Vitamin D is crucial in helping you maintain good bone health and the immune system. However, like any nutrient, it is essential to understand safe doses and the potential side effects of this important vitamin.
While vitamin D has well-documented health benefits, there are circumstances where it can have adverse effects, especially at higher doses. One of the most common ones is gastric issues and stomach pain caused due to excessive calcium absorption.
Thankfully, you won’t experience these unpleasant symptoms when you supplement at lower doses.
This article aims to help you understand the potential gastric side effects of high doses of vitamin D, what amounts you should take, and what you can do to prevent them.
So, let’s get going!
Can too much vitamin D cause stomach pain?
Vitamin D is among the most popular vitamin supplements, thanks to its numerous health benefits. However, it is crucial that if you are already supplementing or considering it, you know the optimum dose to avoid any potential side effects.
One of the most common side effects many people experience when supplementing with vitamin D is stomach pain. But remember that this effect only occurs when you exceed the recommended levels.
What happens when you consume excess vitamin D?
Taking too much vitamin D can lead to hypervitaminosis D, which is vitamin D overload. When your body gets more vitamin D than it needs, it builds up in your blood, and you end up with high blood calcium levels, also known as hypercalcemia.
The high calcium levels irritate and inflame the stomach lining, leading to unpleasant stomach pain. In short, megadoses of vitamin D increase calcium, and the excess calcium then causes stomach trouble.
Are some people more susceptible to hypervitaminosis?
Not everyone will react the same way to high doses of vitamin D. Folks with liver or kidney problems may have more difficulty processing all that extra vitamin.
And if you are on certain medications, those meds could make the side effects of too much vitamin D even worse. Hypercalcemia can get pronounced and intense if you have any underlying health issues or are taking interacting medications.
So, in those cases, it's essential to be careful with vitamin D intake and not go overboard with supplementation. Moderation is key to avoiding complications. But for generally healthy people without medical concerns, vitamin D is beneficial and safe when taken at recommended doses.
Stress, diet, and underlying health conditions might contribute to these effects. Thus, it is necessary to consult your physician before starting any supplements.
Symptoms of vitamin D toxicity
Unlike the B vitamins or vitamin C, vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that tends to accumulate in your adipose tissue and liver when taken in excessive amounts.
It might lead to potential vitamin D toxicity, especially if you consume too much of it over long periods.
While your body also makes this vitamin when exposed to sunlight, it is rarely synthesized in amounts that can lead to toxic levels. The problems with vitamin D arise when you supplement too much of it.
Most symptoms of hypervitaminosis result from the elevated calcium level in your blood.
The main symptoms include:
Nausea and vomiting
These are the most common early symptoms of hypervitaminosis D. You experience these as a direct result of elevated blood calcium levels. The raised levels of calcium ions can disrupt the lining of your stomach, resulting in digestive imbalance, nausea, and severe abdominal pain.
It might make it challenging to maintain a regular diet, further complicating the issue. If you experience these symptoms after you start supplementing with vitamin D, you should immediately get evaluated by your doctor to prevent the worsening of the condition.
Weakness and fatigue
Another common feature of vitamin D toxicity is progressive muscular weakness. The elevated calcium disrupts the metabolism of your muscles, making them weaker. As a result, you feel weak and lethargic.
Unfortunately, this weakness does not go away even after ample rest, as the elevated calcium impairs the way your muscle cells make energy.
You may experience a persistent sense of tiredness and may even find it difficult to perform your routine tasks. As this affects your quality of life, you should immediately consult your physician if you start experiencing this after starting vitamin D supplementation.
Frequent urination and thirst
Hypercalcemia due to vitamin D overdose causes your kidneys to function in overdrive mode to rid your blood of the excess calcium. As you can imagine, your body will try to push as much urine out of your body as possible, leading to dehydration.
As you lose copious amounts of water through urine, you feel thirsty more often than usual, leading to more urination.
This vicious cycle of thirst and excess urination is a hallmark of hypervitaminosis. Your kidneys take a toll on all this, and you should immediately consult your doctor if you experience these symptoms.
Muscle and bone pain
Even though it is true that vitamin D is an essential nutrient in the overall proper function of the muscles and bones, overdosing can cause more harm than benefit. You see a paradoxical effect of an excess dose of this vitamin as calcium levels increase in your body.
There is an excess deposition of calcium in the muscles and bones that causes muscular and bone pain.
Confusion, disorientation, and dizziness
Excess calcium can also result in neurological effects. These symptoms occur because calcium plays a critical role in nerve transmission and, when in excess, can disrupt normal brain processes.
In severe cases, this can progress to mental impairment, impacting cognitive abilities and making routine decision-making difficult.
Heart rhythm abnormalities
Excessive supplementation with vitamin D can also potentially lead to arrhythmias, where your heart beats in an abnormal rhythm. You may experience palpitations, which may even lead to serious complications in extreme conditions.
