Do You Need 50,000 IU of Vitamin D?

I had a chat with my dermatologist the other day, and she told me that Vitamin D deficiency is the biggest, and hottest buzz, word in medical science today.  Some signs of being deficient in Vitamin D are:  Aches and pains, depression, chronic fatigue, weight loss, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and osteoporosis.  Is Fibromyalgia really just an indicator of a Vitamin D deficiency?

Vitamin D deficiency is on the rise, my doctor said, because people are eating more processed fast food, concentrating on lower fat diets, and they are staying out of the sun and using UVB protection.  She told me she recently had her blood tested and her doctor put her on a weekly regimen of 50,000 IU a week!

Now, that’s a lot of Vitamin D!

Healthy adults need only 200-400 IU a day, so being bumped up to over 7,000 IU a day is a bit of a mind bend.  Don’t undertake your own Vitamin D therapy without the direct intervention of your doctor.  Get tested.  Beware of Vitamin D toxicity.

Most daily vitamins will give you at least 600 IU, so if you’re Vitamin D deficient, you need to look at your diet as well as your sun exposure and find ways to appropriately supplement what lack.

We were raised to believe that 15 minutes of sun exposure a day on the back of your hands would give our bodies enough oomph to convert sunlight into our daily need for Vitamin D — but that is only barely true:

The current suggested exposure of hands, face and arms for 10-20 minutes, three times a week, provides only 200-400 IU of vitamin D each time or about 100-200 IU per day during the summer months.

In order to achieve optimal levels of vitamin D, 85 percent of body surface needs exposure to prime midday sun. (About 100-200 IU of vitamin D is produced for each 5 percent of body surface exposed.) Light skinned people need 10-20 minutes of exposure while dark skinned people need 90-120 minutes.

Vegans and Vegetarians can have a hard time getting enough Vitamin D because that vitamin is most naturally found, and delivered, through the ingestion of rich animal fat:

So-called primitive peoples instinctively chose vitamin -D-rich foods including the intestines, organ meats, skin and fat from certain land animals, as well as shellfish, oily fish and insects. Many of these foods are unacceptable to the modern palate.

Fish make vitamin D from the precursor of vitamin D found in algae. In the higher mammals, vitamin D is made from precursors in lichen and green grass. Reindeer fat, for example, is a good source of vitamin D because reindeer feed on lichen.16 Vitamin D will be found in the butterfat of ruminant animals that feed on green grass, and in pigs that spend time in the sunlight. (Pigs resemble humans in that they convert sunlight to vitamin D.) Eggs will contain vitamin D if the chickens have obtained it from insects or fishmeal. Salmon must feed on algae in order to store vitamin D in their fat. Thus, modern farm-raised salmon are poor sources of this essential nutrient.

“Non-civilized” cultures — where hunting and fishing and gathering your own food on a daily basis — routinely take in 3,000 IU of Vitamin D a day.

Our modern lives, and high cholesterol concerns and cancer-causing sun exposure worries, have given us control and pleasure and comfort — while also removing our access to a convenient, natural, daily dosage of Vitamin D.

My doctor told me she tells everyone she knows to get a Vitamin D deficiency blood test — and every single person she’s told to get the test — done has come back with a major deficiency, even though they looked and felt great.

She also told me the next time I see my primary care physician I need to demand a blood test for Vitamin D.  I’ll do it, and I’ll prepare myself right now to get ready for an all-new Vitamin D therapy plan.

It just so curious that if you stay out of the sun and eat a low-fat diet — you might be placing yourself at a higher risk for autoimmune diseases caused by a lack of Vitamin D — and that fact immediately resonates as one wonders if living a clean and healthy lifestyle is just that, or if you’re just fooling yourself when it comes to a prescribed plan for preventative medicine.

38 comments

  • Our ancestors certainly spent more time in the sun than we do. Our ancestors also lived to 70 and called that impressive. Hard to say who the winners are in this one.

