What to Expect with High Doses of Vitamin D to Correct Deficiency?
August 22, 2012 8:28 AM   Subscribe

I was just diagnosed with moderate Vitamin D deficiency. Can you tell me about your experience on the 50,000 IU once a week treatment and Vitamin D deficiency in general?

My doctor suggested a Vitamin D test because I am about to move to a very rainy, fairly northern place. It came back at 23.0 (with normal per this lab being 32.0 to 100.0). So, below the normal range, but not crazy bad and apparently pretty common for an olive-skinned North American.

Anyway, I got a form letter from the doctor recommending a regimen of 50,000 IUs of D3 once a week for 12 weeks, and pitching an affiliated vitamin-selling website, too-- which was a little icky and made me a little suspicious of the necessity. I went out and bought my own at the drugstore, and will be starting soon, but I wanted to hear from people who have done this. Are there side effects? Did you notice a difference in any way? What did you do after the 12 weeks?

I wouldn't say I have any specific symptoms, though I do feel more "run down" than I'd like to (which could be attributed to any number of causes).

The scientist in me is super disappointed that I will be embarking on a number of big lifestyle and likely diet changes at the same time, making it hard to parse any tentative correlations.
posted by charmcityblues to Health & Fitness (32 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
My doctor doesn't even bother testing for Vitamin D anymore because he said that everyone he checks is deficient, so I should just supplement. I haven't really noticed a difference in mood or energy level since starting taking it a few months ago, but no side effects either. I take 5,000 every weekday.
posted by valeries at 8:32 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

My doctor wrote me a prescription for one pill a week. I don't remember the dosage of the pill, I think it was 50,000 IU though. It was way more convenient (and cheaper!) to take one pill than than to take a bunch of OTC, lower dose, pills.

I didn't really notice anything when I was deficient or when I got in to the normal range.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:35 AM on August 22, 2012

I've been prescribed 50,000 IU of Vitamin D on two separate occasions. One was 3 times a week. Tthe other was once a week. I didn't realize you could buy the 50,000 IU capsules over the counter. My docs gave me prescriptions.

In any case, I didn't notice anything different during or after taking the supplement. My level went up though. Now, I take 2,000 IU a day.
posted by aloysius on the mixing boards at 8:35 AM on August 22, 2012

I take 5,000 UI every day and it does absolutely wonders for my mood and energy levels. I don't even need by SAD lamp in the winter anymore.
posted by griphus at 8:37 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've never taken large doses of Vitamin D, but I was also deficient and now take 4,000 IU a day (in a supplement that also has calcium and magnesium). The only changes I've noticed are a bit of a bump in energy levels and less severe menstrual cramps.
posted by bedhead at 8:39 AM on August 22, 2012

I had severe vitamin D deficiency, like apparently putting myself at risk for Rickets severe.

I took a Vitamin D supplement of 1,000 UI/day and was retested later, but was told to keep taking my vitamin D. Since I'm breastfeeding, I get the equivalent in the prenatal I continue to take.

It doesn't matter so much what Vitamin D supplement you use --- I've used the Nature Made gel capsules (easy to swallow) the Whole Foods hard tablets (just like swallowing ibuprofen) and even some gummy ones meant for kids because my husband thought it would be funny to buy those.

When I'm done with breastfeeding and therefore taking the prenatals, I'll continue to take the Vitamin D supplement in one form or another.

I couldn't tell you why it was recommended I take 1,0000 UI/day vs the 50,000 regimen, but I bet it had something to do with saving me some cost since vitaimin d is over the counter in smaller doses.
posted by zizzle at 8:39 AM on August 22, 2012

I take 50,000 IU pretty much all the time now. I'm always severely deficient (in the 0-10 range) so taking it short-term doesn't really work for me.

The only thing I'll warn you of is, um, don't take more than you are prescribed. Vitamin D in big doses can make your guts unhappy.
posted by joan_holloway at 8:39 AM on August 22, 2012

ianad. oh man. be super careful taking 50,000 a week for 12 weeks without any testing. i had EXTREME low vitamin D deficiency, and still have a moderate one. i went from moderate deficiency to SUPER RIDICULOUS OUTSIDE THE RANGE HIGH after taking a once a month 100,000 dose, the super ridiculous number being A FULL MONTH AFTER TAKING IT. apparently overdoses of vitamin D are supposed to be dangerous- your body has a mechanism to stop it from overdosing on vitamin d from the sun but not from any supplements you take.

i just got another test done several months after that test, in the meanwhile just trying to spend more time in the sun. i'm going to the doctor tomorrow to see what he thinks i should do- i'm guessing he'll suggest I take about 2000 iu a day for what is a moderate deficiency- but we'll see what he says.

from EXTREME LOW vitamin D to moderate deficiency, I did notice some dramatic changes- my hair grew in thicker, and I had MUCH less trouble waking up in the morning. your deficiency is better than mine was though. you might notice small improvements in these areas though.

again ianad and a lot of this stuff seems kind of art-like to me in terms of getting the level right in your bloodstream- good luck, and share with us anything you learn! I've been trying to learn as much as I can about this type of deficiency as well.
posted by saraindc at 8:39 AM on August 22, 2012

I tested at about your level and was put on 50,000 IU once a week for a few weeks. You should take it with a decent-sized meal that has some fat in it, otherwise they can make you a little queasy.

