menstrual cramps. But, a new study suggests vitamin D may be an alternative solution.
The Italian-based study found that a mega-dose of vitamin D showed a reduction in pain associated with menstrual cramps, especially among women who reported having the most pain prior to the trial.
The findings, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, were based on an experiment with 40 Italian women who were randomly given a dose of 300,000 IUs of vitamin D3 or an inactive dose five days prior to their expected period.
After two months, the average pain score fell 41 percent for women who ingested the vitamin, while those who took the inactive dose said the pain remained the same. The women who took vitamin D reported taking no nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (also known as NSAIDs) such as iboprofen during that time, while those who had the placebo said they used an NSAID at last once.
Vitamin D has been found to have anti-inflammatory effects, in addition to reducing the production of the hormone-like substance called prostaglandins, which is believed to be the main cause of menstrual cramps.
Despite the positive effect of vitamin D in this study, researchers explain that more studies need to be done to determine the long-term effects of taking such a high dose of vitamin D, since the U.S. Institute of Medicine’s recommended daily dose for women 19 to 50 years old is 600 IUs of vitamin D, with a maximum tolerable level of 4,000 IUs. Anything higher could lead to health problems, such as damage to the heart or kidneys.
“This study does suggest (vitamin D) may have a role for menstrual cramps and menstrual pain, but I certainly would not recommend taking doses this high at the present time,” Dr. JoAnn Manson, who heads the division of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told Reuters. “The jury is still out. This is not a definitive trial by any means.”