Did you know if you have IBS or IBD that you may be deficient in Vitamin D? Vitamin D is a game-changer, or at least it was for me. As soon as I started taking Vitamin D3, I started feeling better and had more energy! There are a few steps you need to take in order to feel better when you have a digestive disorder, and Vitamin D is one very important step.
As we experience changes or abnormalities in our digestive patterns, our bodies cannot fully absorb dietary vitamin D. Vitamin D strengthens our immune system and boosts immunity. It also helps with depression. Are you still listening dear FODMAP Life friend? 🙂
According to a study published in the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health: “Vitamin D supplementation could play a therapeutic role in the control of IBS...Vitamin D supplementation should be considered as a part of the therapeutic protocol in patients with IBS.” If you aren’t taking Vitamin D, please keep reading!
What Does Vitamin D Do?
Vitamin D serves several purposes which can help with IBS symptoms, here are just a few with regard to IBS and digestion:
- Enhances the immune system and stimulates the development of white blood cells (remember 70%+ of our immune system lies in our gut!)
- Helps reduce inflammation in the body
- Increases calcium absorption
What are the Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency?
If you don’t have enough Vitamin D and you suffer from IBD, you risk intestinal damage. The digestive tract of people with Crohn’s disease as well as Celiac disease cannot adequately absorb vitamin D. If you have IBS and do not take Vitamin D, symptoms would not be as severe as the type of intestinal damage from Crohn’s or Celiac, but it could mean ongoing discomfort, pain, and some of the other symptoms you unfortunately know too well.
How to Test
Consider having your blood levels checked for any deficiencies in Vitamin D or other vitamins and nutrients (this goes for children as well). You can ask your doctor for blood tests or order them online. These tests can help determine which vitamins a person lacks and those of which they are receiving enough naturally. Vitamin and nutrition blood tests can also detect gluten, mineral, iron, calcium and other deficiencies. Also, taking supplements without having blood levels checked isn’t recommended as one never knows exactly how much of a vitamin they are getting from food, and also in this case from the sun (see below).
How Much Vitamin D Do I Need?
If you have IBS and are trying out the low-FODMAP diet, try to have your blood levels checked and consider using Vitamin D3 instead of synthetic vitamin D2. You will want to reach steady levels, so make time to see your doctor every three months to ensure you do. An optimal range is 40-55 ng/ml. Also depending on where you live and how much sun you receive, your doctor may ask you to take less in the summer and more in the winter. If you live in Juneau, AK with the least amount of sun in the U.S. or in Iceland, you’ll need a good dose of Vitamin D year-round!
Your doctor may have you take up to 50,000 IUs per week to start. Here is a more holistic approach to taking Vitamin D:
- Minimum (to prevent deficiency): 15 mcg (600 IU) per day
- Preventative (to prevent chronic disease):60-80 mcg (2,400 IU – 3,200 IU), depending on your weekly dose of sunshine; use lower does plus 1/2 hour sunshine, 4 times/week. Over age 50: 100-150 mcg (4,000-6,000 IU per day, again depending on your weekly dose of sunshine)
- Therapy for specific problems: 125 mg -200 mcg (5,000 – 8,000 IU) per day. At this level of supplementation, blood levels should be tested and not exceed 80 ng/ml.
Getting Some Sun
Our skin makes Vitamin D after exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays (so cool, right?). In order to synthesize Vitamin D in the skin, sun exposure is suggested for at least a ½ hour before sunscreen is applied (unless a doctor has suggested otherwise).
Natural, Low-FODMAP Sources of Vitamin D
- Catfish – Super food source
- Salmon (canned or pink, coho, sockeye cooked by dry heat) – great food sources
- Flounder/sole (cooked by dry heat) – good food source
- Herring (fresh), sardines (canned in oil), eggs (yolks or whole) – support food sources
- Regular milk – as long as you do not malabsorb lactose you can have milk during the elimination and challenge phase of the low-FODMAP diet.
Vitamin D levels exceeding 100 ng/mL can be dangerous because the extra vitamin D triggers extra calcium absorption. Symptoms include muscle pain, mood disorders, abdominal pain and kidney stones. It may also increase risk for heart attack and stroke. That’s why it’s super important you don’t take too much Vitamin D.
