Vitamin D is a crucial compound. When levels of this vitamin (which is also a hormone) are low, people are more prone to strokes or heart attacks, diabetes, COPD, macular degeneration and a number of other chronic conditions. How well do vitamin D3 pills work for such problems? Do people experience side effects while taking them? A recent study suggests that adverse reactions are common but mild (Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, online Nov. 20, 2019). One reader found that these pills triggered unpleasant digestive symptoms.
Vitamin D3 Pills and Digestive Distress:
Q. I had a low vitamin D level (8) back in December 2018, so my doctor put me on a course of 50,000 IUs of vitamin D3 weekly for three months. By the end of the second month, I started to get severe diarrhea and bloating. This was worse after meals or when I slept.
I saw the doctor and my vitamin D level was good (76). He diagnosed me with indigestion and prescribed pantoprazole. He also told me to take 50,000 IU of vitamin D every two weeks to keep my level good.
The pantoprazole never really helped so I stopped taking it. I was still taking the vitamin D3 pills and got severe heartburn. I suspect that this vitamin was responsible, as I felt better when I stopped taking it.
High-Dose Vitamin D:
A. Your doctor prescribed a whopping dose of vitamin D3. While it did the job of raising your blood level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, we are somewhat surprised he wanted you to maintain such a high-dose supplement. You did not specify the units in which your blood vitamin D measures were given, but most experts suggest that the best range is 30 to 50 ng/ml. Your level of 76 is a little higher than they would recommend.
A review of long-term vitamin D supplementation concluded that vitamin D alone does not cause gastrointestinal upset (Nutrition Reviews, Dec. 1, 2017). Nonetheless, other readers have reported heartburn or diarrhea while taking vitamin D3 pills.
You will find more information on vitamin D deficiency and supplementation in our eGuide to Vitamin D and Optimal Health. If you are interested in vitamin supplements more generally, we recommend Dr. Tieraona Low Dog’s book, Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals, and More. You could find it in your local library, but we also offer a paperback edition in our store.