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Winter or summer, a dose of Vitamin D can help
Vitamin D has gained recognition in the last few years as a nutrient that is key for good overall health, and bone health in particular. Known as the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D is produced when the sun’s ultraviolet rays strike the skin. Much epidemiological research shows people who live in northern latitudes are more at risk of having inadequate levels of Vitamin D compared to their counterparts who live in southern latitudes.
A recent study published in the journal Gut shows geography also affects the incidence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): increasing latitude of residence was linked to an elevated incidence of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis in a population of American women. Yet another study published in the journal Gastroenterology late last year demonstrated a connection between higher Vitamin D status and lower Crohn’s disease, suggesting greater Vitamin D intake is a means of decreasing the risk of Crohn’s disease.
But in the absence of those definitive studies, Dr. Kaplan recommends that his IBD patients take oral Vitamin D supplements to increase their Vitamin D levels, noting Vitamin D supplementation poses no harm. It can be a struggle to derive enough Vitamin D through diet and sun exposure, so a daily dose is recommended as an effective route to acquire enough Vitamin D.
And IBD patients shouldn’t assume they are getting enough Vitamin D daily in the summer months, as they still may be challenged to get enough sun exposure if they are working in an office most of the day, for example. Indeed, Vitamin D deficiency is not limited to the darker, winter months, stresses Dr. Kaplan.
“Patients with IBD should continue to take Vitamin D supplements in the summertime,” says Dr. Kaplan. “Even in the summertime, people can be Vitamin D deficient.”
A future study that would shed more light on the impact of Vitamin D in the disease activity of IBD patients would involve a large sample of IBD patients with similar history and health status, where one group of patients would be administered sufficient doses of Vitamin D and one group would not get Vitamin D supplements. Investigators would then evaluate whether the patients getting vitamin supplementation had a clinical benefit in their course of disease.