Drinking too much alcohol can contribute to a vitamin D deficiency. A vitamin D deficiency can lead to serious health problems that affect the bones. A healthy diet that includes foods rich in vitamin D can improve and prevent a vitamin D deficiency. In some cases, vitamin D supplements may also be warranted.
Alcoholism is a chronic disease that affects about 18 million Americans. Alcoholism can lead to malnutrition, because alcohol suppresses the appetite, which leads to inadequate intake of food and nutrients. It can also prevent the body from absorbing essential nutrients, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) says nutrient deficiencies that are commonly associated with excessive alcohol use include vitamin D, folate, thiamine, vitamins B12 and B6, vitamin A and vitamin C.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. It is unique because while it is available in food, the body also manufactures its own vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS). Vitamin D helps the body use calcium to form strong bones and teeth and balances the amount of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. Adults need 5 to 15 mcg or 400 to 600 IU of vitamin D a day depending on their age. A vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a bone disorder characterized by weak and brittle bones that can fracture easily. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), alcohol interferes with the production of vitamin D which affects the body’s ability to absorb and use calcium to build strong bones. Alcohol also causes low testosterone and estrogen levels, which are risk factors for developing osteoporosis. Proper nutrition can increase vitamin D and reverse signs of osteoporosis. The NIAMS also says abstaining from alcohol helps stimulate bone-building activity, which can lead to partially restored bones.
Food sources of vitamin D include dairy products, egg yolks, liver, fish, oysters, margarine and fortified cereals and milk that have had vitamin D added to them. Individuals who live in sunny climates should try to get at least 15 minutes of sun exposure a day. The NIAMS also recommends that alcoholics consume foods rich in calcium like low-fat dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables and calcium-fortified foods like fruit juice.
Alcoholics who are unable to eat a diet a diet rich in vitamin D or get exposed to sunlight should take a vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D is often combined with calcium in a single supplement but is also available in multivitamins and on its own. The ODS says vitamin D supplements can interact with medications like steroids, weight-loss drugs, cholesterol-lowering medications and other fat-soluble vitamins. Alcoholics who take prescription medications are advised to consult a physician before taking vitamin D supplements.