Tag Archives: vitamin D

This is your nail bed on cholecalciferol: my fingernails and vitamin D3

Further to my earlier post on supplements that helped to grow my fingernails, I can report that 15,000 IU of vitamin D3 a day for two weeks did amazing things. It basically did the same thing that 8 mg of methylfolate did, although the folate seemed to work faster.

The weird thing is, the shape actually changed: the V-shape in the cuticle across the bottom straightened out to more of a U and the nail narrowed — it no longer separated from the nail bed (and thus widened) as far down as it had before. The cuticle also retreated a bit and lengthened/deepened the nail. This is probably something only I would notice, and none of this applies to my index fingers, which remained as pathetic as ever.

I had to stop the vitamin D3 a week or two after this when the splitting headaches returned once again. The progress lasted for about three weeks, and then the nails got weak again, although the squared-off shape of the cuticle has been maintained. I am lazy about taking calcium with the D3, which probably didn’t help much — the nails started splitting under the quick, which I have found means my calcium levels are too low.

I should note that my vitamin D3 has always tested pretty low — at best 20 ng/ml, when according to some experts, including this neurologist who has found it works wonders for her sleep-disordered patients, it should be 60–80 ng/ml.

The Vitamin D Council website has a guide to help you figure out how much vitamin D you can produce outside based on your skin color and latitude. I have always assumed that during my sun-worshipping teenaged summers I was getting plenty, but apparently I was wrong. My skin color is a bit more than a III, but not a IV (Mediterranean), and I was only one degree further south than Boston. Now I wonder if I was even getting 5,000 IU a day from June to August.

Throughout the whole procedure I was also using a nail strengthener from the drug store, which I’ve used off and on for years, and which also helps. It’s the one that comes in strengths 1, 2, 2.5, and 3. Ends in -ques, begins with Nailti-. I’ve tried most of the others and they don’t work for me. Allow me to bitch briefly about this product. It is very expensive and gets gooey before you’re even 4/5 through the bottle, which is pointless to complain about anyway because two days after it gets gooey, the polish is too far below the too-short brush to reach. One-fifth of the bottle is unusable. If you do apply the polish when it has thickened and then make the mistake of painting a nail color over it, the resulting spongy surface looks like you’re trying to cover up a fungus. But still, I buy it.

50,000 IU doses of vitamin D might not be such a great idea

A commenter (Blake) on a recent post directed my attention to Dr. Stasha Gominak’s series of videos on her work treating sleep disorders with vitamin D. The videos run more than an hour, but here’s a summary of some of her points. One of her points — of course, not covered on the summary — is that those whopping 50,000 IU vitamin D pills that some doctors give to their patients to take once a week are not as effective as taking it daily in smaller amounts.

I’m not sure if she was referring to the fact that the majority of those 50,000 pills used to be in the D2 form, which is not as effective, or to a claim I’ve read elsewhere that past a certain dose, the larger the dose, the less effectively it is absorbed, so that one day of 50,000 IU actually provides less vitamin D than ten days of 5,000 IU. Of course now I can find no such citation. Aren’t I helpful?

Another reason to replete with smaller, daily doses is to lower the risk of catastrophic interactions. If you’re low in vitamin D, you’re probably low in other nutrients, and taking a whole lot of one nutrient can wipe out its cofactors, and depending on the extent of your deficiency of that cofactor, the deficiency symptoms can be pretty bad. In my case, I had unknowingly been suffering from reallllly low vitamin K levels, and the mega-whoppa-D3 dose shot it to hell. I had an asthma-like attack that was very scary. I thought about going to the ER but luckily it tapered off quickly enough and my doctor was able to get me an appointment with a pulmonary specialist within a few days.

The specialist said it was just a one-off asthma attack caused by a hitherto-unknown vitamin D allergy. I knew that vitamin D interacted with vitamin A, so I asked him if asthma was linked to vitamin A deficiency. Why I bothered, I do not know: some delusional fit of psychotic optimism hit me. He went to his computer, looked up vitamin A in the clinic’s database, which from what I could see was no better than any consumer medical database you can find online, and said that vitamin A deficiency is only a problem in orphans in India, where it causes blindness. Ah, I said. Okay then. Later I somehow stumbled onto this 1975 Japanese study and started to figure it out.

