Volume 5, Issue 15
April 12, 2012

Are you taking too much vitamin D?

It seems that every month there is some new study published describing the wonders of vitamin D. It lengthens your lifespan. And it protects against cancer, diabetes, heart disease, colds and flu, strokes, MS, and more. Statistically, vitamin D will provide these benefits only when you take enough to get your blood levels up around 70 ng/ml. So is there any downside to having your blood levels this high? The answer might be yes.

Take the case of Millie, for example. Millie is a 68-year-old woman with a serious decrease in her bone mineral density. Since she is white, fair skinned, and quite thin, she is statistically at risk for osteoporosis. To make matters worse, her balance has been failing her recently. All of these facts caused me to have some concern that she might fall and break her hip.

So I put her on a program that consisted of regular exercise, Advanced Bone Support, bio-identical hormones, and of course vitamin D. I reassured her that I have never had a patient have a problem with osteoporosis while on this kind of program. Both she and I were feeling confident about the whole issue. But it turned out that there was going to be more to this story. And it had to do with a hormone called parathyroid hormone.

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Parathyroid hormone (different from thyroid hormone) is a hormone that your body uses to make sure that blood calcium levels never get too low. It is a very important hormone because low blood calcium levels can be life threatening. So if for some reason your calcium level starts getting too low, your body will secrete parathyroid hormone. And the parathyroid hormone will pull calcium off the bones and put it in the blood stream to correct the problem.

I routinely check the parathyroid hormone level of all of my patients who have a strong risk for osteoporosis. Some of them might have an elevated level of the hormone, which will act to remove calcium from their bones and place them at further risk. And that was exactly what was happening to Millie. Her parathyroid level was 75 pg/ml. Normal is between 10-60 pg/ml. Her blood calcium level was normal, but that was because her excessive parathyroid hormone level was robbing her bones to maintain it. This was not a good situation.

But parathyroid hormone also has another function. And that is to activate vitamin D. As you probably already know, vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium in the intestines. But it does this only in its activated form. So when the body perceives that calcium levels are too low, it secretes parathyroid hormone. This not only pulls calcium off the bones and into the blood stream, but it also activates vitamin D so that your body can absorb more calcium. Now here’s the point.

Millie’s high level of parathyroid hormone might have been an indication that her vitamin D levels were not adequate. This would cause her body to make more parathyroid hormone to make up for the deficit. So just to rule out that possibility, I also checked her vitamin D level. It was 37 ng/ml. That is in the so-called normal range. But it was obvious to me that even though it was in the normal range, it was not nearly enough for Millie’s needs. So I started her on 10,000 units of vitamin D per day. I’ll tell you what happened next week.

Finding your Real Cures,

Frank Shallenberger, MD


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