  • UPDATE:

    “For most people, taking extra calcium and vitamin D supplements is not indicated,” said Dr. Clifford J. Rosen, a member of the panel and an osteoporosis expert at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute.

    Dr. J. Christopher Gallagher, director of the bone metabolism unit at the Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Neb., agreed, adding, “The onus is on the people who propose extra calcium and vitamin D to show it is safe before they push it on people.”

    Over the past few years, the idea that nearly everyone needs extra calcium and vitamin D — especially vitamin D — has swept the nation.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/30/health/30vitamin.html

  • Pingback: Could too Much Vitamin D Be Bad? | Dramatic Medicine

  • After lab blood work, I was told by my doctor that my vitamin D level was low, I believe it was around 30 something and suggested yo begin Vitamin D 50000 IU’s weekly x 8 weeks. I couldn’t find the 50000 IU’s so I started with D-5000 D3-

    Do you think 50000 IU’s is an extream amount?

    • That’s a good question, Derrek. I don’t know the answer. If you’re uncomfortable taking that much, can you get a second opinion from another MD?

      • Have been researching the same thing as I was put on 50,000 IU’s today. Have found that it is not uncommon, and especially not uncommon for a set amount of weeks. Just make sure your doctor regularly rechecks your levels!

        • Hi Rachel –

          Thanks for sharing your experience. Will you please keep us updated on your status?

          • Absolutely – I ‘subscribed’ so should be updated. My symptoms (for the past 9 years mind you) have been migraines, tension headaches, severe pain in my neck not relieved by any medications, RLS, carpal tunnel symptoms, and TMJ. I started seeing a doctor approximately one year ago for these issues which have worsened INCREDIBLY in the last few months. I was diagnosed Tuesday 3/22 with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Myofascial Pain syndrome. The same day lab work was ordered for a multitude of testing including vitamin levels were checked and I was found deficient in vitamin D. Prescribed 50,000 IU’s once a day for 7 days, then 50,000 IU’s once a week.

            Updates to follow…

          • Thank for you updating us on your progress, Rachel. It will be fascinating to see how the Vitamin D therapy works for you!

  • I was recently tested for Vitamin D deficiency and my levels came back at a 15. I have been extremely tired with joint pain and aches (body and head) but attributed it to having recently had a baby. My doctor prescribed 50,000 IUs twice a week for 6 weeks and 2000 IUs a day after that with a follow up blood test in four months. I’m really hoping it makes a difference in my fatigue and alertness because my fatigue was really starting to effect my work.

    • Thanks for sharing your condition with us, Monica and please keep us updated on the progress of your Vit D therapy.

    • I went for a check up a few weeks ago to follow up on my Vitamin D levels. They have improved but are still low. I’m now supplementing with 2000 IUs a day and they will check it again in April. It may just be psychosomatic, but I do feel like I have more energy than I did before starting on the Vitamin D supplements.

  • After almost two years of increasing migraines, numb/tingling fingers, feet and legs that were getting progressively worse, I was visiting my third neuro to rule out MS. Finally, they noticed my vitamin D level was 13 and I was put on 50,000 IU a week for eight weeks. I’m halfway through and most of the numb/tingling symptoms are gone.

  • Jennifer Brownstein Secrest

    Glad I found this site!

    I guess I will share my story & what brought me here….

    In Dec. of 2009, I started getting a tingling sensation, numbness & muscle spasms in my right arm. As scary as this was, it was more devastating, that over time it continuously spread over my entire body. Since then I have not had a single pain free day. Seven days of the week, I have pain (deep, burning, radiating pain) in my right shoulder & neck. This also leaves my arm & hand constantly cold & feeling like I have no circulation. In addition, I have the same pain on my left side, hips, knees, butt and lower back about 4-5 days a week. I have been a long time sufferer of migraines (was diagnosed in grade school) but these had seemed to lessen as I got into my 20′s. As of Dec. 2009, the migraines have also been a constant. It doesn’t matter if I sleep 4 hours or 15 hours at night…I still feel the same exhaustion by mid-morning the next day. The only difference is the longer I sleep, the more pain I am in once I wake up from my muscles getting so stiff. In July 2010, a neurologist diagnosed me with Fibro. Since then I have taken EVERYTHING. You name it, I have taken it…Lyrica, Cymbalta, pain meeds, antidepressants etc. I have also tried a TENS unit, trigger point injections, chiro, meditation, exercise, diet & have just recently scheduled my first round of Botox with my rheumatologist.