Other Vitamins and Minerals
Having enough magnesium, zinc, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C are also vital to a healthy gut. Here the low-FODMAP foods that are natural sources to consider adding to your low-FODMAP regimen:
Magnesium – Green leafy vegetables like (spinach and Swiss chard), nuts and seeds (almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds). Avocados. Low-FODMAP foods:
- Minimum (to prevent deficiency): 420 mg per day
- Preventative (to prevent chronic disease): 750 mg per day
- Therapy for specific problems: up to 1,000 mg per day
*If you increase your calcium without increasing magnesium, your body might not absorb enough magnesium. It’s recommended to take magnesium at a different time than calcium. If you have kidney disease you would need to be careful about not getting an excess of magnesium.
Zinc – Has been cited as helping those with leaky gut and Crohn’s disease and “that zinc supplementation can resolve permeability alterations in patients with Crohn’s disease in remission. Improving intestinal barrier function may contribute to reduce the risk of relapse in Crohn’s disease. A deficiency in zinc can lead to diarrhea, impaired appetite, and depressed immunity. Low-FODMAP foods: Oysters, Crab (Alaska King, Dungeness, Blue), braised/ground/top sirloin beef.
- Minimum (to prevent deficiency): 11 mg per day
- Preventative (to prevent chronic disease): 24 mg per day
- Therapy for specific problems: 50-80 mg per day
*Calcium will interfere with zinc absorption if there’s an excess amount in diet/supplements. High levels of iron supplementation can also interfere. Loss of zinc can occur from heavy sweating, surgery, alcohol use and stress.
Calcium – If you know you do not malabsorb lactose, fat-free organic Greek yogurt is an excellent source of calcium. Calcium will interfere with the absorption of zinc if there is excess in food or supplemental intake. 1,000-1,200 mg per day (chelated) is suggested before bedtime and between meals as there will be more acid in the stomach. Taking Vitamin A, C and D and magnesium are important in order to maximize calcium absorption. Low-FODMAP foods: mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, romano cheese.
- Minimum (to prevent deficiency): 800-1,000 mg per day
- Preventative (to prevent chronic disease): 1,000-1,200 mg per day
- Therapy for specific problems: up to 1,400 mg per day
*In order to maximize absorption of calcium, an adequate amount of Vitamin D, A & C are needed, as well as magnesium. Chelated calcium (calcium citrate) also helps.
Vitamin A – Vitamin A works as an antioxidant and also increases the production of cells which increase resistance to infection in your immune system, helping to keep your system functioning normally. It’s needed for growth within the intestinal tract and for the absorption of calcium. Too much Vitamin A can also be toxic so take no more than 5,000 international units (IU) per day. Low-FODMAP foods: carrots, sweet potatoes (up to 1/2 cup), squash, dark green and leafy low-FODMAP veggies as well as egg yolks.
- Minimum (to prevent deficiency): DRI of 900 RAE per day (RAE value -retinol activity equivalent)
- Preventative (to prevent chronic disease): 30,000 IU from carotenoids
- Therapy for specific problems: 50,000 IU for chronic problems and 100,000 IU for 2 weeks for an acute issue
*Alcohol use, a vitamin E deficiency, cortisone medications and a high iron intake can all decrease absorption of vitamin A. Also when the body is ill or stressed to the max, it won’t store as much vitamin A.
Vitamin C – Vitamin C is a powerful immune booster and increases whit blood cell activity in the immune system. It can also cause gas, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. It is a natural laxative so do not take more than what your doctor recommends (or generally more than 2,000 mg). Take between breakfast and lunch on an empty stomach. Take in the form of ascorbic acid or sodium ascorbate. Low-FODMAP foods: red and yellow bell peppers, raw chopped kale, raw kiwis, raw strawberries cut in halves, raw chopped broccoli, raw navel oranges, berries, fresh raw pineapple, tomatoes.
- Minimum (to prevent deficiency): 200 mg per day
- Preventative (to prevent chronic disease): 600 mg per day
- Therapy for specific problems: up to 5,000 mg per day
*Since Vitamin C moves fast throughout the body, consider taking it every four hours to maximize absorption. Aging, alcohol, allergies, antibiotics, aspirin, birth control pills, cortisone, diabetes, environmental toxins, fever, estrogen, illness, smoking and stress can all decrease absorption or increase the need for Vitamin C.
US National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health, Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2001 May;7(2):94-8., Zinc supplementation tightens “leaky gut” in Crohn’s disease. Sturniolo GC1, Di Leo V, Ferronato A, D’Odorico A, D’Incà R.
Are You Taking Too Much Calcium, A or D? May 27, 2014 /
The Power of Nutrient Dense Food Patti Weller, C.C.N.
The information presented on this blog post is not intended to take the place of your personal physician’s advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Discuss this information with your own physician or healthcare provider to determine what is right for you. All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Should you have any health care-related questions, call or see your physician or other health care provider promptly. You should never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here.