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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.”.
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