Of the estimated 1.4 million people in the United States living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), about 10% are children. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, this population commonly requires medical treatment to replete crucial vitamin D levels.

Dietary supplements are typically prescribed for patients with IBD to counter low vitamin D and calcium levels, which can lead to serious health complications. The accurate adjustment of these nutrient levels has proven a bit more complicated than one would expect. In the reported study, the authors show that the success of vitamin D repletion is highly dependent on the type of vitamin D intake (D2 or D3) and the weight of the individual. Similar research has underscored the importance of early identification and treatment of nutrient deficiency in youth suffering from IBD.

Inflammatory bowel disease produces a wide array of symptoms and complications that vary between individuals and often change over time. Therefore, each patient with IBD requires a unique treatment approach. The IBD Center of Excellence in Beverly Hills offers an expert team of physicians dedicated to the comprehensive medical and surgical management of IBD.

IBD and Nutrient Deficiencies

The majority of nutrients we consume are broken down and absorbed in the small intestine, a digestive tube located between the stomach and the large intestine. Nutritional deficiency, either caused by dietary restrictions or improper absorption, is a common symptom of inflammatory bowel disease and can lead to numerous adverse health effects. IBD is a chronic condition that involves either localized or wide-spread inflammation of the digestive tract. When inflammatory damage occurs to the lining of the small intestine, nutrient absorption can be significantly impaired. This effect may be compounded by some medications used to treat other symptoms of IBD, which can decrease overall absorption of vitamins and minerals in the digestive system.

Why is Vitamin D Important?

Vitamin D is a critical nutrient that plays an important role in protective and developmental processes throughout the body. As a major regulator of blood calcium levels, vitamin D is needed for bone growth, strength and mineralization. Research has also shown that vitamin D contributes to modulation of cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and reduction of inflammation. Vitamin D deficiency is a more serious condition in children and adolescents, who require proper absorption for growth and development. Left untreated, chronic vitamin D deficiency is associated with the following health problems:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Osteoporosis
  • Asthma in children
  • Increased risk for cardiovascular disease
  • Increased risk for diabetes

How to Increase Your Vitamin D Intake

Given the health implications of vitamin D deficiency, an important goal of IBD treatment is the maintenance of proper vitamin D absorption. If you have been diagnosed with IBD, a simple blood or urine test is used to determine the levels of vitamin D and other vital nutrients. Natural sources of vitamin D and fortified foods that can help increase your vitamin D intake include:

  • Cod liver oil
  • Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel)
  • Orange juice
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Egg yolk

Dietary supplements containing vitamin D are often prescribed for individuals with severe vitamin D deficiency. It is important to consult with a physician experienced in the treatment of IBD before attempting dietary supplements or modifications.

Contact an IBD Specialist in Beverly Hills

The IBD Center of Excellence in Beverly Hills offers a team of world-renowned gastroenterologists and colorectal surgeons who have trained at some of the top medical schools and residencies in the country. Our extensive experience in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, coupled with a highly individualized approach, helps us to deliver compassionate and effective care to each patient.

For more information on IBD, or to schedule a consultation with one of our physicians, please call (888) 421-4172.