The role of vitamin D in urological health
Vitamin D is a well-known factor in bone health; however, its role in the body extends far beyond. Recent studies point to links between vitamin D and urological health.
Our bodies make vitamin D through a process that begins when sunlight converts a chemical in our skin into pre-vitamin D3 (calciferol). We also get vitamin D from food, including fortified milk products, fortified cereal and fatty fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel and sardines). In Canada, vitamin D is also added to margarine and egg products.
Below are some of the urological impacts of vitamin D.
Overactive bladderStudies have found that low vitamin D levels are linked to overactive bladder1. Overactive bladder is characterized by frequent urination, incontinence, nocturia (the need to urinate more than twice per night) and sudden, intense urges to urinate.
Urinary tract infectionVitamin D deficiency is associated with increased risk of urinary tract infections in both adults and children2.
Bladder cancerA recent research review concluded that low vitamin D is associated with increased risk of bladder cancer3.
Kidney stonesMany studies have found no link between vitamin D supplementation and the development of kidney stones. Other studies conclude that certain patients are more “sensitive” to vitamin D and may develop kidney stones in response to vitamin D supplements. Still other studies have found that patients with kidney stones are more likely to have low vitamin-D blood levels4. Confused?
If you have a history of kidney stones, talk to your urologist for specific advice related to vitamin D supplements. If you have no history of kidney stones, it is likely safe to take vitamin D supplements following the recommendations set by Health Canada (see below).
Benign prostatic hyperplasiaBenign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), also called prostate gland enlargement, can cause a variety of uncomfortable urinary symptoms. Researchers have found a correlation between increased vitamin D intake and decreased risk of BPH5.
Sexual dysfunctionSeveral studies have found an association between vitamin D deficiency and female sexual dysfunction6. Early evidence suggests that vitamin D therapy may improve sexual function in women with both sexual dysfunction and vitamin D deficiency.
Male fertilityThe literature is not yet conclusive, but early studies suggest that vitamin D has a positive effect on male fertility, specifically by improving sperm motility7.
Vitamin D deficiency – Who is at risk?Canadians are at higher risk for vitamin D deficiency. Our higher latitude makes it difficult for us to get enough sun exposure in the fall and winter months. Individuals who don’t get at least 15 minutes of sun exposure daily, who have darker skin, who are older, or who are overweight are also at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Your doctor may suggest that you take vitamin D supplements, depending on your diet and risk factors.
Vitamin D recommendations
Health Canada recommends the following daily intake for vitamin D.
- Abdul-Razzak KK, Alshogran OY, Altawalbeh SM, Al-Ghalayini IF, Al-Ghazo MA, Alazab RS, Halalsheh OM, Sahawneh FE. Overactive bladder and associated psychological symptoms: A possible link to vitamin D and calcium. Neurourol Urodyn. 2019 Apr;38(4):1160-1167. doi: 10.1002/nau.23975.
- Deng QF, Chu H, Wen Z, Cao YS. Vitamin D and Urinary Tract Infection: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Ann Clin Lab Sci. 2019 Jan;49(1):134-142.
- Dunn JA, Jefferson K, MacDonald D, Iqbal G, Bland R. Low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D is associated with increased bladder cancer risk: A systematic review and evidence of a potential mechanism. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2019 Apr; 188:134-140. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2019.01.002.
- Tavasoli S, Taheri M. Vitamin D and calcium kidney stones: a review and a proposal. Int Urol Nephrol. 2019 Jan;51(1):101-111. doi: 10.1007/s11255-018-1965-z.
- Espinosa G, Esposito R, Kazzazi A, Djavan B. Vitamin D and benign prostatic hyperplasia - a review. Can J Urol. 2013 Aug;20(4):6820-5.
- Jalali-Chimeh F, Gholamrezaei A, Vafa M, Nasiri M, Abiri B, Darooneh T, Ozgoli G. Effect of Vitamin D Therapy on Sexual Function in Women with Sexual Dysfunction and Vitamin D Deficiency: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo Controlled Clinical Trial. J Urol. 2019 May;201(5):987-993. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2018.10.019.
- Cito G, Cocci A, Micelli E, Gabutti A, Russo GI, Coccia ME, Franco G, Serni S, Carini M, Natali A. Vitamin D and Male Fertility: An Updated Review. World J Mens Health. 2019 May 17. doi: 10.5534/wjmh.190057.