For thousands of years, naturopathy, traditional Chinese, and Ayurvedic medicine has been practiced with the notion that our gut is central to the health of the rest of the body. Modern science may agree now with vitamin D.
Vitamin D plays countless roles in the maintenance of our health. It is involved in bone mineralization, the regulation of immune function, the regulation of insulin secretion, and preventing the growth of unhealthy cells. Surprisingly, approximately 40% of the US adult population is vitamin D deficient.
Risks Associated with Deficiency
Deficiency is associated with an increased risk of various conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular risk, depression, osteoporosis, and cancer.
Sources and Supplementation
Sun exposure allows our body to produce vitamin D. Approximately 1000 IU can be made from 10-15min of sun exposure. However, this can be much lower depending on the season, time of day, skin pigment, and percentage of exposed skin. Sun exposure can also increase the risk for skin cancers like melanoma so getting the vitamin D from oral supplementation is important.
In addition to supplementation, there are food-based sources that include cod liver oil, trout, salmon, and raw mushrooms exposed to sunlight. It is best to consult with your health care practitioner to determine optimal doses and methods of vitamin D administration where appropriate.
Responders VS Non-responders
What’s very interesting to note, however, is that approximately 25% of people experience little to no increase in serum vitamin D levels after supplementation. There are numerous factors to consider, and here, we would like to highlight new insights on the gut microbiome in relationship to vitamin D.
A Gut Reaction
Emerging research suggests that imbalances in the gut microbiome and probiotic supplementation may be associated with our ability to absorb this important vitamin. For example, one study found that non-responders to supplementation tend to have significantly lower levels of a certain gut bacteria, Bacteroides acidifaciens, relative to responders.
In addition, it has been found that when the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri was administered for 9 weeks, there was a significant increase in vitamin D levels compared to a group of people that received a placebo instead of the probiotic.
Other studies suggest that microorganisms in the gut like Lactobacillus casei/paracasei, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, and Lactobacillus acidophilus may aid with the absorption of vitamin D. The proposed mechanism is that these specific bacteria may produce a biosurfactant and to aid in dissolving fat-loving substances, which is relevant because vitamin D is fat-soluble.
There appears to be a bidirectional interplay of the vitamin D-gut relationship. Research shows that supplementing with vitamin D can increase the amounts of “good” bacteria, decrease the “bad,” and increase the diversity of microorganisms.
We had a gut feeling about the many effects of vitamin D, and we’re so excited to keep up with the science that our gut affects our vitamin D and vitamin D affects our gut.