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Vitamin D Could Relieve Certain Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease

Update Date: May 21, 2013 09:50 AM EDT

Crohn's disease encompasses a wide and diverse range of symptoms because it is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that afflicts any part of the gastrointestinal tract. Although there are multiple ways of treating Crohn's disease, patients in remission might still feel fatigue with a lower level of muscles strength. In order to improve one's quality of life, researchers wanted to find alternative ways of easing these symptoms. The team, headed by Tara Raftery, a research dietitian and doctoral candidate at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, discovered that taking vitamin D supplements could help with alleviating some of the symptoms experienced by patients in remission.

The research team recruited 27 Crohn's disease patients that were currently in remission. The patients were given either 2,000 international units (IUs) of vitamin D per day or a placebo vitamin for a total of three months. Before the experiment started, the team recorded the participants' handgrip strength, which is a measurement of muscle function, level of fatigue, quality of life and current vitamin D levels from the blood. After the span of three months, the researchers found that the group taking vitamin d supplements had improved bone grow and remodeling. These patients also experienced better muscle functions in both hands.

"[Extra vitamin D has been] associated with significantly less physical, emotional and general fatigue, greater quality of life and the ability to perform activities of daily living," Raftery said. "When levels of vitamin D peaked at 30 ng/mL (75 nmol/L) or more. Muscles function in both the dominant and non-dominant hands were significantly higher than in those who had levels less than 30 ng/mL."

Not only did muscle function improve, the group receiving the supplements reported experiencing an improved quality of life. The researchers measured this aspect by using a standard quality of life test. The group taking vitamin D scored 24 points higher than the group who received a placebo. Due to the success in this study, Raftery plans on expanding her sample size to 130 Crohn's patients and extending the time to one-year.

Since these findings are still new, the researchers do not recommend people to take this huge dosage of vitamin D on their own. According to the U.S. national Institutes of Health (NIH), daily dosage recommendation is 600 IUs. Vitamin D can be found in fatty fish, egg yolks, beef liver and milk, but is most commonly produced when the body is exposed to sunrays.

The findings will be presented at the Digestive Disease Week this weekend in Orlando, FL.

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