For those of us living with celiac disease, vitamin D is a critical nutrient for our overall health and well-being. Unfortunately, vitamin D Deficiency is more common than you might think.
That’s why it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, what vitamin D is, why those of us with celiac disease need it, and the steps you can take today to optimize your levels.
But first, the problem…
Harvard School of Public Health says that “worldwide, an estimated 1 billion people have inadequate levels of vitamin D in their blood, and deficiencies can be found in all ethnicities and age groups.”
That’s speaking generally to global Vitamin D deficiency. Even beyond people with celiac disease this is a major issue.
So what about vitamin D deficiency in people with celiac disease?
Well, vitamin D deficiency is incredibly common in people with celiac disease. One study showed 64% of men and 71% of women with celiac disease are deficient in Vitamin D , which is a contributing factor in a variety of health issues.
Signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency:
- Bone and muscle pain
- Weakened immune system (constantly getting sick)
- Osteoporosis and osteopenia (low bone mineral density)
- Hair loss
To better understand if your symptoms could be related to vitamin D deficiency, let’s first outline what vitamin D is and its role in the body.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a critical nutrient for our overall health, strong and healthy bones, and a well-regulated immune system. Unlike most other vitamins that you primarily get from food, there are two really interesting things to know about Vitamin D.
First, Vitamin D functions as a hormone with receptor sites in just about every cell in your body. Second, our bodies actually produce our own vitamin D from sunlight.
According to the Vitamin D Council, “when your skin is exposed to the sun, it produces vitamin D and sends it to your liver. If you take supplements or eat foods that contain vitamin D, your gut also sends the vitamin D to your liver. From here, your liver changes it to a substance called 25(OH)D. This chemical is sent all over your body where different tissues, including your kidney, turn it into activated vitamin D. This activated vitamin D is now ready to perform its duties.”
Why It’s Important to Get Enough Vitamin D
1. Vitamin D increases intestinal absorption of calcium and phosphorus.
Calcium, along with fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D, are absorbed in the proximal portion of the small intestine. This is the section of intestine that receives food right after it has passed through the stomach. If the villi (tiny, hair-like projections that absorb nutrients) in this section of your small intestine are damaged, as is common in people with celiac disease, you’ll have a much harder time absorbing dietary calcium and phosphorus—two important components of strong, healthy bones. Boosting low vitamin D levels can help you maximize absorption of both.
2. Manages calcium in your blood, bones and gut. 
3. Helps cells all over your body to communicate properly. 
4. Improves brain, heart, lung, and muscle function. 
5. Helps prevent and heal a leaky gut. .
Leaky gut, also called intestinal permeability, takes place when the intestinal barrier becomes compromised allowing the passage of toxins, antigens, and bacteria to enter the blood stream. Recent research is beginning to shed light on how leaky gut is a “danger signal for autoimmune disease.” Celiac disease is one of many autoimmune diseases.
6. Reduces chronic inflammation.
7. Prevents Vitamin D Deficiency.
Deficiency can lead to rickets (soft, deformed bones in children), osteoporosis, and an increased risk of common cancers, autoimmune diseases, hypertension, and infectious diseases.
3 Things You Can Do To Optimize Your Vitamin D levels
1. Get Your Levels Tested.
The first thing you’ll want to do is order a vitamin D, 25 Hydroxy [25(OH)D] blood test. It’s a common test that your physician can order or you can order yourself online at a place like directlabs.com
What’s a good level:
2. Put Skin To Sun.
Simply put…get outdoors and show some bare skin! There are a lot of factors that contribute to how long you should stay in the sun.
Generally speaking, 30 minutes in the sun could produce as much as 10,000-25,000 IU. Midday sun is best. So, go for a walk during lunch time or lay out by the pool if you have the day off.
The closer you live to the equator, the easier it will be for you to produce vitamin D year-round. In the winter months, for many of us, it’s difficult to get enough sunlight simply because it’s too cold outside and the sun’s rays just aren’t strong enough to generate enough Vitamin D production.
