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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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We hear a lot about the importance of vitamin A, vitamin C, and those good-for-you B vitamins, but it’s not so often we hear about another vitamin that scientists believe may also play a crucial role in maintaining superior health throughout life. These days, however, new research into the remarkable health benefits of vitamin D is beginning to change all of that.  

Vitamin D directly affects more than 200 genes in the body, and studies show that it plays a significant role in stimulating a healthy immune response. In fact, a new study conducted by a team of British and Canadian scientists links too little vitamin D in the diet with an increased risk of certain autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and type 1 diabetes, as well as a higher risk of certain cancers.

Researchers say it has to do with the way vitamin D binds with specific chromosomes, but the problem comes from a widespread lack of vitamin D in the diet. About one billion people worldwide are vitamin D deficient, which may increase their susceptibility to certain diseases. And as people spend less time outdoors (the body produces vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight), the problem is getting worse.

Because too little vitamin D can lead to a breakdown in overall health, many experts are now recommending steps to remedy the problem. Certain foods such as eggs and fatty fish contain vitamin D, and many fish oil supplements will include vitamin D to help make up for what’s lacking in the diet. Pregnant women and young children especially may benefit from a daily vitamin D supplement for preventative health, and spending at least 10 minutes in the sun each day is also recommended.

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