In an older person or smaller person or someone much sicker, that reaction could’ve been disastrous and even more terrifying than it was for me. By sticking with a smaller dose, my reactions would, I assume, have been smaller and hopefully more manageable.

I did appreciate Dr. Gominak’s comment that “We blame people who can’t sleep,” which I have found to be very, very true. Humans are idiots, have you noticed? I have to say, though, that I am annoyed by her claim that she is the first to recognize the link between vitamin D and sleep. Perhaps she’s just not being specific enough, or is referring only to the world of neurologists, but my osteopath mentioned it a lot earlier than 2009.

A list of supplements that don’t work very well in the versions sold in the US

This past year I’ve learned that some of the nutrient supplements on the shelves in the US don’t work very well, either because a significant part of the population can’t process them, or because the version used is poorly absorbed by the body, or because they are so cheaply formulated that the filler would make you sick before you could get enough of the active ingredient to resolve your deficiency.

Here’s everything I know so far. Needless to say, the better versions are more expensive and harder to find.

Folic acid: Processing this synthetic vitamin into its active form requires methyl groups and those of us who are methyl-challenged (low methylators) need to use the methylfolate version. Some sources say that the folic acid formulation is pointlessly inefficient for anyone. Using methylfolate instead certainly can’t hurt.

Calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate requires stomach acid to work, and is hard on the stomach for some people. Calcium citrate absorption doesn’t require stomach acid. (This issue isn’t as big a concern as the others listed here.)

Magnesium oxide: This is not as bioavailable as other options, such as magnesium citrate. According to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, magnesium lactate and magnesium chloride are even better options, but they are harder to find in pill form. You can also absorb magnesium through the skin in the form of epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) and magnesium chloride, which can be found in a spray oil.

Vitamin B1 – thiamine hydrochloride. This is poorly absorbed by the body. If you are only mildly deficient, it might be all you need, but I needed a fairly large dose and couldn’t stomach it at all. When I switched to the more efficient benfotiamine, I had no trouble and noticed results much faster. Another version is thiamine tetrahydrofurfuryl disulfide (TTFD), which is what I use.

Vitamin B2 – riboflavin. This is also poorly absorbed. Riboflavin phosphate AKA riboflavin-5′-phosphate AKA flavin mononucleotide (FMN) is a better formulation.

Vitamin B6 – pyridoxine. Some people have trouble converting pyridoxine to its active form, pyridoxal-5-phosphate (P5P). You can buy the active version in supplement form, usually referred to as P5P. Some experts say you just have to use a part of your dose in that form; the rest can be pyridoxine.

Vitamin B12 – cobalamin or cyanocobalamin or hydroxocobalamin (used in injections).
Like folic acid, it requires a methyl group to convert to its active form. I’ve followed a discussion group on B12 whose members are adamant that these types are pathetically inefficient and that methylcobalamin should be used. (There is also adenosylcobalamin AKA dibencozide AKA coenzyme B12, but I was never clear what the difference is.) If you are having injections, you might have to search a bit to find a compounding pharmacy that can prepare the methylcobalamin shots, which is less stable than the other versions and has to be carefully shipped and stored.

The reason B12 tablets come in doses with such large numbers — 1,000 mcg., 5,000 mcg. — is because the body can only absorb about 1% of it at a time.

Vitamin D2 – ergocalciferol. Depending on what you read, vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is either three or five times more bioavailable than vitamin D2.

Vitamin K1 – phylloquinone. Vitamin K2 (menaquinone) is the preferred version, but I don’t know a lot about it. Vitamin K3 (menadione) has been banned so you shouldn’t have to worry about that one.

Bad reaction to vitamin D supplements: why?

Updated 1/1/13. Again.

I’ve tried vitamin D3 three times over the past ten years and each time have been stymied by side effects: first, splitting headaches and later, the addition of a white-hot-iron-vise-crushing-my-lungs sensation. It’s definitely not D toxicity/overdose — there’s no way in Hades I could’ve gotten my D levels up too far that fast.

The fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) all compete with each other to some degree, so my first experiment was to try each of them, thinking I was inducing a deficiency. For a while, vitamin E stopped the headaches, but after a few weeks didn’t help. When I finally realized that vitamin K comes in supplement form — did I mention the brain fog? — a few months before I originally wrote this post, I discovered that it helped the breathing problem a lot, at about 2,000 mcg.

FYI, low levels of the various fat-soluble vitamins seem to manifest as follows:
— A: inner-ear pain, dry eyes
— D: back pain, abdominal pain, insomnia
— E: headaches not sure anymore
— K: killer menorrhagia, difficulty concentrating, difficulty breathing

Calcium, magnesium, and zinc also work with vitamin D3 and thus might end up being depleted with big doses of D. I definitely need to take them when I take D3 for more than a week, but they don’t address the headaches/breathing issue.

Two months after that, I discovered that thiamine (vitamin B1) in the form of TTFD got rid of most of the headaches and the rest of the breathing problems. However, when I take enough D3 to correct deficiency symptoms (fatigue and abdominal pain), the amount of thiamine needed to stop the headaches completely stops me sleeping, as does the vitamin K. Eventually the thiamine stopped working headaches-wise anyway, where before it would halt them within 20 minutes.

After reading this article about copper poisoning, I learned that vitamin D in big doses — or anything that needs copper to work — can induce a copper dump if you happen to be copper toxic. (I think I understood that correctly.) So I started thinking in terms of copper detox. After following what detox guidelines I could for a few weeks, I started vitamin D again in January 2013. I’ll keep ya posted.

Diagram of how various deficiencies can egg each other on

Soon after I discovered that typical guidelines about iodine are outdated and wrong (1), I came across information about vitamin K that made me realize the amounts I had been experimenting with were pathetically small. Also, it is possible that vitamin D supplements affect vitamin K, which for me would explain a lot (2). This is yet another example of how difficult it is to find reliable info about all the nutrients and how they work in the body and interact with each other.

Here’s a diagram of how I suspect my iodine, vitamin K, vitamin D, zinc, and iron deficiencies have been interacting.

1: You can find a list of iodine references at the bottom of this Breast Cancer Choices’ iodine investigation page.

2: From the World’s Healthiest Foods vitamin D page:

“Vitamin D helps to regulate the production of certain calcium-binding proteins that function in the bones and kidneys. Because these binding proteins are also dependent on vitamin K, interrelationships between vitamin D and vitamin K have become the subject of active research investigation.”

Back to the ’70s for asthma treatment

About six years ago I realized I was getting very tired every time I visited a home with a resident cat. It was annoying but easy enough to avoid. Then, after a round of weekly 50,000 IU vitamin D doses, I got a day-long burning-lung, wheezing, iron-vise-on-the-ribs reaction that made me wonder if my appointment with my maker had been moved up.

Off I was sent to yet another fancy-ass specialist for blood tests and breathing into a bellows thing and x-rays, which had to be taken twice because I apparently have “really long lungs” that did not fit on the x-ray plate. The diagnosis was a one-off asthmatic allergic reaction.

Thinking the big vitamin D dose was just too big, I tried smaller doses of 1,000 IU, but the effects were similar. I then considered the possibility that it had overwhelmed my levels of the competing fat-soluble vitamins A and E. Vitamin A did help slightly, but not enough.

It finally occurred to me that I had forgotten about vitamin K, another fat-soluble vitamin. According to PubMed, a 1970s Japanese study treating asthma with vitamin K was quite successful.

I took 1,000 IU of vitamin K2 (menaquinone 7) for two weeks before my next attempt at vitamin D again, this time working up to 6,000 IU. Voila! Almost no reaction, and iron got rid of that. Eventually I could do without the iron entirely. I guess that since both vitamin K and iron are involved in oxygen transport, they can back each other up to a point. It just took a while for the vitamin K to build up to needed levels.

I have yet to test this on feline exposure. Since that seems to be an immune system issue, I’m guessing that something else is involved.