Approximately 50% of the population worldwide has a vitamin D deficiency – paired with immunity benefits, patients are asking how to heal your gut with vitamin D
Vitamin D is perhaps best known for its role in bone strength and growth. However, this nutrient offers other health benefits as well. These include reducing inflammation, supporting immunity, and aiding in glucose metabolism. This is in addition to assisting the body with the absorption of another key nutrient: calcium. In November 2020, the journal Nature Communications published a study that shines an even brighter light on the positive impact that this vitamin appears to have on health, and this light is aimed directly at how to heal your gut.
The connection between gut biome with vitamin D
In this study, researchers from the University of California, San Diego, analyzed both blood and stool samples of 567 men. These men had a mean age of 84 years old and reported being in “good or excellent health.”
The subjects’ blood samples were analyzed to assess their levels of vitamin D metabolites, which included active vitamin D hormones and the products that exist after its breakdown. Their stool samples were studied to determine bacteria type and quantity.
Researchers found that the men with higher levels of active vitamin D were more likely to have 12 types of bacteria in their gut. These particular bacteria are known to produce the fatty acid butyrate, which helps keep the gut’s lining healthy.
The importance of gut microbiome to health
Gut microbiome has repeatedly been tied to higher levels of health, with one review reporting that this portion of the body’s digestive tract has been connected with a reduced risk of major health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
Other studies have linked gut microbiome with even “wider systemic manifestations of disease.” Conditions included in this category include type 2 diabetes, obesity, and atopy.
The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology explains that atopy involves having an elevated immune response to allergens. This is associated with a genetic predisposition toward developing an allergic disease like asthma, eczema, or allergic rhinitis.
Inactive vs. active vitamin D
The University of California study further noted that the type of vitamin D matters when it comes to how to heal your gut. Specifically, levels of active vitamin D may be more important to levels of inactive vitamin D.
For instance, men living in sunnier areas had higher levels of inactive vitamin D than men living in areas that don’t typically get as much sun. Yet, these subjects didn’t necessarily have higher levels of active vitamin D in their blood.
This suggests that it is the body’s ability to metabolize inactive vitamin D into its active form that is more instrumental for good health. So, finding ways to help the body better utilize this nutrient is key.
Vitamin D absorption and usage
Research indicates that the factors impacting the gastrointestinal system’s use of vitamin D are numerous and complex. Within the digestive tract, these include:
- The acidity levels of gastric juices
- Levels of protein digestive enzymes (pepsin and trypsin)
- Digestive enzymes in the duodenum (amylases, lipase, and protease)
Changes in any of these can impact how well the body is able to absorb and effectively use vitamin D when working with a patient on how to heal the gut. The issue is complicated even more based on factors related to how the vitamin is obtained, whether via food, supplementation, or the sun.
This may explain, at least in part, why approximately 50% of the population worldwide has a vitamin D deficiency, with obese individuals having a 35% higher chance of not having the recommended levels of this key vitamin.
How to heal your gut with vitamin D sources
One of the easiest ways for patients to increase their vitamin D is to spend some time in direct sunlight. This works by promoting the body’s natural production of vitamin D. Though, the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) explains that this time does need to be limited to protect against the sun’s unhealthy effects, namely skin cancer.
Another option is to eat foods that offer higher levels of vitamin D. Milk and milk alternatives (such as soy or almond milk), breakfast cereal, and yogurt are a few options. So too are fatty fish, which includes salmon, tuna, and mackerel.
Patients working on the question of how to heal the gut can also increase their vitamin D intake with supplementation. Many multivitamins contain at least some of this vitamin, or they can purchase a supplement that contains only vitamin D (or vitamin D with calcium).
In the case of the latter, the ODS recommends choosing a vitamin D3 supplement over a D2 because D3 tends to increase blood levels of vitamin D higher and for longer periods of time.