Vitamin D Supplements - not recommended for long term use.

Vitamin D is often recommended by both medical doctors, nutritionists and Naturopathic physicians as a supplement to correct low levels revealed on a blood test. The benefits of vitamin D are wide and varied, however when vitamin D is not looked at in contrast to the rest of the blood test chemistries, and the broad context of health, diet and lifestyle and genetics, long term high dose use could bring about other health issues not planned for.(2)

Vitamin D deficiencies on a blood test alone does not always reflect a simple nutrient deficiency that can be remedied with a supplement. Rather it can be telling deeper story, especially if it doesn't correct with supplementation over twelve weeks. Investigating the deeper story is important if time doesn't change the picture.

Vitamin D is essential for health and life. Synthesised primarily as sunlight acts upon cholesterol in the skin, it can also be derived from dietary animal fats. Plants synthesise to form vitamin D2, needs to be converted to its active form. The most notable food sources include beef fat, calf liver, cod liver oil, salmon, eggs, butter, soft cheeses and full fat yoghurt.

Vitamin D promotes optimal bone density and influences just about every cellular process in the body, including DNA replication, immune and thyroid health.(3) The optimum serum reference range is 100-150 mmol/litre. A blood test result within this range generally reflects a balanced lifestyle and good health. Low vitamin D levels do not, always indicate a need to supplement however. As with a number of other essential nutrients such as iron and calcium, vitamin D can be over-supplemented, resulting in undesirable health effects when taken at a high dose over a long period of time. (4)

Particularly detrimental is the combination of long term vitamin D supplementation in an acidic body system.

Sub-optimal vitamin D readings in a blood test can often reflect deeper issues in the metabolic balance of the body, and do not necessarily indicate deficiencies or excesses. Low levels may in fact, reflect the body’s effort to protect itself from an acidic state.

We are all programmed with a homeostatic propensity to survive, and the body will execute winning strategies in every situation. If your blood test reveals a low serum vitamin D, you may just need more sunlight, animal fats and/or cod liver oil. If you are young to middle aged it may be beneficial to supplement for a short time, but only ever up to a maximum dose of 2000 IU’s per day for up to twelve weeks. And always, get assessed for deeper reasons your blood vitamin D levels may be low.

Optimal serum levels (i.e. 100-150) of vitamin D have been associated with a reduction in cancer risk, heart disease, diabetes and many other degenerative diseases, but these levels can only be reached safely through the regular practice of healthy lifestyle habits in the long term. If your blood chemistry reveals a tendency toward acid stress alongside low serum vitamin D, there is work for you to do.

While the research is not clear-cut, we are have individual biochemistry, lifestyle habits, genetic predispositions and environments, so just be aware that long term high dose vitamin D isn't ideal for everyone. Supplementation is supported by important cofactors such as vitamin K and magnesium, alongside diet and lifestyle measures to support optimal health and wellbeing.

The safest way to ensure your vitamin D levels are optimal, without risking adverse effects, is to hand it over to nature. Get your body in the sun between 10 AM and 3 PM, for just as long as it takes for you to feel the sun, before it starts getting too hot or stingy on your skin. This time slot will vary according to the season and your skin type. Because the intensity of sunlight is at its max during this time, you can generate an abundant amount of Vitamin D quickly, in comparison to morning and evening times when the sun is not overhead, and further away on an atmospheric level, just be sure you don't burn. Quality sunshine without burning can give your body 10,000-20,000iu of potential vitamin D in the best form and amount the body needs, without the risk of overdose. (5)

In the clinic, when you are given a prescription, don't continue for more three months without review. Unsupervised long term use of supplements is not recommended by us.

Avoiding nutrient deficiencies, supplementing just the right amount, and eating a plant dense diet that is most suited to your body type, is the best way to ensure a healthy, disease free life. Regular Naturopathic check ins can help keep you on track, motivated and in tune with your body's needs.

Monica Williams

0409 188 173

  1. Michos, Erin, et al., Archives Internal Med, August 2008. ↩

  2. Queen, HL (Sam)., Health Realities Journal. Vitamin D Health Panacea or Killer? Vol 21.,17. ↩

  3. Whitfield, James F., “Calcium Cell Cycles, and Cancer”, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL., 1990. ↩

  4. Queen, HL (Sam)., Health Realities Journal. Vitamin D Health Panacea or Killer? Vol 21.,17. ↩

  5. The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA)

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Monica Williams  0409 188 173

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