    On Monday I went in to my doctor because I recently also started losing my hair (in clumps) and I started getting thick dry patches on my skin. He ran tests immediately and today I got a phone call….”We may have an answer to your symptoms, your extremely deficient in Vitamin D” and continued to explain the possible Fibro connection. My level was a 6 & he put me on 50,000 units weekly for 2 months & then bi-weekly for 8 months. He will be doing monthly labs to check to progress & make changes if needed.

    I am 31 years old, I have a 2 year old active toddler who I feel like I have “failed”. Thankfully, I have the most amazing husband who has never complained that this condition has turned our world upside down. I own my own business so I have been able to keep a flexible schedule and make it to the many doctors appointments. Throughout them all, there was never any “concrete” finding or test that backed up my symptoms…some dr.’s said it could have been caused from a car accident I was in 15 years ago, some said it could have been caused from “nerve trauma” from my 5 failed epidurals & 36 hour labor. Others said that its just something that happens to some women over time.

    To hear that my Fibro could have been brought on by my deficiency is honestly the best news I could have ever hoped for, at this point. The fact that there is a document with an actual finding is more hope than I have ever been given throughout this whole ordeal.

    Believe me, I know that tomorrow I am not going to wake up cured…I may never be. But to anyone who suffers from this chronic pain, the possibilities are good enough for me, Now!

    I will keep you posted!

    • Thank you for sharing your warm and emotional experience, Jennifer. Please keep us looped into the process of your rehabilitation back to good health!

    • Hi Stephanie:
      I was involved in car accident in 2009. I sustained lumbar and cervical back injuries. In 2012 I had to have spine fusion of L4-L5 and disc replacement. 6 months after accident I got shingles which broke out on the opposite side and directly across from where I took the hardest blow which caused deep tissue damage resulting in the vertebrae moving around with almost every movement I made. I have suffered since with horrible rashes that feel just like the shingles. Before I break out each time my body aches even more than the norm for about 3 days to one week. My skin burns burns burns, my joints get so tender to touch and hurt so bad. Especially my ankles, wrists, nuckles, neck and shoulders. I become even weaker than I already am and have no endurance what so ever. For the most part I have to endure by going to bed and staying very still for several days. I also have increased migraines and just recently my upper respitory has been affected. I once called this a cycle but now I call them attacks because I feel my joints and muscles are being attacked and getting weaker each attack. I have been diagnosed with fibro last January but that is hard to swallow. Now I have low vitamin d also and started the 50,000 last sat for 12 weeks. Wondering how you are doing? I hope you give me great news. I also have involuntary jerks which started last now I believe and now are much more often and stronger. My fingers shake and I am debilitating very quickly.
      Can’t wait to hear back from you.
      Sandy

  • Hi, I’m 34 years old and I was recently told that I my vit D levels were low 6.9, in the last year I’ve noticed that I had become less active, tired all the time, pain in my legs and back and I would constantly stay sick. I went directly to the doctor around 08/2010 of last year because my hair was coming out everytime I combed it and even when I ran my fingers through it and my skin was started to look like I was 12 all over again. I doctor brushed it off and said that it was probably genetic and it should clear up within a few months, well it hasn’t, it got so bad that I had to cover my head with wigs and weaves. I went to a new doctor about three weeks ago and she was the one that tested my levels, she laughed at me when I pulled out a list of symptoms that I was having but quickly told me to start taking vit d 50,000 iu 3x a week for a month and she wanted me back in her office after the month was up. I am so glad that I can label everything that I was experiencing and I hope that I will be able to start doing more things with my children soon.

