Supplements 101: Vitamin D (and calcium!)

vitamin d for chronic pain
Mayv Editors
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Mayv Editors

Many have heard of Vitamin D supplements for chronic pain, but understand how it really helps. Vitamin D is commonly known as the “sunshine vitamin” because it is produced in the body when sunlight hits the skin. Many people start taking dietary supplements for chronic pain in winter months when cold and darkish days limit time spent outdoors.

Reduced vitamin D levels isn’t just a seasonal issue. For the last couple of decades, more and more Americans are showing Vitamin D deficiencies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults with the correct Vitamin D levels have dropped from 60 percent in the early 1990s to 30 percent in the early 2000s. Furthermore, rates of vitamin D sufficiency among African Americans dropped from ten to five percent over the same time period.

This decline is concerning healthcare professionals because Vitamin D is an essential micronutrient that supports many biological functions, including growing strong bones, boosting immunity and promoting cell growth. This 101 breaks down everything you need to know about Vitamin D. 

What is Vitamin D  

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient that we both eat and produce as a hormone in our body. But it’s more than a single vitamin, it’s actually a family of nutrients that share a similar chemical structure. You’ve probably heard of vitamins D2 and D3, the most common varieties. 

Both are naturally produced in the presence of sunlight, but D2 is produced in plants and D3 in animals (including us humans). Vitamin D2, or ergocalciferol aka pre-vitamin D, is found in fortified in foods and supplements, vitamin D3 is naturally produced in the human body and found in animal-based foods like dairy. 

There is some debate as to which variety is better. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials that examined the impacts of vitamin D2 and D3 supplements on blood levels observed that D3 supplements may boost blood levels of vitamin D more than D2. This suggests that D3 is the preferred variety to consume, however D2 is more readily found in supplements. The most important thing is to get enough vitamin D regardless of the variety.

Why your body needs Vitamin D & Calcium

Your body needs vitamin D to help calcium absorb in the gut. Calcium keeps your bones and muscles—including your heart—robust and healthy. No matter how much dairy you consume, your body can’t do much with all that calcium without Vitamin D. 

People who don’t get enough calcium and vitamin D throughout life have an enhanced chance of having weak and brittle bones (osteoporosis) in their later years, which can lead to injury. Getting enough Vitamin D and calcium as a child and throughout adulthood helps keep your bones healthy and protects against potential fractures as you get older.

Your body also utilizes vitamin D to help your muscles assimilate calcium and work properly. If your muscles don’t get sufficient calcium, then they can hurt, cramp, or feel weak. You may even end up experiencing long-term (chronic) muscle aches and pains. 

Vitamin D as one of your supplements for chronic pain is additionally beneficial in lowering inflammation, boosting immune health and cell growth. 

Growing Vitamin D Deficiency

The shift from conventional milk to alternative milks and the increased use of sunscreen are among the main reasons that Vitamin D rates in Americans have decreased over the past years. The National Institutes of Health states that deficiency has become more significant in men, possibly due to increased weight, decreased milk consumption, and greater use of sunscreen outdoors. (3)

What Dose of Vitamin D Should You Be Getting

For adults, the recommended amount is approximately 600 international units (IU) of Vitamin D per day (800 IU if you’re over the age of 70), which can be sourced through sunlight, diet or oral supplements.

But don’t go overboard with the supplements for chronic pain. Doses up to at least 2,000 IU a day are considered safe. Vitamin D toxicity can cause a buildup of calcium in your blood (hypercalcemia), which may damage the heart, kidneys and bones.

How you can get more calcium and vitamin D


The best source of Vitamin D is sunlight. Vitamin D3 is created when the sun’s UVB light (aka “tanning” rays) comes into contact with the skin. The amount of Vitamin D absorbed varies greatly if you’re wearing proper sunscreen, have long clothes or live in far northern or southern,  which see limited UVB light exposure for half the year. 


