I’d like to share a personal story about Vitamin D3, just in case this happens to you or someone you know who suddenly gets mysterious symptoms after taking this supplement. I live in a maritime temperate climate where its normally overcast with clouds much of the year until mid-late summer. So getting enough sunlight for good health and vitamin absorption is difficult, and Vitamin D3 is the standard remedy.

A few years ago, I started taking D3 because of all the advice about its benefits while living in such a rainy climate like Western Washington State. Within days, my legs started blowing up with water retention, my eyes started swelling and itching, I was wheezing when I breathed and other symptoms of what looked like a histamine response to an allergy of some sorts. At first, I didn’t make the connection with D3, but as I starting thinking of all the things I had eaten/ingested over the course of the previous week, a daily D3 gelcap was the only new thing I had introduced to my diet.

I checked the bottle for the ingredients of what actually made up D3. The source was “Cholecalciferol”. So I looked it up on Google:

“Cholecalciferol is produced industrially for use in vitamin supplements and to fortify foods. As a pharmaceutical drug it is called cholecalciferol (USAN) or colecalciferol (INN, BAN). It is produced by the ultraviolet irradiation of 7-dehydrocholesterol extracted from lanolin found in sheep’s wool.”

Yikes! Now I know why I blew up like a balloon! I have a sensitivity/allergy to sheep’s wool. Lanolin is the common active ingredient used in D3. Not only was this a sudden discovery, but it solved a 30+ year mystery for me as well. In 1985, after giving birth to my daughter, the hospital nurses gave me a tube of lanolin to use after I nursed her, so I would not develop friction sores in the first few days. Well, it did just the opposite. I blood blistered terribly, looked like a leper and toughed out the first weeks of nursing in spite of that. I did stop using the lanolin after a couple of weeks because it didn’t seem to help, but I never made the connection back then that the lanolin caused such an adverse reaction.

But then I realized that even FURTHER back in time, when I was a wee, I had sheep’s wool sweaters that I hated because they were so itchy. I think I broke out in hives and contact dermatitis, and because I was a little tomboy usually running around shirtless in the rurals, it was mistaken for poison ivy exposure instead. Since allergies are often genetic, its quite bizarre, knowing my mother was from a long lineage of English-Irish heritage, people whose cultures have a long history of raising sheep.

So…three of my life’s mysterious incidents were solved in that one instance of looking up the D3 ingredients. If I erupted in blood blisters on my skin using lanolin externally, what the heck do my insides look like when I ingest it? I shudder to think about it, but it seems super-dangerous for supplement and pharma companies not to list the actual source that comprises the Cholecalciferol they are using. Sheep’s wool allergies are not uncommon, but its not the wool, its the allergen of the lanolin itself which coats each fiber in the wool.

Here is a good article on the wool lanolin allergy:

CAUTION: READ THE INGREDIENT LABELS: Multi-vitamins often have D3 included in them, so just be aware of that. Any foods that are labeled as being as D3-fortified or has cholecalciferol in the ingredients most likely contains the wool-derived lanolin. Many beauty care products and medicinal topicals used on the skin and hair also contain lanolin.

Since this revelation, I have been using a Vegan D3, made by “Country Life” brand, where the Cholecalciferol is sourced from lichen and have suffered no adverse reactions.

About Lea Savoy

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