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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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Belly fat is usually detectible—people generally have a good idea if they tend to accumulate fat in their midsection, as opposed to their hips and bottom. But how do you know if your liver is fat? Well, abdominal fat and liver fat often go hand in hand. In fact, fat from the liver can be sent to the belly, and vice versa. Often, an underlying feature of both of these is inflammation, which may come from the gut. Nutrients and other substances—including fat, toxins and inflammatory compounds—are absorbed from the small intestine and travel straight to the liver via the portal vein.

A recent study found that obese individuals with high amounts of abdominal fat and liver fat are at increased risk for heart disease. The researchers found that liver fat is strongly associated with increased secretion of very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDL), which contain the highest amounts of triglycerides, known to increase heart disease risk.

It has long been known that abdominal fat can be dangerous. The increasing knowledge about the dangers of liver fat adds to the story, as these two go hand in hand, each setting the body up to be more susceptible to metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Together, belly and liver fat mean trouble.

Both liver and abdominal fat can be reduced with exercise and weight loss. These steps, in addition to addressing any underlying gut dysfunction that may be contributing inflammation to the liver, can help reverse these metabolic precursors to heart disease. Gut imbalance may be addressed by taking probiotics, the beneficial bacteria naturally found in the gut.

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