Very few foods have vitamin D naturally present and even fortified foods do not have enough vitamin D to reach the recommended daily dose, and sunshine can be unreliable in certain climates.  Fish and shellfish, particularly oily fish like tuna, salmon, and mackerel, provide vitamin D. 

A good diet will provide adequate amounts of all the vitamins except D. Very few of us get the D levels we need from diet. That’s no surprise when you realize that you need to consume about 5 ounces of salmon, 7 ounces of halibut, two 8-ounce cans of tuna, or a quart of milk to get 400 units (IU) of vitamin D, which is only about half of what many experts recommend.

When relying solely on obtaining the correct amount of Vitamin D via a meal plan, the average consumption won’t exceed 288 IU daily. This is why dietary supplements for chronic pain of Vitamin D are often necessary to hit the recommended 600 IU goal.

  • Food sources that contain D3 include fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel; fortified milk and different dairy products; fish liver oils; and egg yolk. 
  • Vitamin D is in foods such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel. These are some of the best foods to consume when you are attempting to get more vitamin D. 
  • Vitamin D2 — the plant-derived structure of Vitamin D is naturally present in mushrooms. 
  • Alternative foods that have vitamin D, but in smaller doses, include cheese, egg yolks, and beef liver. You can also get vitamin D from foods such as milk and some grains, orange juice, yogurts, types of margarine, and soy drinks.
  • Calcium can be found in dairy products, such as cheese, milk, and yogurt. Vegetables like kale, broccoli, and Chinese cabbage also have high calcium. You can get calcium if you consume canned sardines and canned salmon. 
  • Foods with added (fortified) calcium include some grains, juices, and soy-based products. 

Some people who don’t get enough vitamin D and calcium may need supplements. Calcium supplements are accessible as citrate or carbonate. Calcium carbonate is best assimilated when it’s taken with food. Spreading calcium intake throughout the day can reduce stomach upset and helps your body absorb the calcium completely.

Why Some People May Need a Vitamin D Supplement

Why are some people at a more considerable risk of low Vit D levels? 

In many cases, it can be traced back to their diet or lifestyle. Take vegans, for instance. Many have low vitamin D ranges because they stay away from foods that are rich in vitamin D — including meat, fish, egg yolks, and dairy foods that have been fortified with vitamin D. 

One analysis published in February 2016 in PLoS One discovered Vit D serum levels were 34% lower among members who followed a vegan food regimen in contrast with those who ate meat and dairy. 

But there are some ways to consume Vitamin D as a vegan. For example, plant milk beverages, such as soy, oats, and almond, are equally fortified with Vit D as with fortified cow’s milk (about a hundred IU/cup), according to the National Institutes of Health. You can check the vitamin data label for the authentic amount.

People suffering from obesity might also want to consider supplementing. Research has recommended the possible causes for deficiency include a decrease in dietary intake of Vit D among overweight men compared with non-obese men and women. There was also a reduction in the absorption of Vit D among people who’ve had bariatric or gastric pass by procedures.

Similarly, for older people, they’re at risk because they probably spend more time indoors. Furthermore, the mechanism of synthesizing vitamin D from meals or sunshine becomes much less efficient as human beings age, according to preceding research. 

Are you worried whether your Vit D levels are low? 

Common signs and symptoms of deficiency consist of feeling fatigued and achy, though regularly, there are no indications at all. The reliable way to know for certain is by asking your doctor, who may additionally perform a blood examination to assess your vitamin D levels.

Calcium and Vit D may interact with other medicines. A drug interaction occurs when a medicine you take changes how another medicine operates. One medicine may make another one less efficient, or the blend of the medicines may cause a side effect you don’t expect. 

Before you begin taking calcium and/or vitamin D as a supplement for chronic pain, talk to your doctor and  make sure to discuss with your medical professional about all of your current health concerns so that they can help guide you and prescribe a unique approach that will work best for you.

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