You should consider several factors when thinking about a connection between vitamin D and constipation. Your metabolism, your vitamin D dosage and your other medicines or supplements may all play a role. If your physician determines that vitamin D is contributing to constipation, you will both need to decide if the benefits outweigh the negatives associated with bowel disturbances.
Vitamin D Is Essential
Your body needs vitamin D for a number of reasons. Vitamin D plays an essential role in absorbing calcium in the intestines and controlling the amount of calcium in your blood. This means vitamin D has the job of forming, maintaining and strengthening your bones. The main food sources of vitamin D include mackerel, salmon, cod liver oil, tuna and milk, dairy and orange juice fortified with D. The rest of what you need comes from the sun or supplementation. The sun stimulates the body to make vitamin D, but as over-exposure to it has caused skin cancer and premature aging of the skin, you may avoid spending time outdoors.
Extra Vitamin D Has Benefits
If you take vitamin D supplements, your doctor may have prescribed them to support the absorption of supplemental calcium. Calcium, like most minerals, can cause constipation. This makes it difficult to blame either supplement for your bowel trouble. Another reason to take vitamin D emerged from a 2009 study published in the "American Journal of Epidemiology." It suggested that higher levels of cardiovascular death occur in people with low levels of vitamin D. Reports such as these have produced an awareness of the importance of vitamin D supplementation that is unrelated to calcium.
Always Take the Correct Amount
With increasing numbers of people taking vitamin D for cardiac protection, the incidence of constipation rises. While a 400 IU dosage used to cover the absorption of calcium supplements, the National Institutes of Health has raised the dose to 1,000 IU for cardiac protection and for the recommended upper limit of vitamin D. At this level, constipation presents as a side effect for many of the people who take it.
Constipation Is a Risk
As with all things concerning your health, you have to weigh the benefits of vitamin D supplementation against the risks. Constipation doesn't merely cause discomfort and inconvenience, it carries health risks. Long-standing constipation may predispose you to colorectal cancer, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. On the other hand, if you have a history or family history of cardiovascular disease, it may be important to supplement your diet with vitamin D. The severity of your constipation can be controlled by various means.
You Can Control the Problem
You can make dietary changes that will help soften your stools. You can help relieve constipation by using a mixture of 1/2 cup of plain bran flakes, applesauce and prune-juice, made in a storage container and refrigerated. Every morning, consume 2 tablespoons of the mixture along with your regular breakfast. Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables and go easy on binding foods such as rice and bananas. If you don't find relief from these dietary measures, try an over-the-counter stool softener or laxative. Check with your doctor for a recommendation of the safest product.
- American Journal of Epidemiology": Vitamin D Status and the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Death; Kilkkinen, et al; 15 October, 2009
- National Institutes of Health: Fact Sheet: Vitamin D
- Asheville Gastroenterology: Kirsten T. Weiser, M.D.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Constipation