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November 5, 2012

Drugs That Cause Vitamin D Deficiency

vitamin D deficiencyThat prescription medication you’re taking might be causing a vitamin D deficiency. What is not well publicized is that many medications despite being prescribed with good intentions actually lead to a variety of nutritional deficiencies. This then leads to other medical problems requiring more medication. It has been estimated that 30% of pharmaceutical side effects are directly related to drug-induced nutritional deficiencies.

That’s significant and that’s a problem. We have not followed Hippocrates advice, Let food by thy medicine. When you think about it we’ve become a society that has substituted pharmaceuticals for nutraceuticals. Instead of getting what our body needs from our foods, we now rely on drugs. But in some respects those drugs are anti-vitamins, anti-minerals, and anti-hormones, and therefore those drugs are anti anti-aging.

Today we are going to focus on those drugs that cause vitamin D deficiency, but in future posts will review other nutritional deficiencies.

Vitamin D is important for bone health and more. Some studies show optimal vitamin D levels (usually levels above 60 nm/l) are protective against cancer (prostate, colon, and breast), improve insulin sensitivity, enhances immune function, and improve neurotransmitter production.

What Drug Classes Cause a Vitamin D Deficiency?

Both prescription and non-prescription drugs can cause a vitamin D deficiency. Below we list classes of drugs and in parentheses are specific examples of generic drugs.

  • Antibiotics (isoniazid, rifampin)
  • anticonvulsants (phenytoin, carbamazepine):
  • Corticosteroids (all of them can cause vitamin D deficiency)
  • Bile acid sequestrants (cholestyramine, cholesterol): these are cholesterol lowering drugs.
  • H-2 receptor antagonists (cimetidine, famotidine, ranitidine, nizatadine): these are anti-ulcer drugs.
  • Aluminum antacids
  • Laxatives (magnesium hydroxide)

How Can I Prevent a Vitamin D Deficiency From Drug Use?

Vitamin D deficiency caused by drug use can be easily treated by vitamin D supplements. The dose would depend on one’s vitamin D level. Vitamin D supplements are best absorbed with food. You can also consume foods high in vitamin D (see related article) or fortified with vitamin D. Another option is to ask your physician to switch you to another medication prescribed for the same condition. The only problem with that is the other medication probably induces some type of vitamin deficiency itself.

See related articles.

What Foods Are High In Vitamin D?

Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms

Myth: If You Eat Well You Don’t Need Nutritional Supplements


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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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