Is Your Vitamin D3 Supplement Toxic?
Is vitamin D3 killing you?
Many have asked me about the association between cholecalciferol, vitamin D3, and rat poison. Please, read this entire blog before you jump to any conclusions.
Yes, rat poison uses cholecalciferol, vitamin D3, because it’s toxic to rats. Rat baits are laced with D3 as it is fairly effective as a poison. It causes anticoagulation, the blood can’t clot and the rat bleeds out. I know, gross.
But the important question is, how does this relate to you, a human, taking vitamin D3?
Benefits of vitamin D3
The benefits of having optimal vitamin D3 levels are many:
- Decreases your risk of cancer
- Protects your immune system
- Protects your brain
- Increases your muscle strength
- Increases your fertility
- Strengthens your bones
- Protects your heart
- Reduces your risk of leaky gut
D3 is rat poison, right?
I have written on the benefits of vitamin D3 balanced by K2 before, but the onslaught of comments asking me why I was recommending a poison, required me to dive into this area deeper.
Believe me, there is a great deal of data on the internet citing vitamin D3 to be a toxin to humans and rats alike, but is it true?
There is a large difference between you and a rat, over and above the obvious weight difference. It turns out rats have a high susceptibility to vitamin D3, which can be used to eradicate/kill them.
You are not a rat!
D3 does have a dark side
It is true that vitamin D3 has a dark side, but it’s not a poison to humans in the way it can be to rats. The danger lies in the need to balance your vitamin K2 level with D3.
Years ago when we first learned of the benefits of D3, research revealed that in some it resulted in increased hardening of the arteries and a decreased lifespan. These were not the intended results obviously and researchers got to work discovering what this “dark side” of vitamin D3 was all about.
What was missed was the balance of vitamin K2. Both are fat soluble vitamins and it turns out they work together very nicely.
D3 increases the absorption of calcium, needed for strong bones, and K2 “tells that calcium” where to go – into your bones and NOT your arteries or kidneys.
Cautions for vitamin K2?
The best form of vitamin K2 is MK-4. Here at Root Cause we have it as a tasteless liquid combined with D3, making administration very easy.
[Note: if you’re on a blood thinner such as Coumadin, you need to speak with your doctor before taking K2. It’s a clotting factor and such drugs are blood thinners, therefore they’re working in opposition. Try to have a discussion with your doctor regarding your K2 levels and how much K2 you want to take. Too often, supplements are dismissed out of hand by conventional doctors, when closer inspection reveals a deficiency in K2 and a supplementation plan that would not create an excess of K2 in your blood.]
How much vitamin D3 is toxic to a rat? a human?
To have a 50% chance of killing a rat with vitamin D3 would require 100,000 IU (international units) of D3. That’s the amount required to have a 50% death outcome of a 0.5 lb rat.
The equivalent of that would be about 4,000,000 IUs (4 million IUs) given to a human. According to research, that amount could endanger your health, but not kill you.
To give it perspective, we recommend 2,000 IUs of vitamin D3 to maintain a healthy vitamin D3 level. Additional increments of 2,000 IUs are then recommended for every 10 points you wish to raise your D3 level. Four million IUs is 2,000 times the typical daily dosage.
e.g. if you test your D3 and the level is 20 ng/mL and your goal is 50 ng/mL, you would take 6,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day, balanced by K2.
Typical daily recommendations
As you can see, even if your D3 level was very low, at 12, which we commonly see, the maximum amount of D3 recommended would be about 6-8,000 IUs per day for about 6 weeks. The dose would then be re-evaluated based on your new lab value.
Toxic levels are not even remotely approached with this type of protocol.
And of course, the benefits of Vitamin D3 are many, as mentioned above, emphasizing the reason this very important nutrient needs to be maintained at a healthy level.
What about getting D3 from the sun?
You’ll hear the argument that “all” you need to do is get some sun to maintain normal vitamin D levels. If you live at a latitude for which that’s possible and, with sun exposure you DO HAVE normal D3 levels, awesome. That would be the way to go.
But that doesn’t take into consideration those for whom the sun is scarce, dark skinned people who don’t tend to absorb enough through their skin, or those who DO get sun exposure but are still deficient. For those individuals I believe supplementation is required.
I’ve spoken at length how vitamin K2 works here and here. K1 is found in vegetables and many plant sources, but most Americans don’t turn K1 into K2, hence the need for supplementation, or a diet rich in Natto (soy) and fermented veggies. It requires a healthy gut and microbiome to yield adequate amounts of K2 by ingesting K1, and unfortunately few Americans fall into that enviable category.
Additionally, I would like to mention magnesium, an important mineral which, similar to vitamins D3 and K2, is frequently deficient in Americans. Getting adequate magnesium appears to help with D3 status, so eating magnesium-rich foods such as beans, broccoli, seeds, cashews and bananas is a good idea.
Supplementation is also fine, especially if you have trouble with tight muscles or relaxing at bedtime. I like a magnesium glycinate for the best absorption, which you can take to bowel tolerance to get an idea of how much you need.
A bowel tolerance exercise involves gradiently increasing your dose by 200 mg of magnesium at a time until you get some looseness of stools and then you can back down a little.
No, a reputable vitamin D3 supplement is not toxic
I hope this data can “put to bed” the fear of vitamin D3 supplementation being toxic. Of course you can overdose on anything, but taken correctly vitamin D3 has many, many positive attributes.
Take vitamin K2 and magnesium to keep all the nutrients in balance, and enjoy the wonderful benefits vitamin D3 provides.
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To reclaiming your best health,
Dr. Vikki Petersen DC, CCN
Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner
Founder of Root Cause Medical Clinic
Author of “The Gluten Effect”
Author of the e-Books:
- “Gluten: What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You”
- “5 Simple Ways to Regain Your Health”
- “Hiatal Hernia, Many Symptoms, One Cause”