Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) have often heard about the benefit of vitamin D. Research had previously focuses on vitamin D's effects on bone density. This focus is especially important in diseases like IBD that require patients to be on medication which may decrease bone density or when mal-absorption might be a factor.
Recent news has also touted the benefits of vitamin D in regulating and strengthening the immune system but it's role in IBD and immunity was less clear. Endocrinologist John White wanted to study whether vitamin D could counter the effects of one form of IBD, Crohn's disease. Dr White believes that "It's a defect in innate immune handling of intestinal bacteria that leads to an inflammatory response that may lead to an autoimmune condition (1)".
What Dr White's study, recently presented in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, found is that vitamin D acts on genes that encode antimicrobial peptides as well as alerting the cells to microbial invasions. With out these genes functioning in adequate amounts the body can not protect itself against the bacteria that eventually lead to the inflammatory response (1).
Patients with IBD as well as sibling of these patients may want to monitor their vitamin D status more closely. If deficient in vitamin D doctors may advise patients to take a supplement to increase their intake of the vitamin. Vitamin D is naturally produced by the body when exposed to sunlight and can also be found in fish liver oils, fatty fish, eggs and many fortified foods.
Most Americans only consume 100 IU/day of the 800 IU/day of vitamin D required to meet the daily recommendations for healthy adults. Taking more than the RDA for vitamin D can lead to toxicity so be sure to discuss supplementation with your physician.