coupleIf you’re a healthy woman with a regular, natural menstrual cycle, your premenopausal years–your 20s, 30s and 40s–are when your sex drive is supposed to be at its peak. That’s due to high levels of estrogen and testosterone that circulate during this time, which rev your libido and help you reach orgasm as well as make intercourse comfortable by keeping vaginal tissue spongy and elastic and prompting the production of natural lubrication.

But, what if you’re not feeling the urge for sex or intercourse is painful or unsatisfying during this time of your life–and it’s not due to a health condition or medication known for impacting sexual function?

A new study in the journal International Urology and Nephrology suggests you could be low in vitamin D.

In the study, researchers had 50 premenopausal women with female sexual dysfunction (FSD)–the term used to describe sexual problems–not caused by health disorders or medications and 58 premenopausal women without FSD fill out surveys about their sexual function, get evaluated for depression and provide blood samples, which measured levels of estrogen, testosterone, follicle stimulating hormone, prolactin and vitamin D.

What did the researchers find? The two groups of women were generally similar–except for two key differences: The women with FSD had lower levels of vitamin D in their blood and higher symptoms of depression.

When the researchers drilled down, they discovered that low vitamin D itself was linked to low desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm and satisfaction and more pain. And they found a similar link between these issues and depressive symptoms.

So, what’s going on? As the researchers explain it, vitamin D is believed to be involved in the health of sexual organs as well as how the body uses testosterone–a key hormone that drives libido. In addition, this vitamin helps reduce the risk of depression by countering inflammation in the brain thought to contribute to the condition–and that’s key since depression is well-known for curbing sexual desire.

If you’re struggling with sexual problems, first be aware that you’re not alone. FSD impacts roughly 40% to 50% of premenopausal women at some point. Then, talk to your healthcare provider about it. If your FSD isn’t due to a hormone disorder, diabetes, thyroid issues, medications or other health conditions, consider asking to have your vitamin D level checked and/or if you can start supplementing with vitamin D3 (the form of vitamin D that’s easiest to absorb). If your problem is a shortfall of this vitamin, you could see relief once your level is raised.