Vitamin D does it again. Vitamin D and the vitamin D receptor function in inflammatory bowel disease. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Part 1.

Aug 25, 2018 | autoimmune disease, Functional medicine, intestinal microbiome, Vitamin D, Vitamin D receptors

Vitamin D has such a profound positive impact on the body’s ability to function properly. Given all the data regarding Vitamin D’s importance, everyone should already know this. Unfortunately, bad information about medical science and the human body is so easy to get stuck on.

I recently gave a lecture on autoimmune disease in Seattle and was discussing Vitamin D during the question and answer portion. When I spoke about the importance of testing and optimizing vitamin D levels, many people there said their insurance company had recently started to refuse to cover the cost of testing vitamin D. They had been told that a study had come out saying Vitamin D wasn’t important.

Now, no one wants to pay for something that isn’t important. But WOW. What bad information that insurance company is working with. A section of my first blog post discusses how easy it is to prevent chronic diseases from occurring simply by optimizing vitamin D levels. Multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, breast cancer as just a couple of examples.

PubMed is a search engine that physicians use all the time that allows us to access just about all scientific studies published for the last 100 years or so. A quick search of pubmed reveals over 17,000 unique scientific journal articles about vitamin D. WOW. We know so much about not only that vitamin D is vitally important but also how exactly it works at the cellular level within every cell of our body.

Vitamin D, in order to exert its’ influence, has to be able to attach to the vitamin D receptors (VDR) that are on all our cells.  Without fully activated (or turned on) VDRs, the vitamin D won’t be able to do its work to help the body.

I want to share information contained in a beautifully done study published in the Journal of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in 2018. It is entitled “Ancient Nuclear Receptor VDR With New Functions: Microbiome and Inflammation”. The lead authors were Danika Bakke, PhD and Jun Sun, PhD.

As we have discussed before, what is applicable to autoimmune disease is applicable to all diseases in general. All diseases and all health is determined by similar circumstances within all the cells of our bodies.

This great article starts out with the fact that VDR status (is it activated, turned on as it should be?) has already been identified as affecting several important pathways including cancer, detoxification, infection and our metabolism (weight gain etc…). Abnormal alterations in the genes of the VDR (called gene “SNPs”. Pronounced like “snips”) are involved in inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease), colon cancer, low back pathology (low back pain can be caused by low Vitamin D levels and low VDR activity), multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes.

Low VDR activity in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) decreases vitamin D’s ability to decrease inflammation in the gut. Both low vitamin D and low VDR activity will change the mix of the good versus the bad bacteria in the gut. The “microbiome”. Ideally, we want a lot of the good and not much of the bad. The good bacteria in our gut make a very important substance caller n-butyrate. This n-butyrate, combined with probiotics, will increase the activity of the VDR and will decrease colitis. Colitis is a fancy term for inflammation in the colon.

When Vitamin D is low, the cells lining our gut also can’t make a really important protein  called AMP. AMP stands for “anti-microbial peptides”. Or, “anti-bad bugs peptides”. As its name implies, AMP kills bad bacteria in our guts. Without vitamin D and without AMP, bad bacteria overgrow and create problems.

When VDR activity is low, there is increased production of inflammatory cytokines. Chemicals that hugely irritate anything they touch. This increased inflammatory cytokine production allows our immune system attacking cells to infiltrate the lining of our guts. The “mucosa”. Literally, our immune system attacking cells start to attack the lining of our own guts.

So, you are seeing that we do truely know so much about how vitamin D does its important work. If someone ever tries to tell you “Vitamin D isn’t important” or maybe “Vitamin D isn’t important so we don’t want to pay to have it tested”, you can now say “Oh No! Not only do we know it works, we even know how it works.”

So what else do we know about how it works? Oh Yes! We know so much more. There is still so much to share from this great article alone. All that will be contained in part 2 of this topic in the next blog post.

“Got a Revolution, got to Revolution.”  Jefferson Airplane


Dr. David Bilstrom
Autoimmune Functional Medicine Doctornatural treatment for autoimmune disease by Dr David Bilstrom Functional Medicine Doctor MD



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