Obesity May Trigger IBD
The World Health Organization estimates that up to 35% of the population is overweight or obese. This statistic is a staggering one when you consider how many illnesses have been linked to having added weight on your frame. Diabetes, heart disease and even certain types of cancer are now being linked to obesity. Up to ten different autoimmune diseases are also linked to or worsened by being overweight. A recent study review done in Autoimmunity Reviews by Professor Yehuda Shoenfeld also showed that obesity is a factor contributing to the development of Inflammatory Bowel Disease as well (1).
There are two ways in which obesity seems to trigger autoimmune issues. The first issue involves the metabolic activity of added weight. Body fat is not just a blob of tissue that sits on the frame hanging out. In contrast, the fat stores actually secrete compounds and hormones that will change your body chemistry. Some of these compounds secreted are called adipokines. Adipokines are normally involved in immune function and an overabundance, as happens in obesity, can trigger or worsen autoimmune diseases like IBD.
The second issue found in the mice subjects studied by Professor Shoenfield was obesity related vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is secreted into the added fat stores of obese patients. This reduces the amount of vitamin D that is available to the rest of the body, specifically the immune system, which needs the vitamin D to function properly. The deficiency can be corrected with weight loss, proper eating and supplementation when needed.
Practical application of this research would urge anyone with IBD to reach and maintain a normal, healthy weight. Most studies suggest that even a modest weight loss of 10% of your overall weight will improve your health. It may also be wise to ask your physician if measuring vitamin D levels, especially if you are overweight, should be added to your treatment program. These additional steps could just make a big difference for your IBD!