Celiac Disease and Vitamin D Deficiency

Celiac disease causes vitamin D deficiency via damaging the primary site of vitamin D absorption in the small intestine. For this reason, celiacs must pay attention to their vitamin d levels and consumption.

In this post, we will talk about what celiac does to the body, why vitamin D is important, and how vitamin d and celiac are connected. More importantly, we will discuss ways for celiacs to increase vitamin D intake in their life.

Table of Contents

Celiac Disease and Vitamin D Deficiency​: A Complete Guide - Gluten-Free Food Sources of Vitamin D - Gluten-Free Vitamin D Supplements - Tayler Silfverduk, celiac dietitian

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that causes damage to the duodenum of the small intestine when gluten is consumed.

The duodenum of the small intestine is the site of absorption for many nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, iron, folate, and more.

This autoimmune reaction and damage to the small intestine can cause a wide-array of symptoms and complications. Symptoms of celiac include vitamin d deficiency, brain fog, malnutrition, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and more.

How is this Different from Gluten Sensitivity?

Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are not the same. There are many similarities between the two, but most importantly, with celiac, there is characteristic damage to the small intestine. With gluten sensitivity, there is not.

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential to the body. It helps absorb calcium, magnesium, and phosphate. It’s essential for celiac bone health, immunity, hormone health and more.

Per the Mayo Clinic, people ages 9-70 need 600 IU of vitamin D a day, with the upper limit being 4000 IU/day.

How Celiac Disease Impacts Vitamin D Absorption

Dietary vitamin D is absorbed in the duodenum of the small intestine. The same portion of the small intestine can be damaged by celiac, and thus impair absorption of dietary vitamin D.

Alternatively, vitamin D can be “absorbed” through your skin. This occurs when your skin is exposed to sunshine allowing your body to convert cholesterol to vitamin D. This process is unaffected by celiac.

To increase your vitamin D absorption this way, expose your wrists and ankles to the sun during peak hours for 15-30 minutes a day. (P.s. SPF 30 sunscreen can impair vitamin D access, keep that in mind)

Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency in Celiac Disease

Vitamin D deficiency can go largely unnoticed. Though according to the Cleveland Clinic symptoms of vitamin D deficiency with celiac can include bone pain, fatigue, muscle weakness and cramps, and mood changes. Many of these symptoms overlap with celiac disease, like gluten causing chronic fatigue and muscle cramps.

To find out if you are deficient in Vitamin D, you can have your doctor order a simple vitamin D blood test. Or you can order at-home micronutrient screenings like this one by Let’s Get Checked (sponsored affiliate link) which screens for Vitamin D and other essential nutrient deficiencies to monitor with celiac disease.

Celiac Disease Can Impair Vitamin D Absorption - Celiac Anatomy & Physiology Lesson -Celiac Disease and Vitamin D Deficiency​ - Tayler Silfverduk, celiac dietitian

Celiac Disease and Vitamin D Deficiency

Celiac disease can cause vitamin D deficiency. This is both related to changes to diet and to the role the disease plays in the body.

Why does celiac cause low vitamin D? Celiac disease involves damage to the small intestine when gluten is consumed. This damage is located where vitamin D and other important vitamins are absorbed. This damage makes it hard for the body to absorb vitamin D which puts celiacs at risk for vitamin d deficiency.

Additionally, this damage to the small intestine impacts the brush border of the small intestine. This is where the digestive enzyme lactase is released. Lactase is what helps people digest milk. This can trigger lactose intolerance in people with celiac thus limiting an entire food group that’s highly fortified with vitamin D.

Both not absorbing and limiting a large source of vitamin D put people with celiac disease at risk for low vitamin D status.

The good news is that once the small intestine is healed and a celiac diet is followed, vitamin D deficiency and lactose intolerance should resolve.

Gluten-Free Food Sources of Vitamin D - Celiac-Safe Vitamin D Foods - Tayler Silfverduk, celiac dietitian

Gluten-free Food Sources of Vitamin D

Addressing vitamin D deficiency in celiac disease can involve a variety of support measures. One of which can include balancing a gluten-free diet with vitamin D-rich foods. 