As calcium is crucial in the heart's electrical conduction system that maintains the rhythm, any imbalance in this mineral may lead to complications.
You may also like: Vitamin D and Your Heart: Balancing Levels to Prevent Palpitations.
Chronic elevated levels of circulating calcium ions due to excessive vitamin D supplementation can lead to real caliculi (kidney stones). The calcium deposits cause extreme pain and can even obstruct urine flow.
Excess calcium over long periods can cause calcification of kidney tissue, impairing its function.
While it is true that vitamin D has some potentially harmful toxic side effects, you must understand that these effects only precipitate when you exceed the recommended levels.
If you take high-quality vitamin D supplements and stay within the prescribed range, vitamin D supplements are very safe and have many benefits that far outweigh the side effects.
What is the recommended daily intake of vitamin D?
Most people rely on health organizations, like the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in the United States, to determine how much vitamin D they should take. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is designed to meet the needs of all healthy individuals (around 97-98%) in specific age and gender groups.
RDA for children
For babies aged 0-12 months, consuming 400 International Units (IU) of vitamin D is recommended daily. The suggestion considers sun exposure and varying vitamin D levels in breast milk.
As children grow from ages 1 to 18, their RDA increases to 600 IU per day, supporting bone development during the growth stages of childhood and adolescence.
RDA for adults
Adults between 19 and 70 years old are advised to intake 600 IU of vitamin D. The amount is sufficient for maintaining bones and normal calcium metabolism in individuals without health issues.
For adults aged 70 and above, a higher RDA of 800 IU per day is recommended due to a decrease in the skin synthesis of vitamin D and potential dietary deficiencies as people age.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women are encouraged to maintain an RDA of 600 IU per day.
Getting vitamin D is extremely important for developing your baby's bones. For breastfeeding mothers, it helps ensure that adequate vitamin levels are in breast milk.
The Organic Vitamin D3 With K2 capsules with Spirulina from Why Not Natural is one of the purest vitamin D you can find on the market.
It is designed to quickly build vitamin D levels while supporting bone health and the immune system. Adding organic USA-grown Spirulina, rich in Magnesium, enhances vitamin D absorption and provides additional benefits like iron, B vitamins, and antioxidants.
Is there a connection between vitamin D and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)?
The chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract often results in conditions such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Several studies have been undertaken to look into the role of vitamin D in modulating the immune system and its potential implications in IBD.
Vitamin D is well known for its positive effects on bone health because it helps absorb calcium and phosphorus. However, its effects extend far beyond this, especially in modulating immune responses and other inflammatory processes within the body.
Vitamin D receptors are present on various cells within the body, including those of the immune system, thereby alluding to a more involving role that the nutrient plays in overall health.
What does research say?
Regarding IBD, what is particularly interesting about vitamin D is its anti-inflammatory properties. Research suggests that vitamin D may help prevent improper immune system responses as it directly regulates immune function.
It is thought that vitamin D helps maintain the mucosal barrier, which is often compromised in IBD, leading to increased gut permeability and subsequent inflammation.
Studies have found that vitamin D deficiency often corresponds to a high level of severity in the symptomatic staging of IBD. Serum levels of vitamin D are often lower in patients subjected to IBD, especially Crohn's disease than a healthy counterpart.
Insufficiency of vitamin D can deteriorate the inflammation process in such a condition. Moreover, the rates of hospitalization and surgery are increased, and quality of life is decreased among IBD patients with vitamin D deficiency.
There is also evidence that patients with IBD might benefit from vitamin D supplementation. The severity of symptoms and the frequency of flare-ups can improve with vitamin D supplements, improving the quality of life of IBD patients.
It could also assist in maintaining calcium homeostasis within the gastrointestinal mucosa, which is essential for patients diagnosed with IBD.
Scientists also opine that Vitamin D may exert anti-inflammatory effects that are beneficial towards the management of immune dysregulation characteristically found in IBD. The active form of vitamin D is thought to modulate the activity of many immune cells, including T-cells, which represent a vital link between immunity and the pathogenesis of IBD.
Besides, the regulatory functions of vitamin D on various arms of immune responses make it reasonable to assume that it is also involved in controlling IBD-related chronic inflammation.
Despite these encouraging findings, treating IBD with vitamin D is yet to be considered a therapeutic strategy. High-dose administration and long-term effects remain to be explored. One could only draw conclusive guidance for the use of vitamin D in IBD following the clinical trials.
Furthermore, the severity of the disease, comorbid conditions, and individual variation in vitamin D metabolism may render treatment with vitamin D unsuitable.
However, you should consult with your doctor before considering supplementation if you are suffering from IBD.
More studies and controlled clinical trials will be needed to conclude the effects of vitamin D supplementation on IBD prognosis.
How to prevent stomach pain caused by vitamin D toxicity
The key to preventing stomach aches and other gastric problems with vitamin D lies in understanding and adhering to the correct dosage.
