In recent years supplementing vitamin D has been touted as somewhat of a cure-all, but I’m a huge skeptic, and don’t think it’s quite that simple. But like all other dietary trends, the truth surfaces eventually… and surprise-surprise that truth is that a pill or supplement is NEVER the cure-all we’re led to believe. If low vitamin D doesn’t mean you just need to supplement vitamin D, what does it mean?


It appears that low vitamin D levels are the result of ill health, but not the cause. Low vitamin D levels can reveal a host of things:

•   Ill health – According to a recent study done in December 2013 in Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, “The discrepancy between observational and interventional studies suggests that low 25(OH)D is a marker of ill health.” 

•   Low calcium intake – Chris Masterjohn explains that vitamin D levels and calcium levels go hand in hand. “Overall, then, we would expect that a deficiency in calcium would cause low 25(OH)D, and that correcting the deficiency would normalize the 25(OH)D, but that beyond a certain threshold, increasing calcium intake might not increase 25(OH)D any further.” (source) Additionally, he adds, “As a rule of thumb, then, I would say that if someone has low 25(OH)D and she is eating two to three servings of dairy products or soft, edible bones, or two to three cups of cruciferous vegetables per day (which have their downsides), then calcium deficiency is unlikely to be the explanation. If one is not eating these foods, however, it could very easily be the explanation. In such a case, the person has little to lose and much to gain by including more calcium-rich foods.” 

•   Poor digestion –  Low vitamin D status can also be a reflector of poor gut health, especially since proper digestion is a precursor to good health. You can’t be healthy without good digestion to break down your food and make it available and absorbable by the body. Digestion is king when it comes to health, and there are a host of reasons people have poor digestion. The ones I see most frequently are due to a slowed metabolism, low nutrient diet, and chronic stress.

•   Low magnesium intake – “Intake of magnesium significantly interacted with intake of vitamin D in relation to risk of both vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency.” 

•   Malnourished liver – Liver health plays a role in the absorption of vitamin D, because it affects the production and flow of bile. Bile emulsifies fat (vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin), and makes it more available for absorption in the gut.


As you may see, taking a vitamin D supplement does not address the root cause of low vitamin D levels; a host of other issues contributing to “ill” health.

However you slice it, vitamin D is still a hormone, and supplementation should be considered carefully, especially since there can be risks of mega dosing. According to Chris Masterjohn, “Vitamin D can be a double-edged sword: adequate vitamin D prevents heart disease, but too much vitamin D promotes heart disease. The available evidence suggests that the lowest risk of heart disease occurs when vitamin D status is between 20 and 40 ng/mL.” 

Aside from the risks of supplementing, there are sourcing and integrity issues. Most supplements are often low quality, contain irritating additives/fillers, and most of the raw materials are imported without strict regulation regarding safety and purity. Additionally, most supplements were not created to reflect how you find nutrients in real food. You see, when your body is carrying out a task, it needs not only one nutrient, but a combination of nutrients in balance to one another. For example, when your body is building bone, you not only need vitamin D, but you also need vitamin K2, calcium, magnesium, and good digestion (strong stomach acid to uptake calcium). So taking just a single one of those nutrients isn’t necessarily going to do you any good! This makes food the safest supplement, because you have control over the quality, and you get the nutrient along with any co-factors that go along with it. Take milk for instance, when you get vitamin D from whole milk, you also get vitamin A and calcium as well.


If you decide to take a Vitamin D supplement, research the product beforehand. Make sure you have a good source of calcium in your diet (like dairy – if tolerated, bone broth, sardines, etc.), magnesium (like dark chocolate, fresh fruit & transdermal sources if needed) and find a food source vitamin D like roe, egg yolks, whole milk (without additives) and natural sources like the sun.



Source: Catherine - Nutritional therapist - Butter Nutrition

Susan Arruda