You’ve likely heard it before: Getting enough vitamin D is critical for good health, but that’s not always easy to do.
With long, dark winters and limited vitamin D in our diets, it’s no wonder approximately 32% of Canadians have blood concentrations that are too low. (Source: Statistics Canada)
Supplementation of vitamin D can be a good solution, but today I’m going to explain why more Vitamin D is not better – and some of the real risks of over-supplementing this hormone.
Specifically, we’ll answer the question, “Does vitamin D deplete magnesium?” And if so, what should you do given the importance of vitamin D?
Why Take a Vitamin D Supplement
Vitamin D is a powerhouse nutrient.
It helps to regulate cell growth and keep your immune system strong; plus it promotes calcium absorption and protects against osteoporosis and bone fractures.
If you aren’t getting 20 – 25 minutes of skin exposure daily (and by exposure, I mean more than just the tip of your nose), you may need vitamin D from diet or supplements.
Fatty fish, beef liver, egg yolks, some mushrooms, and fortified foods like certain brands of milk, juice and cereal contain vitamin D. As does cod liver oil. (Like that’s going to happen!)
We try to eat a plant-based, whole-food diet, so most of these vitamin D foods just aren’t on our menu. Instead, we supplement.
But we do so carefully.
How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?
According to the National Institutes of Health, adult males, females, and pregnant/lactating women should get 200 IUs daily, and those over 70 need 600 IUs.
That said, a recent review published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association revealed that without enough magnesium in the body, supplemental vitamin D may remain inactive, or cause issues due to increased calcium and phosphate levels.
The Risks of Too Much Vitamin D
In The Magnesium Miracle, Dr. Carolyn Dean recommends no more than 1,000 – 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily – and importantly, she says to never take it without magnesium.
According to Dean’s research, high-dose vitamin D actually depletes magnesium. That’s why some people on magnesium supplements still have symptoms of deficiency.
It’s not that their magnesium doesn’t work. It’s that their vitamin D intake is too high!
Here are two common scenarios:
- You’ve been taking magnesium and found relief from symptoms of deficiency. You then add in vitamin D, only to experience the stress, anxiety, tension, pain, sleeplessness, etc. you experienced before you found magnesium.
- You begin vitamin D supplementation without ever having taken magnesium and experience a whole suite of mystifying symptoms for the first time (Dean, p. Ixxvii).
How Vitamin D Increases Risk of Magnesium Deficiency
“Magnesium is required to transform vitamin D from its storage form to its active form and for many other aspects of vitamin D metabolism,” explains Dr. Carolyn Dean (The Magnesium Miracle, p Ixvii).
Vitamin D ‘grabs’ calcium from the diet and ‘holds onto it for dear life” (Dean, p. Ixxii). So calcium can accumulate, overriding magnesium and forcing it out of the body.
“In short” says Dr. Dean, “too much vitamin D can overutilize magnesium, block magnesium, purge magnesium, and propel people into magnesium deficiency.” (Dean, p. Ixxvii)
Dean also notes that vitamin D is actually a hormone, and suggests that it’s reckless to treat a hormone-like a vitamin.
Hormones, she explains, ‘are regulated through a feedback system.’ In the case of vitamin D, there’s a feedback system with calcium. When we have enough calcium in the bloodstream, it is natural for vitamin D levels to go down. (Dean, p. Ixxviii)
“Vitamin D needs to be metabolized in the liver and kidney to be functional, and the enzymes that help do that need magnesium to be bioactive,” says study co-author Mohammed S. Razzaque, MBBS, PhD, a professor of pathology at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Consumption of vitamin D supplements without enough magnesium can lead to problems such as vascular calcification. Calcification happens when calcium builds up in body tissue, blood vessels, or organs and vascular calcification refers to build-up in the arteries and veins.
Should You Take Vitamin D?
Go ahead and supplement with vitamin D in the darker months, or if you don’t get enough sunlight year-round. But keep your intake to a maximum of 2,000 IU. And don’t forget your Natural Calm magnesium.
Getting one’s daily allowance for magnesium allows both supplemental and naturally produced vitamin D to function at its full potential. “By consuming an optimal amount of magnesium, one may be able to lower the risks of vitamin D deficiency, and reduce the dependency on vitamin D supplements,” says Razzaque.
How Much Magnesium Do I Need to Balance Vitamin D?
According to Dr. Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D. and bestselling author of The Magnesium Miracle, most North Americans aren’t getting enough magnesium. Dean recommends 500 mg daily as a healthy starting place, in line with the intake common for adults 100 years ago.
Health Canada sets a lower bar, suggesting 350 mg/day as an adequate intake. Even based on this modest figure, up to 65% of us fall short. Today, many Canadian adults are getting only 200 mg/day.
Unlike many nutrients, magnesium is depleted every twelve hours. It must be constantly replenished.
Eating magnesium-rich foods like avocados, almonds, spinach, and soy and drinking mineral water is important, but almost everyone can benefit from magnesium supplements like Natural Calm.
That’s it for the health advice today! I hope there’s a bit of sun peeking over your shoulder, wherever you are.
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