Study finds vitamin D supplements help ease the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
10/20/2019 // Evangelyn Rodriguez // Views

Vitamin D deficiency is a nutritional deficiency associated with various conditions, such as depression, cardiovascular disease, bone disorders, and diabetes. Recently, studies have emerged reporting that people suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) also have very low levels of vitamin D. Due to its possible link to gastrointestinal problems, researchers have began investigating the effects of vitamin D supplementation on issues related to the digestive system.

In a meta-analysis published in the journal Medicine, researchers from China examined the therapeutic potential and safety of vitamin D supplementation as a treatment for IBD. Based on the results of 18 controlled trials, they concluded that the relapse rate of IBD can be controlled by normalizing the vitamin D levels of IBD patients.

What is inflammatory bowel disease?

Inflammatory bowel disease is a term used to refer to gastrointestinal disorders characterized by chronic inflammation. IBD includes ulcerative colitis, a disease that causes sores (ulcers) to develop along the lining of the large colon, and Crohn's disease, which causes abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, and malnutrition. Unlike ulcerative colitis, which is localized, Crohn's disease can affect any part of the digestive tract.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), IBD is a consequence of having an impaired immune system, but its exact cause is still unknown. So far, research has only hinted of a possible genetic influence involved in the development of IBD. But while the root cause of IBD remains a mystery, there are common symptoms that signify the presence of this disease, such as:


  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloody stools
  • Fatigue
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Weight loss

IBD is becoming prevalent in the U.S. In 2015 alone, about three million American adults have been diagnosed with the disease, according to the CDC. IBD not only causes immense discomfort, it also has the potential to debilitate and increase a person's risk of colon cancer and blood clots. Other chronic health conditions patients with IBD are likely to develop include cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, arthritis, kidney disease, and liver disease.

IBD is different from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is not caused by inflammation and does not cause damage to the gastrointestinal tract.

Vitamin D supplementation can prevent IBD from recurring

According to previous studies, vitamin D can help maintain IBD remission by stopping inflammation, repairing intestinal mucosal barriers, and inducing antibiosis -- a process by which one microorganism antagonizes another. To further explore the therapeutic potential of vitamin D, the Chinese researchers looked at its efficacy as a lone treatment for IBD.

For their study, they used data from 18 randomized controlled trials that involved 908 patients. Using statistical analyses, the researchers found that not only did supplementation improve the vitamin D status of patients, it also reduced the relapse rate of IBD by 64 percent. The researchers found no significant differences between low-dose and high-dose vitamin D treatment in terms of adverse events.

In addition, the researchers also reported that at high doses, vitamin D reduced inflammation and triggered the repair of intestinal mucosal barriers. This not only induced remission in patients with IBD, it also helped prevent the disease from relapsing. (Related: Vitamin D: How to Determine Your Optimal Dose.)

Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that vitamin D supplementation is an effective treatment for IBD. They therefore urge clinicians to recommend vitamin D to their patients -- even as an auxiliary treatment -- especially to those with vitamin D deficiency. They also noted that while vitamin D supplements are simple, effective, safe, and inexpensive, more high-quality trials are still needed to further evaluate their therapeutic potential.

Read for more news coverage of digestive health issues.

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