Everything you need to know about vitamin D supplements — and whether you should be taking them

Colin Dunn/FlickrVitamin D tablets.

  • In recent years, vitamin D has been in the news causing a splurge in screening tests and supplements.
  • While you should be making sure you get your daily dose of vitamin D, there is a proper way to go about it.
  • Health experts explained the importance of checking in with your physician first before taking any supplements.

You need vitamin D to help absorb calcium for strong and healthy bones and some studies have even shown that it may have an effect on your mood, weight, and overall health.

But just because there are some big benefits to vitamin D doesn’t mean you should go grab a bottle off the shelf at your local drugstore. It’s important to understand a few things about supplements before starting a regimen. INSIDER spoke to several doctors to find out their thoughts and recommendations on taking vitamin D supplements.

Find out if you are in one of the groups most at risk of vitamin D deficiency

There are certain groups of the population who are more at risk of a vitamin D deficiency and could potentially benefit from vitamin D supplements.

Some of the groups include vegans and vegetarians, people who have darker skin, office workers, those over 55, inflammatory bowel disease patients, people who have a BMI over 30, and people suffering from depression.

If you do fall into one of these groups, you may want to head to your doctor’s office to check your vitamin D levels and see if you could benefit from supplements. If you don’t, chances are you likely get enough vitamin D without supplements.

Before taking any supplements, start first with natural sources of vitamin D

If you know that you are vitamin D deficient or at-risk of vitamin D deficiency, try to get your vitamin D from nature first, Dr. Monisha Bhanote, MD, FCAP, FASCP, recommended. In this case, that would be by spending some time in the sun or by consuming food high in vitamin D. Certain foods that are rich in vitamin D include fish, egg yolks, grain products, and fortified dairy, Dr. Bhanote told INSIDER.

EggsShutterstockEggs are naturally high in vitamin D.

However, some people are unable to get their vitamin D through natural sources. If that’s the case, you can consider taking vitamin D supplements, according to Dr. Robert Segal, MD, co-founder of LabFinder.com.

If natural sources don’t work, consult your physician to determine the best dosage of vitamin D

There are different dosages of vitamin D for different uses, so you’ll want to have your vitamin D levels checked first before taking any supplements, according to Dr. Segal.

“The right amount of vitamin D can be determined by your physician who would check your vitamin D level and consider your other medical conditions in supplementation,” Dr. Bhanote told INSIDER. Depending on your level, you will be instructed by your provider to take the appropriate dosage.

The dose most people use is 400 to 1,000 IU (international units) per day to make sure that they do not get vitamin D deficiency, according to Dr. Segal. However, it is still best to consult your healthcare provider so that they can give you the best dose as there are a lot of factors to consider like age, medical condition, and beyond, he added.

Be careful not to take too much

Vitamin aisleShutterstockYou can have too much vitamin D.

If you take too much vitamin D, it is possible to reach toxic levels, Dr. Segal warned, so be careful not to take more than 4000 IU per day.

“When it reaches toxic levels, it would cause elevated blood levels, elevated blood calcium levels, nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, stomach pain, constipation or diarrhoea, bone loss, and kidney failure,” Dr. Segal told INSIDER. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should report them to your doctor.

Report any symptoms to your doctor after starting a supplement regimen

While it is safe to take vitamin D supplements with the appropriate dosage, some people may have a bad reaction due to an allergy, a drug interaction, or an overdose.

If you start taking supplements and notice any symptoms such as weakness, loss of appetite, and nausea, again, you should report them to your doctor, as this may be a sign you should stop taking them.

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