Now, I take 5000 IU a couple times a week.

The biggest change was that before I started Vitamin D, I'd been taking long naps a couple of times a week -- I was just too tired to keep my eyes open, even though I was getting close to 8 hours of sleep a night. Now, I almost never have to take naps. My moods are evener, too.
posted by Jeanne at 8:43 AM on August 22, 2012

Also, I agree with bedhead -- my menstrual cramps are a lot better.
posted by Jeanne at 8:45 AM on August 22, 2012

not to upset anyone, but I feel compelled to share that in my case, my low vitamin D was related to parathyroid disease, something that if you have you need taken care of. It's underdiagnosed from what I understand and creeps up on you over years. It's diagnosed by high calcium levels in the blood. IANAD

so I'm not suggesting this is highly likely in your case, your deficiency isn't nearly as bad as mine was, I can't tell you if you personally should look into it. but if anyone is reading this and ends up finding this helpful, then cool.
posted by saraindc at 8:49 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Both my partner and I tested extremely low. I think her's was like 8 or 9 and mine was 13. She did two rounds of 50,000. I'm just midway through my first round. It helped her a lot and there was a noticeable difference in her energy level.

I don't notice any difference.
posted by FlamingBore at 8:49 AM on August 22, 2012

I know my number was low, but I don't remember how low. I take 3000 per day and if I do it religiously, I do not get sick beyond the sniffles. My husband just had the cold from hell for an entire week, and I had a sore throat for about a day and then it went away. (Knock on wood.) I haven't noticed any change in mood or energy level.
posted by desjardins at 9:04 AM on August 22, 2012

I'm on a 12 week megadose, and it has worked wonders for my moods. I'm going to continue with a maintenance dose after I complete the megadose.
posted by hotelechozulu at 9:09 AM on August 22, 2012

My moods also improved after this treatment, though the supplements are not as effective in elevating mood as time spent outdoors in the sun.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:13 AM on August 22, 2012

Response by poster: Yeah, I was definitely unhappy that she didn't just write me a prescription, which would have been covered by insurance.

I got a bottle of 60 10,0000s - is there any particular reason I need to take 5 at once one day a week, or can I spread it out?
posted by charmcityblues at 9:34 AM on August 22, 2012

My levels were similar to yours and my doctor recommended I take 5000s 1-2 times per day. I got tested again about a month ago (a little over a year after the first test) and am in normal range. I haven't noticed any difference with regards to mood or energy level.
posted by granted at 9:50 AM on August 22, 2012

I was diagnosed a few years back and had a level similar to yours. My doctor put me on 2,000 IU a day of D3; I got retested about a year later and was within the reference range (just barely).

For what it's worth, my understanding is that there is a difference between D2 and D3 (D3 is better) and between the gel tabs with the oil inside and everything else (the oil helps boost how much your body can absorb).

Before starting the D, I had some mild seasonal affective issues in the winter. Those are mostly gone now. I haven't noticed any other potential effects.
posted by pie ninja at 10:20 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

In Finland, their default is capsules taken daily once the sun sets for the year. Specifically this brand (sorry about the site) is popular and 2 capsules a day are recommended i.e. 2 x 1000 mg x 7 days = 14000 a week. Given the difference in sunshine, I'm wondering why such high dosages are being recommended. If you're moving to a different climate, you may prefer to take a slower longer term approach than a quickie high intensity shot just to boost up your levels. I was taking only 1000 a day but the pharmacist did recommend upping the dosage as it does make a difference in overall mood and energy. But at no point in any of the Vitamin D conversations have such high dosages ever been discussed. (Yes, its a popular topic in the Fall ;p among friends)
posted by infini at 10:21 AM on August 22, 2012

On preview, pie ninja has just explained why that brand/bottle I linked to is popular - its D3 in olive oil capsules.
posted by infini at 10:22 AM on August 22, 2012

I was on 50,000 once a week for a number of months and it didn't do much to improve my levels or my mood. Now I'm taking 6,000 once per day and I actually think I feel better from it, but I haven't had my levels tested yet.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:23 AM on August 22, 2012

I was diagnosed as vit D deficient with levels half of yours (or 1/3 of normal). My doc prescribed 50,000UI Vit D once a week for 4 weeks. After that, she recommended 2,000 IU daily, which I have been for the past couple of years and my last test showed my levels are just shy (<1>
I noticed a very significant uptick in my mood and my ability to handle stress after the initial treatment (took a few weeks to kick in, I think). Like, at the appointment when she first tested me, I was considering asking for a referral for therapy/counselling but I was too afraid of being judged/adding the stress of another doctor visit to my schedule to do so (yeah, I know).

