Why Did My Doctor Give Me Two Vitamin D Prescriptions?

Summary: Sometimes it may be necessary for you to take higher than normal doses of Vitamin D if you live in northern climates, are sick often or have osteoporosis.  Calcium supplementation helps but only if Vitamin D is present as it helps Calcium absorption in your body.

Dear Curtis: I just got out of the hospital from surgery and my doctor gave me orders for Vitamin D 2000IU’s per day.  And then on the other sheet he wrote for calcium with vitamin D.  Why would he want me to take a calcium product that already has vitamin D in it if he has me taking a separate supplement of vitamin D?

My gut reaction is that it was probably an oversight on your doctors part because, as you said, there really isn’t a need to take two separate Vitamin D supplements.  However, there is a bit of a problem with my assumption – and all the more reason to call your doctor and verify because he may actually want you on both of those, even if it seems like overkill.

First of all, what is your doctor treating?  In other words, why were you in the hospital?  Vitamin D is involved in a number of different processes in the body – as is calcium.  But, while they are both critical to your overall health they also work together in many respects.

For example, a lot of Calcium supplements contain supplemental Vitamin D because Vitamin D helps the Calcium actually be absorbed in your gut and eventually into your bones to help strengthen them.  Actually, Vitamin D is only one of the nutrients that does that.  Phosphorus and Magnesium also play a role.  That’s one of the reasons why if someone has an extremely poor health status and thinks they are going to fix osteoporosis by simply supplementing with Calcium is off base.  Calcium alone is just a nutrient that needs other vitamins and minerals to do it’s job.

Secondly, your doctor wrote for 2000IU’s of Vitamin D.  That is a fairly substantial dose and is higher than you’ll likely find in any of the Calcium plus Vitamin D combination’s which usually only have 400IU’s.  By the way, IU stands for International Unit which, as the name implies, is a broad standardizing term to describe how much Vitamin D you are actually taking.  It allows everyone to be on the same page.  Anyways, because he wants you taking a fairly high dose tells me that Vitamin D is something he considers very important.

Dosing Considerations

Now, while it is a higher dose than normal, don’t let that worry you.  I often times (even though I’m in good health) supplement with 2000IU’s of Vitamin D3 daily during the winter months.  My reason?  I live in a northern climate so I don’t get much sun during the long winter months.  As you may already know, your body gets (makes is probably a better term) it’s Vitamin D from sun exposure.  Now, during the summer I get 15 to 30 minutes a day of sun exposure.  What isn’t used by my body is stored in my liver.  Then during the winter months you have something to draw from.

But, even doing that, I still get concerned about getting deficient during the long winters.  So, around December I start taking 2000IU’s every other day.  I don’t do it everyday because, despite what some people may say, you can get too much Vitamin D unless you are extremely deficient.  Also, taking a high dose of any supplement day after day is actually not the best thing for your body.  Some studies suggest that your pathways that utilize Vitamin D can become ‘immune’ – for lack of a better term.

But, the short story is, if you live in a northern climate and suffer from infections frequently it is probably a very good idea to supplement with Vitamin D.  From what little you’ve told me it sounds like your doctor has some concerns regarding osteoporosis?  If so, he’s right to have you supplement with both calcium and Vitamin D.  Perhaps, the doctor meant to write for the Vitamin D 2000IU’s and then take a regular calcium supplement?  If your problem is severe enough there is likely very little harm in taking both the plain Vitamin D supplement as well as the Calcium plus Vitamin D supplement.

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