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Vitamin D and IBD

Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, is characterized by inflammation of the intestines, and is most notably represented as Crohn’s disease, which usually affects the small intestine, but may affect other areas of the digestive tract, and ulcerative colitis, which usually affects the large intestine, or colon.

Two recent studies, presented at the American College of Gastroenterology’s 76th Annual Scientific Meeting, discovered a connection between IBD and vitamin D status, or with latitude of geographic location at age 30. Latitude has been found to be strongly correlated with vitamin D status, because vitamin D is most commonly obtained through UV sun exposure. Those people living at higher latitudes are more likely to have insufficient vitamin D status; thus, the vitamin D connection to IBD.

In one study, it was found that people who lived in northern US latitudes at age 30 were more likely to later develop IBD. The researchers stated, “This differential risk may be explained by differences in UV light exposure, vitamin D status, or pollution.” The risk of developing Crohn’s disease was 50 percent lower in those people living in southern latitudes at age 30, and for ulcerative colitis, it was 35 percent lower.

In the second study, vitamin D3 supplementation was given to Crohn’s patients with low blood levels of vitamin D. The low-dose group received 1,000 IU daily, and the high-dose group received 10,000 IU daily. After 26 weeks of supplementation, there were differences in vitamin D levels, but more importantly, there was a significant improvement of disease symptoms in the high-dose compared to the low-dose group.

So many conditions are affected by insufficient vitamin D levels. If you do not know your vitamin D level, get it checked, even if you live in the south. Most integrative doctors recommend a vitamin D level of at least 50 ng/dL.

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A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Florida revealed that the microscopic organisms living in your gut may provide an early warning system for colon cancer—one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control.

After testing more than 90 individuals, scientists found that certain types of bacteria were common in patients who developed polyps in the colon, which can develop into cancer. Doctors hope that such “bacterial signatures” could be used to pinpoint patients who may be at higher risk for developing colon cancer, and that non-invasive screening techniques can be developed that would look at the types and number of intestinal bacteria in the gut.

Did You Know…?

Your digestive tract is home to literally trillions of individual bacteria (more than 1,000 different species), including Bifidobacteria—the most prevalent good bacteria (or probiotics) in the large intestine—and Lactobacilli, which are the most prevalent good bacteria in the small intestine.

Altogether, the beneficial microorganisms make up nearly 70 percent of your body’s immune system, so maintaining a healthy bacterial balance in the intestines is crucial to your overall health. Because everyday factors such as stress, illness, antibiotic use or even a change in routine can upset a balanced digestive environment, natural health experts recommend taking a daily high-potency probiotic for optimal digestive and immune health.

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