Naturally containing food sources of vitamin D include cod liver oil, swordfish, sockeye salmon, tuna, fortified foods, canned sardines, beef liver, and egg yolk.

Gluten-Free Vitamin D Fortified Foods

Gluten-free foods fortified with vitamin D can be a great way to boost vitamin D intake in your diet. Foods fortified with vitamin D can include milk, orange juice, yogurt, and some gluten-free cereals like Rice Chex.

Gluten-Free and Vegan Sources of Vitamin D

Vitamin D becomes a great concern with celiac if you are also vegan or plant-based. This is because as you can see in the lists above, many of the gluten-free food sources of vitamin D are animal-based.

Some non-dairy gluten-free sources of vitamin D include fortified milk alternatives (think soy, almond, or rice milk), fortified orange juice, and fortified gluten-free cereal like Rice Chex.

Gluten-Free Recipes High in Vitamin D

If you’re looking to boost your vitamin D intake with celiac disease through cooking, below are come gluten-free recipes high in vitamin D.

  • Gluten-free Grilled Salmon – Salmon has a good amount of vitamin D not to mention if you grill this salmon outside in the sun, you can boost your vitamin D absorption too. Don’t like fish? Don’t worry, this recipe was enjoyed by the author’s husband, a self-proclaimed disliker of seafood.
  • Avocado Egg Salad – Remember the egg yolk of eggs has vitamin D? Take advantage of that and enjoy this delicious avocado egg salad.
  • Breakfast Stir-Fry – Another recipe using the affordable protein and vitamin D source: eggs. This breakfast stir-fry puts a fun twist on your morning eggs. Boost the vitamin D in this meal with a cup of milk or by cooking some canned salmon or tuna into the dish.
  • 3 Ingredient Orange Yogurt Smoothie – Combining two fortified sources of vitamin D: orange juice and yogurt to bring you this delicious smoothie. Enjoy it for breakfast, as a dessert, or as a snack.
  • Beef Liver and Onions – Feeling adventurous? Beef liver is a great source of many nutrients of concern in celiacs.
  • Rice Porridge – Make a delicious warming breakfast or dessert with this recipe. It uses your milk of choice (use one fortified with vitamin D) to make a creamy sweet rice dish. Boost the vitamin D, creaminess, and flavor by mixing in your favorite flavor of Yoplait yogurt.
Where to Find Vitamin D in Gluten-Free Food - Gluten-free Vitamin D Food SourcesCeliac Disease and Vitamin D Deficiency​ - Tayler Silfverduk, celiac dietitian

Gluten-Free Vitamin D Supplements

Another way to support your vitamin D status with celiac disease is to consider vitamin D supplements. Keep in mind that the upper limit (the amount before which adverse effects may occur) for those 9 and up is 4000 IU/day.

Of course, be sure to include your healthcare team in any decisions you make about diet changes and supplements. That said, below are gluten-free vitamin D supplements you may consider.

  • Pure Encapsulations Vitamin D3 – Pure Encapsulation specializes in hypoallergenic and free-from supplements. Their 1000 IU Vitamin D supplement is gluten-free and does not exceed that daily upper limit for those over the age of 9.
  • Garden of Life D3 – Garden of Life is one of my go-to brands for supplements because they are certified gluten-free. This supplement linked provides 2,000 IU of vitamin D.
  • OLLY Vitamin D & Saffron Gummy Worms – For my celiac friends who don’t like to take pills, here is a gluten-free gummy worm option that provides 2,000 IU of vitamin D.
  • Sugar-Free Vitamin D Strawberry Gummies – These gluten-free sugar-free strawberry gummies are another option for my celiac friends who don’t like to take pills.

Summary of Celiac and Vitamin D

Ultimately, you should monitor vitamin D levels and intake closely with celiac disease, especially as you’re healing. And if you’re looking to boost your vitamin D intake with celiac, consider including vitamin D-rich foods, getting more sun, or talking to your healthcare team about starting a vitamin D supplement. 

Need help balancing a gluten-free diet for all of the nutrients you need? Work with a celiac dietitian!

Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link.

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