Vitamin D Levels and Crohn’s Disease
McGill University conducted a study in 2010 that suggested vitamin D can counter the deleterious effects of Crohn's disease. As Dr. White put it, a professor in McGill's Department of Physiology, "Our data suggests, for the first time, that vitamin D deficiency can contribute to Crohn's disease." Dr. White went on to point out that Crohn's is more prevalent in northern climates, likely since less sun means less production of vitamin D.1
These findings have been backed up by other research. An article on vitamin D by Fletcher, Cooper, and Hewison published in Nutrients in 2019, suggested "improved vitamin D status may help to prevent the onset of IBD as well as ameliorating disease severity." Later in the article, they further suggest that, "Vitamin D plays a significant role in the maintenance of gastrointestinal barrier integrity, surveillance of the gut microbiota and inflammatory immune responses."2
While there is certainly more research to be done in this area, maintaining high vitamin D levels has very limited downside (with the major exception being the very rare possibility of vitamin D toxicity). Hence, as a Crohn's sufferer, I try to do a few things regarding vitamin D that may be of help to you as well.
How I keep my vitamin D levels up with Crohn's disease
Check my vitamin D levels every 6 months
I see my IBD doctor twice a year at which point he checks my blood for C-reactive protein and other inflammatory markers. Because I believe vitamin D is very important, I asked my gastroenterologist to also check my vitamin D levels. He's been doing it ever since, which is very helpful since this way I know precisely how much supplementation and extra sun I require.
Sunlight is an excellent form of vitamin D. This is particularly true for IBD patients who often have malabsorption issues. I try to spend at least 20 minutes a day sunbathing. When I do this I wear shorts and a t-shirt or even go shirtless since the more exposed skin the better. If I miss a day because I'm busy or there is poor weather, I get an extra 20 minutes the following day.
Liquid vitamin D
When I first started checking my levels, even after months of taking supplements, I was severely vitamin D deficient. The reason, I suspect, was malabsorption issues. Hence, I started taking liquid vitamin D, which has worked better for me. The form I take comes with a dropper for easy measurement. I believe liquid vitamin D is easier to absorb and hence consider this a no-brainer for IBD patients.
Eat foods high in vitamin D
Eggs, salmon, herring, mushrooms, and fortified cereals are just a few foods that are very high in vitamin D. I try to consume these foods whenever possible. For example, I have 3 boiled eggs each morning, since the yolks are very high in vitamin D.
If you are in a colder climate, consider purchasing a UVB light. One sample product that has terrific reviews is the Sperti Vitamin D Lightbox. You can also go to a tanning salon if you prefer, although tanning beds produce more UVA light than UVB light (while the latter is essential for Vitamin D production).3
Vitamin D and IBD
There is an increasing amount of research suggesting maintaining high levels of vitamin D is beneficial for Crohn's disease. By monitoring your levels, sunbathing, taking supplements, eating foods high in vitamin D, and using a UVB light, you can maintain an optimal level of this important nutrient and hopefully have a positive impact on your IBD.
Have you tried vitamin D supplements? What dose are you taking? Do you obtain regular sunlight? Has any of this helped? I look forward to your comments below.
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