Low Vitamin D Levels Tied to Incontinence

Vitamin D Deficiency May Contribute to Pelvic Floor Disorders in Women

Medically Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on March 19, 2010

March 22, 2010 -- Not getting enough vitamin D may cause women problems in the bathroom as well as with their bones.

A new study suggests vitamin D deficiency may contribute to pelvic floor disorders like urinary and fecal incontinence.

“Higher vitamin D levels were associated with a decreased risk of any pelvic floor disorder in all women,” write researcher Samuel Badalian, MD, PhD, of SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, N.Y., and colleagues in Obstetrics & Gynecology. “Given the increase in the number of patients with pelvic floor disorders, further evaluation of the role of vitamin D is warranted.”

Researchers say one in four women suffers from at least one type of pelvic floor disorder, such as urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and fecal incontinence, and the risks of developing these disorders increase with age.

They say the results suggest that treatment of vitamin D deficiency in women could improve pelvic muscle strength and reduce the risk of pelvic floor disorders, especially incontinence.

New Vitamin D Deficiency Danger

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin necessary for bone and muscle strength. The body produces vitamin D in response to exposure to sunlight, but the vitamin is also commonly found in fortified dairy products and supplements.

Researchers say vitamin D deficiency is already associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis, and recent studies have also linked osteoporosis to pelvic floor disorders.

This study looked at the link between vitamin D levels and pelvic floor disorders reported by 1,881 nonpregnant women over age 20 who participated in the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The results showed 82% of women had vitamin D levels that were considered deficient.

One or more pelvic floor disorders were reported by 23% of the women, and average vitamin D levels were significantly lower among those with at least one pelvic floor disorder or incontinence.

Overall, increased vitamin D levels were associated with a lower risk of pelvic floor disorders.

In older women, the risk of urinary incontinence was also 45% lower among women with normal vitamin D levels.

Higher vitamin D levels were also associated with a slightly lower risk of fecal incontinence, but the relationship was not considered significant, which researchers say may be due to the low number of fecal incontinence cases reported.