  • In February of 2011, I went for a routine check-up to see my OBGYN. Because I was turning 40 in May of 2011 he had ordered a number of different lab work for me to have done. Because of my hectic schedule I put off having the blood work done, it was not until the end of August that I finally went for my lab work. For month’s after my initial visit with the OBGYN I was not feeling well. I was tired, low energy, dizzy, ache ankles and wrist, hip and leg pain, my teeth were sensitive, headaches atleast one a week, numbness in my fingers and my thumbs would lock up. My eyes would constantly have a cloudy like film over them, My long hair was coming out in clumps. When I would wake up in the morning my body felt like I had worked out in a bad way. It was no longer feeling like the “good sore” you get after a good workout. I am one that has a high tolerance to pain but I cannot take the “dizzy” feeling and the constant headaches. My husband said, go get that lab work done. The day I went to have the lab work done, it was a good day for me I almost did not go until something inside said, just go!

    I am glad I did! Everything except for my Vitamin D levels were good. My Vitamin D level was 23. I now have 1 pill of 50,000 IU to take once a week for 12 weeks. After 12 weeks I will get retested. I am going to be positive, and say… I am looking forward to being back to my old healthy self again! Lesson learned…I have to take care of mysellf first, before I can take care of anyone else. I will be no good to anyone, if I am not good to myself!

  • i was experiencing horrible pain, numbness, tingling, headaches etc. in january i was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and anti-phospholipid antibody syndrome. i was put on chemo until my liver began to shut down. i was told by a dr that my case was hopeless and i was untreatable. i though i had received my death sentence.

    today, 3 days after my 31 st birthday, i found out i was misdiagnosed. i had a severe vitamin d deficiency of 15. i was also put on the 50,000 units of vitamin d for 12 weeks.

    i cant wait to see results! to me taking 50,000 units of vitamin d, is much safer than the 5 months of weekly chemotherapy i endured.

    happy healing everyone!!

  • I guess I’ll be the cautionary tale. Five years ago, I was severely Vid D deficient, with a level of 5, and placed on 50,000iu weekly for just 6 weeks. Dignosed with fibromyalgia, et al. I was also taking the supplemental calcium that is needed to process the Vit D . I had a twofold reaction. First, I had toxic response, and second, my body decided it was easier to use the calcium already present in my body, and stripped it from my teeth and bones. I went from no cavities to 28 in less than a year. I got them all filled, and then started developing new cavities behind the fillings. I have now had 7 root canals in the last 3.5 years. My dentist doesn’t think I’m going to be able to keep my own teeth past 40, I’m 32 now. I developed kidney stones, and have passed over 100 stones in the past 5 years. I have also had 3 kidney infections that required hospitalization. I had no prior kidney or urinary tract problems.

    Vit D deficiency can be very debilitating, but I think a slower approach to treatment than 50,000iu is warranted. I have my bloodwork done every year, and take 1000iu daily in the winter and 400iu in the summer, and am able to maintain a normal level here in the PNW. Vitamin toxicity is a very real and common response to high doses, and many medical professionals are either unaware, or too busy to track patients.

    • What an amazing story, Katy. I thank you for sharing the other side of the realm with us. What a horrible nightmare! Do you think you would have had these health problems if you had not “overdosed” on too much Vit. D too fast?

  • My doctor prescribed Vitamin D 50,000 iu once a week for 12 weeks and calcium citrate 500mg 2x a day… I have not taken these vitamins yet because I was surprised and puzzled why my doctor wants me to take this high dose… So, I thought of searching some information about this 50,000 iu and I’m glad I found this site… I am skeptical to take this high dose after reading all the testimonies, some positive, some negative… I have been having a lot of pain in my body since 2004… Carpal tunnel, pain in my heel (for 2 years now and have been using a heel insole,) numbness and tingling pain in my arms, pain in my leg muscles, frequent headaches, etc. I have not personally spoken with my doctor about this Vitamin D 50,000 iu because it was her nurse that called my house and left a message regarding these vitamins.
    I wrote this looking for more opinions/testimonies regarding these vitamins (Especially High Dose Vitamin D).