You must understand that the recommended dietary allowance varies significantly with age, sex, and lifestyle.
The tolerable upper level (UL) or the maximum daily dose you can take safely is about 4000 IU. Going beyond this recommended dosage might result in you experiencing some side effects, including severe stomach aches and gastric troubles.
Here are a few things you can do to prevent high-dose vitamin D toxicity and the associated stomach pain:
Monitor your supplementation
Track supplementation of your vitamin D intake. Follow your dose and do not exceed the upper limit unless your doctor specifically recommends doing so. It is essential, especially if you are on high-dose vitamin D supplements.
Consider every source of vitamin D
Consider all the possible sources of dietary vitamin D. It will include all the multivitamins or other compounds that contain the vitamin, apart from the dietary sources.
Regular blood tests
If you are at risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency or taking high-dose vitamin D supplements, it is important to undertake standard blood tests to monitor your vitamin D levels. These tests ensure that your calcium levels remain in check, as they are vital in preventing vitamin D toxicity.
Seek physician’s advice
Consult a healthcare provider before taking any new supplement. It is mandatory for people already suffering from certain health conditions, those undertaking medication, and pregnant and nursing women.
Educate yourself about symptoms
Know the symptoms associated with vitamin D toxicity apart from stomach pain, such as nausea, vomiting, weakness, frequent urination, and bone pain. Early recognition of these symptoms would be in your best interest so you can seek medical attention as quickly as possible.
Consider individualized supplementation plans
Realize that vitamin D requirements can greatly vary from one person to the next. Several things will influence how much of this vitamin you need, including age, skin color, and location. All these should be factored in when considering high-dose vitamin D supplements.
Unless a healthcare provider has prescribed it for certain medical conditions or chronic vitamin D deficiency, megadoses should be avoided.
Balance with other nutrients
Ensure a balanced intake of other nutrients that work with vitamin D, such as calcium, Magnesium, and vitamin K2. These nutrients help properly utilize vitamin D and can reduce the risk of adverse effects.
You may not need supplements if you have sufficient sun exposure and dietary intake. Discuss with your healthcare provider if supplementation is necessary based on your lifestyle and dietary habits.
Who should avoid taking vitamin D supplements?
While vitamin D supplements help replenish this key vitamin for many people, especially those not receiving ample sunlight, they are not for everyone.
Proper information concerning such groups of people is essential as it helps prevent health complications.
Here are a few groups of people who should avoid taking vitamin D supplements or, at the very least, consult their physician before starting supplementation:
Individuals with hypercalcemia
If you suffer from hypercalcemia, which is a condition where there are increased blood levels of calcium, you should not further supplement with vitamin D.
The reason behind this is that the vitamin increases the efficiency in the absorption of calcium and, therefore, can only exacerbate the problem of hypercalcemia.
People with Hypervitaminosis D
If you have ever experienced vitamin D toxicity (hypervitaminosis D), you should be careful when consuming these supplements.
While it is statistically rare, vitamin D toxicity could result in severe health conditions such as kidney failure, heart arrhythmias, and serious hypercalcemia.
Patients with kidney disorders
If you have kidney disorders, you should avoid vitamin D supplements. Conditions such as kidney failure or renal dysfunction can impair the kidney's ability to regulate calcium and phosphate. Subsequently, an additional amount of vitamin D can be detrimental, leading to elevated calcium levels.
If you are on certain medications
There are certain medications that can interfere with vitamin D. They range from steroids to weight loss drugs and some cholesterol-lowering medicines.
In addition, the intake of some medications used to control seizures can increase the metabolism of vitamin D.
Always consult your health care professional before adding any new medication when taking vitamin D supplements.
Individuals with sarcoidosis or another granulomatous disease
In diseases like sarcoidosis, immune cells of the body aggregate (granulomas) in different organs and secrete large amounts of active form vitamin D. In such conditions, if supplementary vitamin D is taken, then hypercalcemia can result in other complications.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women without medical supervision
While vitamin D is essential for fetal and newborn health, pregnant or breastfeeding women should consult their healthcare provider before taking supplements. Excessive vitamin D levels might lead to complications in both the mother and the child.
Takeaway: Maximize vitamin D supplementation with WhyNotNatural
While vitamin D is crucial in regulating bone metabolism, immune function, and overall well-being, it should be taken in moderation, just like any other nutrient. Hypervitaminosis D has a range of symptoms, including stomach pain.
You should follow the recommended dietary allowances to avoid this.
Regular checkups and consultations with your doctor are crucial, especially for individuals who face the risk of vitamin D toxicity.
Vitamin D supplementation in moderation increases the chances of benefiting while minimizing other adverse effects like stomach pain.If you are looking for the highest-quality vitamin D supplements that are easy to absorb and provide the most health benefits, consider Why Not Natural’s Organic Vitamin D3 Liquid Drops with K2. The sublingual drops offer a dose of 5000IU with vitamin K2 for the best results.