Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that serves many important functions in your body, including supporting immune health, heart health, and bone health.
There are two types of vitamin D: D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). Vitamin D2 is synthesized by plants and vitamin D3 is produced by the body via sun exposure and is found in a few limited food sources.
If your doctor writes you a prescription for a vitamin D supplement, it’s going to be D2, since that’s the only form currently available as a prescription. Still, they may recommend that you purchase your own vitamin D3 supplements.
While vitamin D’s general health benefits are well understood, you may not realize that vitamin D can also be good for your sexual health. Indeed, vitamin D supplementation has been shown to support people’s sex lives in a number of ways, which we’ll explore below. Other factors that can influence your sex life include stress levels, hormones, nutrients, herbs, medications that deplete certain nutrients, and lifestyle.
Let’s take a look at what the research tells us about the numerous ways vitamin D can benefit your sexual health.
Most of what we know about estrogen and vitamin D comes from animal research or test tube studies. Animal studies have shown that vitamin D is important for gonadal health in both sexes. In people born female, cell cultures have identified modulatory effects of vitamin D on estrogen-related actions.
Research in menstruating people found that lower vitamin D serum levels were linked with lower estradiol throughout the menstrual cycle. The researchers cautioned that the mechanism for this apparent link was not clear, and that more in vitro research is needed to understand the cellular and hormonal connection. While the correlation between reduced vitamin D and estrogen was consistent across 89 study participants and a total of 163 analyzed menstrual cycles, larger studies are needed to confirm the association.
When it comes to testosterone levels, vitamin D3 supplementation has shown mixed results. One study found that vitamin D3 supplementation can increase testosterone levels in people born male who had low vitamin D levels. There was no change in those who had adequate vitamin D status.
Other studies have similarly found that vitamin D supplementation can boost testosterone levels for those who are vitamin D deficient. One study divided 165 people born male into two groups: one to receive daily vitamin D supplementation for a year, and the other to receive a placebo for the same time period. The results showed that vitamin D supplementation raised testosterone in the group that received it, but the same changes were not found in the placebo group.
Another small study looked 41 men who underwent vitamin D therapy saw increases in their total and free testosterone levels, as well as healthier sexual function in general. In short, vitamin D supplementation can have positive effects when it comes to this important sex hormone, but larger studies are still needed.
One intriguing aspect of vitamin D’s impact on sexual health is its potential role in improving erectile function. In a study of 150 patients, vitamin D levels were significantly lower in those who also had reductions in sexual function. The exact mechanisms behind this link are not fully understood, but it’s believed that vitamin D plays a pivotal role in various bodily functions that indirectly affect sexual health.
For one, vitamin D is known to influence endothelial function, which is essential for maintaining healthy blood vessels and blood flow. In addition to that, vitamin D can affect vascular elasticity, as well as nitric oxide production, a molecule that helps relax blood vessels, promoting healthy blood circulation. All of these factors may support normal erectile function.
Vitamin D is also a critical component of healthy immune system processes, which can affect sexual health. However, while systematic reviews of current studies indicate a relationship between vitamin D and male sexual function, most of these studies provide low-quality evidence. More research is needed before we can draw direct conclusions about the relationship.
A study that examined the relationship between fertility and vitamin D levels found fascinating results. This study involved 305 women and found that those with higher vitamin D levels, with vitamin D supplementation or without it, had higher clinical pregnancy rates than those with lower levels. This suggests that vitamin D may play a significant role in supporting healthy fertility.
Some smaller studies have not produced the same results, but this doesn’t undermine the fact that proper vitamin D levels are important for healthy pregnancy and fertility. Supplementing with vitamin D and supporting adequate vitamin D levels is associated with positive maternal and fetal outcomes. This includes supporting bone health in mothers.
Vitamin D has also been associated with reproductive health in people born male. A study with 330 men looked at the effects of vitamin D supplementation on sperm health compared to a placebo. While the actual sperm concentration between the groups was not different, those who were deficient and received vitamin D had partner pregnancy rates twice as high as the placebo group. More studies are needed to confirm and understand the specific mechanisms behind these results, however, this study outcome is notable.
It has recently been found that vitamin D can improve the regulation of certain neurotransmitters like serotonin. Serotonin is responsible for feelings of happiness, satisfaction, and optimism. By supporting proper vitamin D levels, there is a possibility that your mood and mental well-being could also be improved, although the direct link between these is still uncertain. Only a healthcare provider can address mood support, so be sure to speak to your doctor if you feel like you need support.
Vitamin D supplementation can support genitourinary health, particularly during menopause. Supplementing with vitamin D has been linked to several aspects of vaginal health, including the support of a healthy vaginal pH, natural lubrication, improved sexual function, a healthy libido, and urinary tract health. There are vitamin D receptors present in the superficial layers of the urogenital organs, which could be why healthy vitamin D status is linked with genital and urinary health. An approximate intake of 1,000–1,500 IU per week may be recommended to support vaginal wellness, however, only your medical provider can determine what you should take.
Adequate vitamin D status is associated with healthier endothelial function. This includes healthy vascular flow, the production of nitric oxide, and the maintenance of general circulatory wellness.
Vitamin D appears to have a positive influence on muscle function in the pelvic region. Evidence from randomized controlled trials suggests that vitamin D supplementation supports the health of urinary and bladder muscles in both males and females, although more research is needed in this area to fully understand the extent of its benefits.
Vitamin D also supports musculoskeletal wellness of the female pelvic floor. Those with higher vitamin D levels had better pelvic floor function. During pregnancy, adequate vitamin D levels were linked to better pelvic floor health, which is beneficial because these muscles experience increased strain throughout gestation, labor, and delivery.
Vitamin D is linked with pulmonary health, immune system function, and the body’s cellular communication and responses. In a study on postmenopausal women, it was found that vitamin D supported immune system wellness, as well as respiratory health. Although data on the subject is still somewhat limited, the emerging evidence suggests that vitamin D shows promising potential in supporting healthy lungs.
In postmenopausal women, adequate levels of vitamin D may be associated with heart health and metabolic well-being. This support for the heart and metabolic health, in turn, can have a positive influence on sexual function.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for all adults is 15 mcg or 600 IU. Your medical provider may recommend more or less based on your individualized needs. Too much vitamin D from supplements can cause problems, since the body stores it in adipose tissue. Excessive vitamin D can lead to issues with sex drive, kidney function, neurological health, and vascular wellness. Your doctor can run a simple blood test to assess your levels.
Sexual health is affected by many factors. To support a healthy sex life, everyday lifestyle support can go a long way. Make sure you get enough sleep, eat a nutrient-rich diet, manage your stress, consume alcohol in moderation, and stay well-hydrated.
Beyond these steps, a vitamin D3 supplement may also support sexual health. Talk to a medical professional about whether adding vitamin D to your wellness routine is right for you.