Vitamin D supplementation may improve quality of life and reduce symptoms for people with Crohn's disease, according to a new study.
Crohn's disease is a chronic disorder that causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Although it may cause inflammation in any area of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus, it most commonly affects the small intestine and/or colon. Crohn's disease causes painful swelling that often results in diarrhea, or frequent, loose, watery stools.
The cause of Crohn's disease remains unknown. However, current research indicates that the inflammation in Crohn's disease patients involves a complex interaction of factors, including heredity, the immune system, and antigens in the environment.
In a new study, researchers evaluated the effects of vitamin D3 supplementation in 18 people with mild-to-moderate Crohn's disease, assessed on the Crohn's disease activity index. Each participant received 1000 international units of vitamin D3 by mouth daily for two weeks. At week two, the dose was increased until blood concentrations reached 40 nanograms per milliliter 25-hydroxyvitamin D3, a vitamin D status marker, or until the dose reached a maximum of 5000 international units daily. Daily supplementation was then maintained for a total of 24 weeks. Various outcome measures, including Crohn's disease activity index scores, quality of life measurements and dietary data were collected at the beginning of the study and again after week 24.
The researchers found that 14 of the 18 patients needed the maximum vitamin D3 dose of 5000 international units daily. Supplementation significantly increased blood levels of vitamin D and significantly reduced the average Crohn's disease activity index scores by 112 points. Furthermore, quality of life scores improved significantly by the end of the study.
The authors concluded that vitamin D3 supplementation may be a useful tool for the management of Crohn's disease. Additional larger-scale studies are required to further evaluate these findings.
In addition to vitamin D, initial research reports that DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) supplements are safe for short-term use in patients with Crohn's disease. Preliminary research suggests possible beneficial effects, although further research is necessary before a clear conclusion can be drawn.
Yang L, Weaver V, Smith JP, Bingaman S, Hartman TJ, Cantorna MT. "Therapeutic effect of vitamin D supplementation in a pilot study of Crohn's patients." Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology. 2013 Apr 18;4:e33. doi: 10.1038/ctg.2013.1.