Spring is finally here – which is good news for our vitamin D levels!
While we can get some vitamin D through our diets, most of it comes from exposure to sunlight. But in the UK, from October to March, sunlight doesn’t contain enough UVB for this to happen, which is why vitamin D deficiency is so common and supplements are advised.
For people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), this could be an even bigger concern.
IBD and vitamin D deficiency
People with IBD, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency, research has shown – and this might be associated with worse symptoms and disease, compared with IBD patients who have healthier vitamin D levels.
A recent study found IBD patients with low blood levels of vitamin D needed more hospital visits, scans and surgical procedures, reported more severe levels of pain and symptoms, and needed more medication.
Why is vitamin D so important?
Vitamin D is vital for bone, teeth and muscle growth, but there’s growing evidence of its role in regulating the immune system too. This could be particularly relevant for people with IBD, as although the exact causes conditions like Crohn’s aren’t fully understood, the immune system is believed to play a part.
What should you do?
Ensuring you’re getting enough nutrients is important, as inflammatory bowel conditions often lead to problems absorbing dietary nutrients, or you may be on a restrictive diet. Foods rich in vitamin D include oily fish, eggs and red meat are recommended– but a good quality vitamin D supplement might also be required, alongside spending time outdoors during spring and summer (although always be sure to protect your skin from sunburn!).
If you have IBD and are concerned about your vitamin D levels or nutritional deficiencies in general, it’s a good idea to discuss this with a gastroenterologist who can advise on the best steps to take.