Medications

Calcium & Vitamin D

Calcium is a mineral. It is important for healthy bones. Vitamin D is important because it helps the body absorb and use calcium.

Taking Calcium & Vitamin D

Calcium supplements are taken with each meal (2-3 times per day). Vitamin D is taken only once a day.

Your doctor will advise you on how much calcium and vitamin D to take.

Calcium Dosing Guide

The list below is a general guide to help determine the right dose of calcium:

  • Age 4-8: 400 mg twice per day (800 mg)
  • Age 9-50: 500 mg twice per day (1000 mg)
  • Age >50: 400 mg three times per day (1200 mg)

Vitamin D Dosing Guide

The amount of vitamin D a patient needs depends on their age. The list below is a general guide to help determine the right dose of vitamin D:

  • Age 19-50: 400 – 1,000 IU per day
  • Age >50: 800 – 2,000 IU per day

Natural Sources of Calcium

Calcium is available in dairy products. As a general rule a glass of milk (1 cup), a small container of yogurt, or a piece of cheese the size of a thumb will provide about 300 mg of calcium.

Natural Sources of Vitamin D

The most natural way to get vitamin D is by exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is made in the skin when it is exposed to the sun. Milk is also often fortified with vitamin D.

Important Tests and Risks

Patients who have osteoporosis or other conditions where bone density is a concern should ask their doctor about Bone Mineral Density (BMD) testing.

Science

How Calcium & Vitamin D Work

The body uses calcium to build healthy bones and teeth, and to keep them strong as it ages.

Calcium is also involved in a number of other important body functions including the nervous system, blood clotting, muscle contraction, and regulating heart rhythms.

Vitamin D is made by a natural chemical reaction in the skin when it is exposed to sunlight. This vitamin is necessary for the body to be able to absorb and use the calcium that it takes in via food sources and supplements.

Safety

Side Effects

Calcium can cause bloating and constipation as the body adjusts to the effects of a new calcium supplement.

When taken properly, vitamin D is virtually free of side effects. Too much vitamin D can cause high calcium levels. High calcium levels can cause increased thirst & urination, nausea, vomiting, and constipation.

Patients should take the amount of calcium and vitamin D recommended by their doctor to minimize side effects.

Who Should NOT Take Calcium & Vitamin D

Patients who should NOT be taking Calcium or Vitamin D include:

  • Patients experiencing high calcium levels

When to Call a Doctor

Symptoms of too much calcium include: increased thirst & urination, nausea, vomiting, and constipation.

People should call a doctor if they are taking calcium and/or vitamin D and are experiencing these symptoms.

Video

Watch Dr. Andy Thompson, a Canadian rheumatologist, introduce Calcium & Vitamin D in a short video: