Vitamin D is known by many as the “sunshine vitamin” and as a sidekick to calcium in promoting healthy bones. However, did you know that vitamin D has also been shown to have a role in digestive health? In your intestines, there are millions of cells that are receptors for the vitamin D molecule to attach. These special cells then relay messages across the digestive system to aid in cell division, nutrient absorption, and chemical secretion among other important functions. Keep reading to learn 3 key ways that vitamin D supports your digestive health.
Vitamin D deficiency may increase risk of stomach/intestinal infections*
Vitamin D may aid in your digestive system by keeping annoying stomach bugs at bay. After following 475 random children for a year and recording their incidences of disease, researchers at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health (1) discovered that children with lower levels of vitamin D had about twice as many days with diarrhea than children with sufficient vitamin D.*
Vitamin D may have a role in regulating good gut bacteria*
There are trillions of bacterial cells in your gut, but most of these bacteria are beneficial and break down food for your body to absorb. Just as these bacteria help us, they might also need helpers to help them function; that’s where vitamin D comes in.
New research from Penn State University (2) has shown that rats with deficient vitamin D receptors and rats that can’t produce their own vitamin D both have significantly different quantities and types of bacteria in their gut than normal rats. While the research on the connection between nutrition and gut health is in it’s early stages, these studies certainly indicate that nutrients have more impact on gut bacteria than ever before realized.
Vitamin D may support less inflammation*
Researchers at the University of Toronto (3) examined vitamin D deficient rats against normal rats after subjecting them to a bacteria that causes gut damage. The results showed that higher levels of cytokines, molecules that are released by inflamed cells, were found in vitamin D deficient rats.
The same study also measured the “leakiness” of intestines by sending small electric currents across the surface of the cells and found that vitamin D deficient rats also had more leaky membranes, which could eventually lead to more serious gut problems.
These are just some of the many ways vitamin D can benefit your health. Ask your doctor for more information and if you need a little boost in vitamin D, spending a little time in the sun or eating food such as fish and fortified dairy products can go a long way. When it comes to supplementing Vitamin D, all forms are not created equal. Check your supplement facts to ensure your Vitamin D is in the form of Cholecalciferol (or Vitamin D3) as this most absorbable and active form of Vitamin D. Learn more about Vitamin D:
- Studies: 3 Ways Vitamin D Helps Your Brain Function
- Studies: Vitamin D & Digestive Health
- Studies: Vitamin D & Balanced Eating
Other articles you may enjoy:
- Studies: 3 Ways That Zinc Boosts Digestion
- Can You Swallow It? What Your Gut & Digestion Is Telling You
- Gut-Brain: Why Your Gut Is Called Your Second Brain
(1) Stumpf, W. (2007). Vitamin D and the digestive system. Eur. J. Drug Metabol. Pharmacokinet. European Journal of Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics, 33(2), 85-100
(2) Vitamin D deficiency associated with increased incidence of gastrointestinal and ear infections in school-age children. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2013 Jun;32(6):585-93. doi: 10.1097/INF.0b013e3182868989.
(3) Vitamin D regulates the gut microbiome and protects mice from dextran sodium sulfate-induced colitis. J Nutr. 2013 Oct;143(10):1679-86. doi: 10.3945/jn.113.180794. Epub 2013 Aug 21.
(4) Vitamin D deficiency promotes epithelial barrier dysfunction and intestinal inflammation. J Infect Dis. 2014 Oct 15;210(8):1296-305. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiu235. Epub 2014 Apr 21.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These statements and products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.