People with inflammatory bowel diseases have significantly lower levels of vitamin D. The worse the deficiency, the more severe the disease, a study suggests.
Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) — Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) — affect about 3 million American adults. The condition is autoimmune, meaning the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissues and causes chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.
While some IBD patients experience only mild symptoms, the condition can be debilitating and even lead to life-threatening complications.
The new study published in the journal Medicine looked at the serum vitamin D levels in 92 IBD patients and 14 healthy controls.
Individuals with CD and UC had notably lower serum vitamin D levels (16 ± 8.6 ng/mL) than healthy individuals (26 ± 9.73 ng/mL).
Nearly one-third (32.6%) of IBD patients suffered from vitamin D deficiency, while 66.3% had insufficient levels. Among healthy controls, 35.7% of individuals exhibited normal vitamin D levels.
The lower vitamin D levels in people with IBD, the higher the markers linked to inflammation, such as white blood cell counts and certain proteins like CRP-C.
This suggests that signs of inflammation increase with dropping levels of vitamin D. Therefore, maintaining healthy vitamin D levels might potentially help in managing inflammation in IBD patients.
The authors emphasize that the study does not prove that the lack of vitamin D makes IBD more severe; it just shows a strong association.
Scientists have long investigated the relationship between vitamin D deficiency and IBD, but it remains unclear which comes first. Some studies suggest that low levels of vitamin Dmay increase the risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease.
As vitamin D plays a crucial role in regulating the immune system, its deficiency is linked to increased autoimmunity and susceptibility to infection. The exact cause of IBD is unknown, but scientists think some viruses and bacteria may trigger the condition.
At the same time, IBD patients, especially those with more severe disease, experience changes in intestinal absorption of nutrients, restriction in diet, reduced physical activity, and diarrhea and are less exposed to sunlight. These factors may explain low vitamin D in people with IBD.
While sufficient vitamin D levels may not necessarily protect against IBD, it can help to strengthen bones and teeth, improve immune function and mood, and reduce the risk of chronic disease. Studies suggest that vitamin D can even reduce cancer risk by regulating cell growth and aiding DNA repair, among other functions.
The new study does not prove that vitamin D deficiency causes IBD, but keeping its levels high may protect against many other conditions.
- Medicine. Lower vitamin D levels are associated with the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel diseases.
- NewsWise. Vitamin D crucial for gut health: Deficiency linked to inflammation in IBD patients.
- National Library of Medicine. Vitamin D and Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
- National Library of Medicine. Inadequate sunlight exposure in patients with inflammatory bowel disease.
- National Library of Medicine. Protective links between vitamin D, inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer.