For those suffering from Crohn’s disease and other forms of IBD, managing the condition is a lifelong battle. With no surefire cure, we are constantly on the lookout for new ways to relieve the symptoms of Crohn’s and IBD, searching for any method of providing relief to the patients who suffer chronically at the hands of these debilitating diseases.
Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City believe they may have found a way to relieve the discomfort of these conditions, authoring a study that suggests vitamin D is potentially helpful in fighting Crohn’s disease.
There has long been an observed association between geographic proximity to the equator and the incidence of Crohn’s. Because our bodies create vitamin D when our cells come in contact with sunlight, some hypothesized that higher levels of vitamin D could be making Crohn’s disease less common in sunny, tropical areas.
After reviewing the health data of Crohn’s patients, researchers found that a majority of their subjects were low in vitamin D. In addition, lower vitamin D levels were associated with higher scores on the Harvey-Bradshaw Index (HBI), a tool used to measure the clinical activity of Crohn’s disease.
To test their theory, researchers randomly assigned 15 patients to take daily doses of vitamin D at either 1,000 IU, an amount that can be found in many common multivitamins, or 10,000 IU, which research has suggested as the maximum safe dosage. Knowing that vitamin D helps to modulate the immune system, researchers believed that higher levels of the nutrient could combat the inflammatory factors of Crohn’s disease and improve patients’ HBI scores.
They found that the higher doses of vitamin D did just that. By increasing the amount of vitamin D, the clinical activity of Crohn’s disease fell three points on the HBI, a reduction researchers considered to be quite significant. What researchers think is particularly important is that patients’ medications were constant throughout the course of the study. This means that results were achieved solely through nutritional supplementation that did not increase toxicity.
The results of this study are limited considering the small sample size, but this research provides a promising basis for further study. Additional studies will need to be conducted to determine the long-term effectiveness of vitamin D in fighting Crohn’s disease.
Researchers were initially apprehensive about the 10,000 IU dosage given to some patients, but a study from the American Society of Nutrition has confirmed that this is a safe dose. Still, increasing vitamin D supplementation to these levels may not be a good choice for everyone and should be predicated by a discussion with your doctor.
The symptoms of Crohn’s and IBD can be embarrassing and may prompt sufferers to avoid social situations, but studies like this one may show that spending a little more time in the sun can be beneficial to IBD patients. Stay tuned as research into vitamin D’s efficacy in fighting Crohn’s continues to develop.