What you need to know about COVID-19 if you have IBD
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Many with Crohn's disease are deficient in this vitamin that helps the immune system
Most Americans do all they can to avoid getting COVID-19, wearing masks, washing their hands frequently, and maintaining their social distance, but newly published studies suggest that taking vitamin D can also help.
We've known for a long time that vitamin D is important in maintaining our bone health, but evidence has been pointing to vitamin D's role in building the immune system, far more than "the so-called immune boosting supplements, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci.
The evidence that vitamin D works
A study looked at the records of 489 adults seen at the University of Chicago, who had vitamin D blood levels done within the year before they were tested for the COVID-19 virus. Those that had low levels of vitamin D were almost twice as likely (22% compared to 11%) to test positive for the virus as those who had healthy Vitamin D levels.
An evaluation of 235 hospitalized patients with the virus who had vitamin D blood levels done at the time. While there was no difference in how many were admitted to the ICU, other blood tests for inflammation followed the vitamin D levels. And while none of the patients under 40 died, among those over that age, the odds of dying increased 54% in those with vitamin D deficiency.
The 2 studies used different levels of vitamin D to say someone was deficient. The second study used a level that was 50% higher (30 instead of 20 ng/ml). They also looked at even higher levels and found that those who had levels over 40 ng/ml had even fewer deaths.
There's a problem: Americans are often low in Vitamin D, and those with Crohn's are even worse
An estimated 35% of adults in the United States are vitamin D deficient, according to a 2014 NIH sponsored study. That rises to over 60% in the elderly. And those percentages are thought to be higher in those who have Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis.
Unfortunately, most people don't know whether they have vitamin D deficiency until they develop a broken bone or weak ones, called osteoporosis. But there is a simple blood test, 25 (OH) Vitamin D, that can tell whether someone has enough vitamin D. A level of 30 ng / ml indicates that person has enough vitamin D. Lower levels mean more vitamin is needed.
But getting enough can be difficult, especially in the winter, especially in the north, and especially for those with dark skin, because the sun can't do its magic of creating vitamin D in the skin. Fatty fish is also a good source of vitamin D, and dairy products along with some dairy substitutes have modest amounts. Those who don't get enough from the sun, fish or dairy usually need to take vitamin D supplements.
This article, as well as all others, was reviewed and edited by a member of our Medical Advisory Board.
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