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Natural Vitamin D3 is Easier on the Stomach

Natural (vegetarian) vitamin D3 may be easier on the digestive tract than synthetic vitamin D3. Learn what happens when you're low in this crucial nutrient.

Q. My doctor says I need to take vitamin D3, but I know from past history that vitamin D3 upsets my stomach, no matter what the dose.

I was pleased to learn that there are two different kinds of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). The most common is animal-based but the other is plant-based. It is derived from lichen. This does not upset my stomach and I’m grateful to have learned the difference.

A. Frequently when doctors discover that a patient has insufficient vitamin D circulating in the body, they will prescribe 50,000 IU per week of vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol). This supplement is derived from plant sources and it has been considered equivalent to vitamin D3. A systematic review last year found that while supplementation with vitamin D3 reduces mortality, vitamin D2 has no impact on longevity (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Jan. 10, 2014). Perhaps prescribing practices should change in light of this evidence.

The form of vitamin D3 that you encountered is relatively new. It is marketed under the name Vitashine and is included in several brands of vegetarian vitamin D3 supplements. We are glad to hear that it does not cause you digestive distress.

We are in the middle of winter and most people are not exposing much skin to the sun’s rays. That means our bodies are making little, if any, vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is far more common than most health professionals and patients realize. Here are just some of the consequences:

  • Increased risk of developing cancer
  • Greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease
  • Susceptibility to winter-time blues
  • Greater likelihood of developing flu, colds or other infections

We offer much more detail about the consequences of inadequate vitamin D along with recommendations on supplementation in our Guide to Vitamin D Deficiency.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
Vitamin D Deficiency
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Learn about the symptoms of low Vitamin D and ways to overcome deficiency, for children and adults. Information on avoiding vitamin D overdose and which supplements are best.

Vitamin D Deficiency
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I have tried 3 different forms of D3. My D3 level is 30. My surgeon for my hip replacement stated he would like to see 50. I tried capsules and after day 4 I had a burning pain in upper abdomen. Felt like I was taking an aspirin. I then used D3 drops. 2000 IU per drop. First day upset stomach, day 2 now still upset stomach and diarrhea. Tried the D3 spray and I get muscle pain, just 1,000 IU spray under the tongue. Spray is suppose to get straight into bloodstream, supposedly bypassing GI tract. After 7 days more and more muscle pain. I get plenty of sunshine golfing 3 days a week here in Texas. Gonna have to get with PCM and figure out a diet that will help get it from food sources.

I have low d (16) so I got NatureMade d3 5000iu. This is my 6 days and for the past 3 days I had a warning feeling in my stomach also some weird warning/coldness feeling on my back. In the morning I have a sore throat and feels like acid reflux. Not sure if it is the cold but all started with taking these pills. I read also about a few people that have posted online that with similar symptoms including the back issues which feels like an icy hot patch (but milder).

Anyway, good thing we are putting our symptoms here since this will help others maybe made more educated decisions about this vitamin. As for me. I’m going to play in the park for 30 minutes a day from now on and stop taking this vitamin. I heard our bodies make 10000 from just 15 minutes in the sun so with summer coming in heading out. Haha

My doctor prescribed 50,000 units of D3 once, to start, followed by a regular regimen of a lower dose. I am never constipated, but after taking the 50,000 dose, I thought I might die of constipation. I’m shocked I didn’t rupture an artery. I was ready to go to the doc’s house with a spoon. Had I known about the risk of constipation, I would have never taken that higher dose. I have no problems with the lesser dose.

I would like to hear more about this subject — especially the daily dosage recommecnded

I take D3 that is Cholecalciferol is that a good one?? 2000 IU contains nothing Artficial

I tried a D3 supplement, Naturemade (plant and fish-based) which caused indigestion. Thank you for telling us about Vitashine.

I do wonder if it was the fish that may have been the problem. Have you ever taken Omega 3’s that are fish based and if so, with what results?

My Swanson Vitamins and Now Foods D3 that I have used do not contain fish oil.

Some have olive oil, some have soy oil or another veggie oil. Read all labels to decide.

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