3. Consider Supplementation.
Even with consuming natural dietary sources of vitamin D like mushrooms, egg yolks, beef liver and fatty fish like mackerel, herring, and sardines, you’re unlikely to reach sufficient intake of Vitamin D—especially if you’re already deficient, have problems with nutrient absorption, and your location or lifestyle prevents you from getting good sun exposure.
Here’s what a few well-respected health and wellness authorities recommend for supplementation:
Vitamin D Council recommends 1,000 IU/day per 25lbs of body weight for children and 5,000 IU per day for adults.
Chris Kresser recommends 2,000 – 5,000 IU/day
Dr. Mark Hyman recommends 5,000 to 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 a day for 3 months if you’re deficient — but only under a doctor’s supervision. For maintenance, he recommends 2,000 to 4,000 IU a day of vitamin D3.
The Vitamin D Council also recommends taking vitamin D3 rather than vitamin D2 and to work with your doctor and test your vitamin D [25(OH)D] levels every 3-6 months to ensure your levels and your supplement regimen are safe and effective.
The exact Vitamin D supplements I’ve personally used (as a celiac) to improve my health are below in “A Note From Kevin.”
A Note From Kevin:
After ongoing fatigue and bone pain, I had a [25(OH)D] Vitamin D blood test that showed my levels were low (30 ng/ml). For the first couple months, I supplemented with 8,000-10,000 IU which helped bring my levels up to the mid 40’s.
I now take a maintenance dose of about 2,000 IU – 5,000 IU daily for most of the year, and up to 7,000 IU daily in the winter to maintain levels in between 50-70 ng/ml. Keep in mind, our bodies are all different. If you plan on supplementing, I’d work with your doctor to test your Vitamin D levels every 6 months or so, so you can monitor your own levels. Though it’s rare, you can get too much Vitamin D.
In addition to supplementation, I always make sure to get a minimum of 15-30 minutes of sun (weather permitting) with no sunscreen during the spring, summer, and fall months. I live in St. Louis, so the sun’s rays aren’t intense enough in the winter to produce enough Vitamin D…plus it’s freezing outside.
One thing I’ve learned while supplementing is that Vitamin D does indeed increase the intestinal absorption of calcium, and you want to make sure that calcium goes where it’s intended—the bones, NOT the blood vessels, arteries, and soft tissue. That’s one of the roles of Vitamin K2.
And that’s the reason why you’ll see so many Vitamin D3 supplements paired with K2.
You can get Vitamin K2 in small amounts from pastured egg yolks and grass fed butter/ghee. I consume both of these things and still choose to supplement separately with K2.
The supplements I personally take:
This is the best multivitamin I’ve come across as a celiac…and I’ve tried many. It has 2,000 IU of vitamin D, 500 mg calcium, 420 mg magnesium, and methylated forms of folate (B9) and B12, plus a whole lot more. Non-GMO, free of gluten and major allergens, no binders, fillers, or preservatives. They come in vitamin packets or capsules. I just add the packets to my smoothies.
Pure Encapsulations products are Certified Gluten-Free by the The Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) and don’t contain unnecessary fillers. They’re also Non-GMO, soy-free, dairy-free, and vegan. Easy one capsule a day,
Organic, celiac-friendly form of vitamin K2 in a dropper.
This is an easy one for kids to take. Just a dropper that goes in your food, drink, or directly on your tongue. I add to my wife and daughter’s smoothie every morning. It’s gluten-free, sugar-free, and has no preservatives.
There are a lot of decent brands out there beyond what’s listed here…and I have tried many of them. These are the ones I trust and I’ve found to have the greatest positive impact on my, and my family’s, personal health.
Any questions or comments? Feel free to leave them below.
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. I don’t provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment plans. The information here is strictly for informational purposes only. I, Kevin Ellis, and Me & Gfree always recommend consulting with your physicians and medical providers before starting or taking any supplements.
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