It's possible that there were other mitigating factors that helped me feel better, but I definitely blame being low on Vit D for part of that particular blue period.

I do still think that Vit D is overprescribed in the US, but I am pretty sure it worked for me.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:38 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

levels are just shy of nomal

that's what preview and avoiding less than signs in webforms are for.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:39 AM on August 22, 2012

Best answer: 1. Communicate your concerns with your MD
2. There are multiple causes for being vitamin D deficient which I won't go into in this limited space, but may mandate further evaluation and/or testing.
3. The units count: is your vitamin D level 23.0 ng/mL or 23.0 nmol/L?
4. Mild vitamin D deficiency can be treated with low-dose 400-800iu D3 caps
5. It is not uncommon to treat more severe vitamin D deficiency with 50k iu of D3 per week, for 6-8 weeks, rechecking a level afterward, and then working on settling on a daily maintenance dose as needed
6. Sometime to keep in mind: severe vitamin D deficiency is tied with lower calcium levels. It's recommended to ensure vitamin D deficient patients take calcium supplements while being treated (1000mg if you're not an older/elder patient)
7. Over the counter, supercheap vitamin D3 supplements work. I've never and will never recommend some supplement or vitamin-selling website unless it's a) guaranteed to be safe, b) guaranteed to be the same product, c) more affordable, d) not associated with any sort of compensation to any clinical personnel. In other words, never.

I'm an MD, have treated folks with low vitamin D levels, but am not your MD.
posted by herrdoktor at 10:43 AM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

I have done the 50,000 IU prescription thing. I was until recently doing 12,000 IU per day.

D3 is best, as everyone has said. I have done regular capsules, gel capsules, and sublingual liquid ( the last recommended by a rheumatologist ) and the liquid seemed to be the biggest impact.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:28 AM on August 22, 2012

I was diagnosed with this in July, and am still finishing the 8 week scrip for 50,000 iu once per week, as described by herrdoktor above in #5.

I used to really need a nap in the early afternoon, and used to go to bed when my toddler went down for his nap. Now I am putting a workout video on the DVD during naptime, because I don't need to sleep. Double plus good.
posted by ambrosia at 11:29 AM on August 22, 2012

I take 5,000 UI every day and it does absolutely wonders for my mood and energy levels. I don't even need by SAD lamp in the winter anymore.

Same thing for me. I do 5000 - 10000 iu a day. Evens the moods out very nicely.
posted by gjc at 5:12 PM on August 22, 2012

Response by poster: 3. The units count: is your vitamin D level 23.0 ng/mL or 23.0 nmol/L?

I don't know; the form letter annoyingly didn't include units.
posted by charmcityblues at 6:14 PM on August 22, 2012

I take 5,000iu every morning and it makes me noticeably happier and more energetic.
posted by 168 at 8:11 PM on August 22, 2012

I take 5,000iu a day plus I sit in the sun, without sunscreen at least three times a week for about 10-15 minutes just like my doctor prescribed. Normally, I am really adamant about sunscreen usage, but since doing this it has really helped a lot.

Plus, it gives me an excuse to sit on my porch and talk to my plants.
posted by SuzySmith at 2:20 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was told that I was around the 23 level as well, as a dark skinned north American. I was told that it was severely vitamin D deficient and now I'm on combined D3 calcium pills (prescription). I take about 1,000IU a day and have been every day since the beginning of March (this year, 2012).

Previously, I was so tired that I'd wake up and feel like I hadn't slept at all. I'd walk the 15 minute walk into town (previously 7-10) and feel like I ran a marathon. I had heart palpitations. I had gasps for breath going up one flight of stairs. I felt depressed and irritable all the time. I felt nauseated and dizzy when tired.

Now, some months later I'm still pretty tired. I can only work part time. I still feel pretty irritated sometimes. Going into town no longer tires me for the day, and I can clean the house in two stages. But I'm not where I was before. I know this question already has a best answer, but I guess I thought I'd throw in my two pence.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 5:41 AM on August 23, 2012

I was a 12 when I was tested (2nd lowest my doc had ever seen). The high dose prescription stuff for once a week made me horribly nauseous no matter when I took it, so we took the long build up path. I take 6000 iu of D3 every day, with magnesium and calcium, and it seems to work.
posted by monopas at 5:55 PM on August 23, 2012

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