Malnutrition is a common side effect of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). The damage Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, and other bowel diseases inflict upon the intestinal tract makes it nearly impossible for proper absorption of essential vitamins and minerals the human body requires to thrive.
More than a million people are believed to suffer from IBD in the United States alone, yet it is still not well understood and treatment options are limited. This, combined with the prevalence and severity of the disease, has led it to be the subject of a great deal of advanced clinical research.
The Connection Between IBD and Bone Loss
One study, “Vitamin D Deficiency and Abnormal DEXA scans in Inflammatory Bowel Disease Patients,” was presented at the 75th Annual Scientific meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology . The study expands upon previous investigations which have shown vitamin D deficiency to be common among IBD patients. This knowledge led researchers to analyze the connection between bowel disease and other conditions, such as osteoporosis and osteopenia, which typically stem from poor vitamin D uptake.
Over a period of two years, the research team measured the bone density of 161 documented IBD patients, ranging from ages 10 to 70 years old. They found that almost a quarter of all patients showed sufficient enough loss of bone density to qualify for a diagnosis of either osteoporosis or osteopenia. Nearly one-half of those patients with signs of bone loss were less than 50 years old.
Vitamin D deficiency was found to be four times more common in patients who suffered from Crohn’s disease than other forms of IBD. This is likely due to the especially harsh way in which Crohn’s disease impacts the small intestines, where the bulk of dietary nutrients (including vitamin D) are normally absorbed. Colitis, while equally painful and difficult to treat, targets only the colon or large intestine, which has a less significant role in vitamin D uptake.
Researchers found that widespread vitamin D deficiency and bone loss were equally common among IBD patients regardless of factors such as age, gender, or the use of corticosteroid medications, which were previously thought to be key contributors. This strongly suggests that the particular type of bowel disease a given patient suffers from is the single greatest indicator of potential risk.
The Importance of Getting Enough Vitamin D
While additional investigation is still needed to fully understand the connection between IBD, vitamin deficiency, and osteoporosis, these findings give reason to consider the use of dietary supplementation to ensure adequate levels of essential nutrients are available, especially in cases where intestinal damage may make it difficult to extract and absorb sufficient amounts of vitamin D from food sources.
- American College of Gastroenterology. Vitamin D deficiency puts inflammatory bowel disease patients at greater risk of osteoporosis, study finds. ScienceDaily. 18 Oct. 2010.