Interconnection between Vitamin D and Gut Health
Vitamin D is a significant influencer in gut health, playing a crucial role in permeability and motility. It improves intestinal barrier function by strengthening tight junctions and the mucosal layer.
Furthermore, Vitamin D maintains a healthy intestinal microbiota profile, partly by initiating antimicrobial peptide production through Paneth cells. These specialized secretory epithelial cells, located in the small intestinal crypts of Lieberkühn, produce dense granules containing an abundance of antimicrobial peptides and immunomodulating proteins. These components regulate the composition of the intestinal flora.
Vitamin D deficiency may contribute to autoimmunity through its effects on intestinal barrier function, microbiome composition, and/or direct effects on immune responses.
After years of research, we now know that raising vitamin D to therapeutic levels can profoundly impact gut health. A study on 80 women with vitamin D deficiency but otherwise healthy found that vitamin D supplementation significantly increased microbiome diversity. Increased microbial diversity in the gut may improve the inflammatory response and regulate the immune system. Vitamin D supplementation has also been shown to improve outcomes in inflammatory bowel disease, particularly reducing inflammation in Crohn’s disease patients. Vitamin D has been shown to reduce intestinal permeability and modify the immune response in the gut, encouraging the healing of the gut lining.
While increasing vitamin D levels can help improve gut health, an already inflamed and imbalanced gut is predisposed to absorb less vitamin D. When the gut lining is leaky or injured, it is much harder to absorb many nutrients, including vitamin D.
Pathogen overgrowth, such as candida and parasites, can also steal nutrients from our cells, impairing vitamin D absorption. Pathogens target Vitamin D receptor signaling mechanisms by producing lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and proteins that bind and inactivate the Vitamin D receptor (VDR).
Without appropriate levels of stomach acid, bile, and digestive enzymes, the body will have trouble absorbing this fat-soluble vitamin. Bile, as a fat emulsifier, is especially critical to break it down.
Gut health's influence on Vitamin D absorption is one reason why some people have a more difficult time absorbing Vitamin D than others. Additionally, Vitamin D receptors (VDR) can be downregulated by genetic polymorphisms and environmental factors like aging, stress, and toxins.
Regularly monitoring your Vitamin D levels is advisable. Deficiencies of vitamin D can be tracked relatively accurately with a blood test. You can order a home test from this link. Use promo code Smila for a discount. However, the cutoff values most labs use are too low. They will say your vitamin D levels are 'good' because they are higher than 20 or 30 ng/ml. But studies show that ideally, vitamin D levels should be much higher for optimal health, like 50 ng/ml or even 90 to 150 ng/ml.
While monitoring Vitamin D levels can be common for you, I also recommend a Mucosal Barrier Assessment to identify any possible Intestinal Permeability and a Gastrointestinal Map - Stool Pathogen Screening to assess the balance of Microorganisms. Feel free to Book a Consultation to learn more.
Getting Vitamin D from the Sun
You might know that Vitamin D is naturally found in seafood sources like salmon, oysters, tuna, shrimp, and sardines. You can also find vitamin D in food sources such as egg yolks, mushrooms, and organ meats.
However, vitamin D does not necessarily need to be ingested to affect the gut environment. Our best natural source of vitamin D is not ingested at all; it comes from sunlight. Well, we don’t exactly get it from the sun itself: when sunlight hits our skin, cholesterol molecules absorb the UVB rays and kick off a conversion process that turns inactive D2 into active vitamin D3.
Research has shown that vitamin D produced from sunlight in our skin lasts 2-3 times longer in circulation than vitamin D ingested orally. Plus, 100% of vitamin D produced in the skin is bound to the vitamin D binding protein and used in our cells. When ingested orally, only 60% is bound to the protein, so vitamin D absorbed through the skin via sunlight is much more efficient.
This is also why constantly using sunscreen can lower your vitamin D synthesis and absorption from sunlight. Since sunscreen blocks UVB rays, the conversion process from D2 to D3 cannot take place. An SPF 30 sunscreen reduces the skin’s ability to produce active vitamin D by 95-98%!
While UV light has been linked to premature aging and skin cancer, avoiding sunlight as often as we do in our society may be much more harmful.
