Appropriate sun exposure and/or daily supplements provide our bodies with sufficient amounts of Vitamin D. I would venture to guess almost every one of the patients I treated in Seattle had a deficiency of Vitamin D if they were not taking a supplement. Running outside year round has always kept my skin slightly tan and my levels of Vitamin D healthy; however, when I was pregnant in the Pacific Northwest, I had to supplement my diet with Vitamin D, which was a first for this East Coast beach girl. The benefit of Vitamin D has spread beyond just bone health, with studies showing its impact on pelvic floor function.
Parker-Autry et al., (2012) published a study discerning the Vitamin D levels in women who already presented with pelvic floor dysfunction versus “normal” gynecological patients. The retrospective study involved a chart review of 394 women who completed the Colorectal Anal Distress Inventory (CRADI)-8 and the Incontinence Impact Questionnaire (IIQ-7). These women all had a total serum 25-hydroxy Vitamin D [25(OH)D] drawn within one year of their gynecological visit. The authors defined a serum 25(OH)D of <15ng/ml as Vitamin D deficient, between 15-29ng/ml as Vitamin D insufficient, and >30ng/ml as Vitamin D sufficient. In the pelvic floor disorder group comprised of 268 women, 51% were found Vitamin D insufficient, 13% of whom were deficient. The CRADI-8 and IIQ-7 scores were noted as higher among the Vitamin D insufficient women. Overall, the mean 25(OH)D levels in the women without pelvic floor issues were higher than those who presented with pelvic floor disorder symptoms.
Another case-control study in 2014 by Parker-Autry et al., focused on the association between Vitamin D deficiency and fecal incontinence. They considered 31 women with fecal incontinence versus a control group of 81 women without any pelvic floor symptoms, looking at serum Vitamin D levels. The women with fecal incontinence had a mean serum Vitamin D level of 29.2±12.3 ng/ml (insufficient/deficient), while the control group had a higher mean level of 35±14.1 ng/ml (sufficient). The women completed the Modified Manchester Health Questionnaire and the Fecal Incontinence Severity Index, and women with deficient Vitamin D scored higher on the questionnaire, indicating fecal incontinence as a burden on quality of life. The severity scores were higher for Vitamin D deficient women, but there was not a statistically significant difference between the groups. Once again, the pelvic floor disorder and Vitamin D deficiency correlation prevailed in this study.
An even more recent study looked at postmenopausal women and Vitamin D deficiency (Navaneethan et al., 2015). This prospective case control study involved 120 postmenopausal women, 51 of whom had pelvic floor disorders. The serum 25-hydroxy Vitamin D levels were obtained, and the results revealed a deficiency in those women with pelvic floor dysfunction. Vitamin D levels were found to be significantly lower in women who were 5 years or more into menopause. Overall, Vitamin D was deemed a worthy factor to consider in the pelvic floor disorder population as well as in postmenopausal women.
Taking time to talk to patients about their lifestyle, daily supplements, and diet can often shed light on their ability to benefit from our treatments. If a Vitamin D deficiency sounds possible, discuss current research with them and suggest they get their serum Vitamin D levels checked. Don’t underestimate the power of a little sunshine – it just might have a positive impact on pelvic floor health.
Parker-Autry, C. Y., Markland, A. D., Ballard, A. C., Downs-Gunn, D., & Richter, H. E. (2012). Vitamin D Status in Women with Pelvic Floor Disorder Symptoms. International Urogynecology Journal, 23(12), 1699–1705. http://doi.org/10.1007/s00192-012-1700-8
Parker-Autry, C. Y., Gleason, J. L., Griffin, R. L., Markland, A., & Richter, H. E. (2014). VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY IS ASSOCIATED WITH INCREASED FECAL INCONTINENCE SYMPTOMS. International Urogynecology Journal, 25(11), 1483–1489. http://doi.org/10.1007/s00192-014-2389-7
Navaneethan, P. R., Kekre, A., Jacob, K. S., & Varghese, L. (2015). Vitamin D deficiency in postmenopausal women with pelvic floor disorders. Journal of Mid-Life Health, 6(2), 66–69. http://doi.org/10.4103/0976-7800.158948