    • I was having pain in my shins so I when to the because the pain had became more than i wanted to bare. My dr asked me several questions then told me he wanted to take some blood I didnt have a problem with that. About a week later his nurse called and informed me that everything was fine except that my vitamin D level was extremely low and that my dr wanted me to start on 50,000 iu of vitamin D twice a week for 4 weeks then 2000 iu once daily. I go back in 3 months for another blood test. So I started researching this subject because im 49 and have had several major surgeries and was never told my vitamin D level was low. Kinda glad i went to the dr because i didnt have a clue what was causing me so many problems with my health.

      Pam in Tx

  • I just found out the other day my Vitamin D level is 14 – my blood calcium levels have been low and my new internist wanted to check my D. My symptoms have included hair loss (for the past 8 years or so), joint pain/swelling, and I had a terrible few weeks after a lengthy illness caused (they think) by a stomach virus. I hadn’t been eating much due to the stomach pain and was getting weaker by the day. Dr sent me to a gastroenterologist, who ordered a CT scan of my abdomen and an endoscopy on the same day. The two tests did me in, and I had a horrible week with anxiety, heart palpitations, muscle aches and cramps, weakness, wobbly knees, etc. Now I wonder if my Vitamin D was even lower then due to such little food intake. Anyway, I slowly recovered from that, and now find out my levels are low, so took my first 50,000 IU pill yesterday. Taking one a week for 8 weeks, and she also wants me to take 1000 IU daily on top of the weekly dose. I am vegetarian/vegan, plus have had sun sensitivity for the last 2-3 years, so I avoid the sun all summer. Double whammy on me, I guess! Hope this treatment sets me right!! Thanks to all for posting your stories – very interesting. My question is: shouId I also be taking calcium supplements while taking this high dose of D??

  • I am on 50,000 iu of vitamin d. My deficiency was discovered after i put myself on a gluten fast and discovered i’m celiac after gluten being reintroduced to my small intestine. I highly reccomend a gluten fast for 2 weeks. Careful it is in a lot of medications.

    Humans cannot digest gluten and the gluten can damage your small intestine which makes it harder for your body to absorb nutrients and vitamins. I’m in the process of healing my intestine and have been able to cut out several rx and over the counter medications

  • I am having tingly, burning scalp, head feels weird, tired feeling, muscle jerking and legs shaking, shortness of breath sometimes and I have been to the ER and they just keep putting it off as Anxiety or Panic Disorder. I am a Vegetarian and I will admit I don’t Eat correctly. I want to sleep but where i am so nervous about what is going on with me my heart feels like it is racing sometimes and i wake up in the middle of the night and go right back to sleep but still get up after 6-8 hours of rest. I had been on Vitamin D 50,000 units prescribed by doctor about 8 months ago but don’t know what my score was. I am so Nervous that i have already went to ER 3 times in 2 days, Chiropractor- so far seen them 1 time, and I see the Neurologist Oct 30,2012. I feel like I am loosing my mind and just want to feel better so i can take care of my 2 children. Please if anyone has had these signs or symptoms please let me know your opinion. Thanks

  • OK. Just got blood test results. Low on vitamin D. Need to take 50,000 iu per once a week for 8 weeks, almost like everyone on this blog but i havent been able to find a 50,000 iu vit D :) can you recommend a brand? Thanks!

  • Thank Monica. Where can I get it? My doctor said I could buy any, it just has to be 50,ooo units

    • I’m not sure if you can buy it in 50,000 IU over the counter. You may want to try calling a local pharmacy, like Walgreens or CVS, to see if they sell it in that amount without a prescription. If they won’t your doctor will need to write a prescription for you.

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