Gluten Intolerance & Vitamin D Deficiency

on Feb22
by Dr. Vikki Petersen | Print the article |

Vitamin D Deficiency is Epidemic in Scope

Vitamin D is a crucial component of not only healthy bones, but a protector against cancer, diabetes, and a strong immune system booster as well. Despite all these virtues, its common deficiency has gone largely unnoticed. Vitamin D deficiency is further exacerbated by malabsorption, which is very common among those who have gluten sensitivity and celiac disease.
gluten intolerance causes vitamin D deficiency
A reader wrote in that he has gluten intolerance and low Vitamin D levels despite supplementation for over 6 months. He wanted some information on why that might occur.

Gluten Intolerance & Vitamin D Go Hand in Hand

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin.  Gluten intolerance, especially celiac disease, creates malabsorption of nutrients. But exactly what you’ll malabsorb and to what degree is somewhat unique to individual patients depending where their intestine is most damaged.

The villi(finger like projection which line the small intestine) help to emulsify and absorb fat. These villi are frequently eroded with celiac disease and fat absorption is thereby compromised. The inability to adequately absorb fat will not only affect absorption of vitamins D, E and A, but it will drastically affect hormone, creating hormonal imbalance as well. Hormones are made from cholesterol – fat.

Why Does Deficiency Continue on a Gluten Free Diet?

In the case of this reader, he had been gluten-free for some time. Removal of gluten should, ideally, result in the healing of the villi and normalization of absorption. When that doesn’t occur then we know that something else is compromising healing. I wish I could say that this was an unusual scenario, but it isn’t.  In fact it is more the norm. Eliminating gluten, while a critical first step, is typically insufficient to restore normal function to the small intestine and thereby the total health of the body.

Why? Frequently an individual has an intestinal infection, poor balance of good bacteria, or some other inflammatory factor that is preventing healing. That cause must be identified and treated quickly.

What Type of Vitamin D is Best?

Another possibility is that the vitamin D being taken is not the best quality. I recommend vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) for my patients in a liquid form. The base is olive oil so that’s what it tastes like.

It is truly important for everyone to know their vitamin D level. But it is especially critical if you’re gluten intolerant. Follow-up in a few months to ensure that what you’re taking is working to optimize your levels is also key.

Finally, work with a clinician who utilizes clinical nutrition or naturopathy so that they have the tools to assess if the small intestine is healing properly. It is frustrating to work so hard to maintain a gluten-free diet or take supplements when damage is continuing to occur that prevents health restoration. Such a program is not difficult, but it must be done.

Please let me know how I can assist you. Here at HealthNOW we are a destination clinic, seeing patients from across the country as well as internationally. We are here to help!
To your good health,

Dr Vikki M. Petersen, DC , CCN
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”

The Author

8 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. 1

    I found this to be so true with me. Once I got off gluten and started taking Vit D3, my Vit D3 levels finally reached a healthy range.

    22 Feb
  2. Jen


    That certainly explains why my vitamin D levels were so low and reproductive hormones so out of whack! Those were the tests results that made my doc think I had gluten issues, and he was right. Do you mind telling what brand of D3 you recommend? Thanks for your informative blog.

    22 Feb
  3. 3

    Hello Jen,

    Here at the office we utilize a liquid D3 that is in olive oil so that’s what it tastes like. Each drop provides 2,000 IU making it very easy to get the needed daily dose. The company is RX Vitamins, Inc but I don’t know if they sell to anyone other than doctors.

    Please let me know if I can assist you further.

    Dr Vikki

    22 Feb
  4. Teri Brodnax


    Hi. I have been taking a liquid vitamin D3 supplement of about 7000 IU 5 to 6 days a week for at least 6 months (in a smoothie, with flax seed oil to aid in absorption) as I am gluten intolerant and my vit D is low. Yet, my Vit D is still in the low 20s. What type of doctor should I see to further asses my digestive health as the symptoms of fatigue and depression as well as cholesterol issues and inability to lose weight are significantly impacting my health? Does the RX vitamins have a website my doctor can get the vitamin D from?
    Thank you.

    22 Feb
  5. 5

    Dear Teri,

    You don’t mention if you have gluten intolerance but a low vitamin D level that doesn’t respond to supplementation is suggestive of small intestinal damage that is not improving. Similarly the symptoms of fatigue, depression and weight issues could also be occurring due to gluten intolerance. I don’t know where you live but we could try to help you find a clinician locally to you. If that fails our Destination Clinic does see patients from across the country and internationally.

    Setting up a free phone consultation (408-733-0400) might be a good next step. A vitamin D level that low is important to resolve, along with the rest of the issues you mention. We would be happy to help!

    To your good health,
    Dr Vikki

    22 Feb
  6. Laura


    I found out yesterday that my Vit D level is 11. The NP seemed alarmed by this and instructed me to stop eating wheat but thats about all she said. She jacked my liquid Vit D3 up to 10,000 IU a day. I feel like I should be looking further into this but not sure where to begin. Are there websites that explain exactly what this means or books??? Thank You!

    22 Feb
  7. Patricia


    Wow! I have been strugling with acid reflux for quite some time now. I believe that there is definitely a relationship to gluten since I feel horrible after just eating bread or pasta. I have also had a vitamin D deficiency and IBS. I know that I am not digesting food properly. Why it took this article to put this all together is crazy. My doctors have never mentioned the relationship. I often suffer from muscle cramps as well.
    Although I have tried taking vitamin D supplements, they have not helped with the deficiency. I am not absorbing the vitamin D.
    I would really appreciate a recommendation for a doctor in my area to get to the heart of this problem and get healthy once again!

    Thank you!!!!

    22 Feb
  8. 8

    Hello Patricia,

    We would be happy to assist you. We can either try to find you a clinician local to you or help through our destination clinic – we treat patients from across the country and internationally. Just give us a call at 408-733-0400. We can set up a free health analysis or just suggest a doctor for you based on your location.

    We look forward to hearing from you!

    Dr Vikki

    22 Feb

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