A study on 30,000 Swedish women found that those who avoided the sun had a 2x increased risk of all-cause mortality versus those who were exposed to sunlight regularly. That’s right: their risk of death from all causes was doubled. So, we might all be better off getting a little more sun exposure in our lives, as long as we’re not getting sunburns every day.
Supplementation with Vitamin D
Although our main pathway for vitamin D synthesis is via sunlight on the skin, additional supplementation with Vitamin D may be needed.
My recommendation for a Vitamin D3 source is the EMULSIFIED LIQUID VITAMIN D3 + K2 MK7 Liposomal Supplement by Quicksilver Scientific. Use promo code SMILA for a discount. D3 + K2 Liposomal Supplement by Quicksilver Scientific contains 62.5 mcg of D3, equivalent to 2,500 IU. It's packaged in a glass bottle and equipped with a convenient pump. Additionally, it consists of vitamin K in the highly bioavailable form of K2 MK7. A perfect combination and high quality.
You might have seen by now that many vitamin D supplements are often paired with vitamin K, particularly K2. These two powerhouse vitamins are paired together in supplementation because they are both fat-soluble vitamins and are integral to proper calcium absorption. Studies have linked vitamin D and K supplementation with increased bone mass density in postmenopausal women. A connection has also been made between D and K supplementation and improved glucose metabolism.
Supplements that Help Improve Vitamin D Absorption
No nutrient in the body works alone. Vitamin D can be optimized by other nutrients and is often required to combine with other vitamins and minerals to properly support our cells. Here are some of the key partners that improve vitamin D absorption and use in the body.
Magnesium: Magnesium and vitamin D are closely related. Both are used by every organ in the body, and their deficiency can lead to serious health concerns. Unfortunately, they are so closely interdependent that taking high doses of vitamin D can actually lower magnesium. So, for the optimal use of both nutrients, taking them together is beneficial. The RDA values for vitamin D and magnesium are 600 IUs of vitamin D daily and between 310mg and 420mg per day of magnesium depending on your age and gender. However, the RDA values indicate the level of a nutrient needed to simply maintain life, not thrive, especially in our world of high stress and toxins. Your needs are likely to be much higher, particularly if you have a chronic health condition or are pregnant.
Zinc: Appropriate zinc levels are critical for stomach acid and GI homeostasis. Improving zinc levels may therefore improve digestion, which is critical for absorption of any nutrient, including dietary vitamin D absorption. It’s especially relevant for vitamin D and the fat-soluble vitamins, since unlike water-soluble vitamins, they are not as easily absorbed.
Butyrate: Vitamin D and butyrate have a somewhat cyclical relationship. Let’s start with butyrate. Butyrate is a powerful postbiotic metabolite that promotes the health of the colon cells (colonocytes) as well as microbiome and immune health. It has also been shown to have healing capabilities for IBD patients, lowering inflammation in the GI system. A study of 567 men showed that those with higher levels of the active form of vitamin D also had higher levels of butyrate in their colons. In turn, higher levels of butyrate mean a healthier gut, healthier colonocytes, and a more robust microbiome, which encourages better dietary vitamin D absorption.
If you’re taking a vitamin D supplement but seeing little improvement in your levels or symptoms, you may want to consider adding a synergistic component:
Calcium/Magnesium Butyrate: to help with absorption. You can get a 15% discount via my link or use promo code SMILA at the checkout.
Magnesium: An excellent source of magnesium is Ionic Elements by Purium. Purium’s Ionic Elements is a unique combination of fulvic acid and ocean trace minerals. Using a rare source of humic and fulvic base, this proprietary (acid-free) refining method accelerates the concentration and purity of the fulvic acid, leaving a fresh, clean taste. I recommend adding Ionic Elements to your Power Shake by Purium, which also contains other essential nutrients and trace elements such as Magnesium, Manganese, Iron, Iodine, Zinc, Selenium, and Copper.
Zinc: ZinC-ADE by Purium contains 11 mg of zinc, complemented by a smaller amount in your Power Shake (2.2 mg), preventing overdose concerns. When taking zinc supplements, it becomes crucial to add a sufficient dose of Copper, as zinc inhibits copper absorption, potentially leading to a copper deficit. The recommended daily intake is 2 mg of copper. Including Ionic Elements by Purium to your Power Shake by Purium ensures healthy copper levels.
Sending Optimal Health & Ultimate Wellness,
Julia Smila, FDN Practitioner & Pranic Healer