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Chronic Liver Disease and Vitamin D

Find out why everyone with chronic liver disease should be aware of their vulnerability to Vitamin D deficiency.

Many people are aware that Vitamin D is necessary for bone health and that it has something to do with sunshine, but few know about its relationship with the liver. A fat-soluble vitamin, Vitamin D relies on the liver for conversion to its active form. According to several clinical reports and human trials, individuals with chronic liver disease are especially prone to Vitamin D deficiency.

About Vitamin D
Unlike any other vitamin, Vitamin D is actually a pre-hormone. The liver and kidney help convert Vitamin D to its active hormone form, calcitriol. Playing a crucial role in the growth and maintenance of strong, healthy bones, Vitamin D is needed for the body’s absorption of calcium. Without sufficient Vitamin D, the bones are depleted of calcium, an imbalance that weakens the bones and increases the risk of bone fractures. Besides the role Vitamin D plays in bone development and maintenance, it’s also involved in the nervous, immune and reproductive systems.

Vitamin D is supplied to the body in three ways:

1.    Food – sources of Vitamin D-rich food include fish, eggs, fortified milk and cod liver oil.

2.    Sun – Vitamin D is produced in the body after exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun.

3.    Supplements – Most people need to supplement with 200 to 2,000 international units (IU) of Vitamin D a day.

There are various types of health issues that may lead to a Vitamin D deficiency. A few are described below:

•    Advancing Age – As a person ages, his or her skin’s ability to absorb the sun’s radiation declines.

•    Mal-absorption – Absorption problems associated with a gastrointestinal insufficiency (like irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease or Crohn’s disease) prevents consumed forms of Vitamin D from entering the bloodstream.

•    Chronic Liver Disease – Perhaps related to the functional inability to convert Vitamin D to calcitriol or the physical inability to store Vitamin D, those with chronic liver disease are especially prone to Vitamin D deficiency.

Liver Disease and Vitamin D Deficiency
According to an article published in the September 2010 edition of the journal Digestive Diseases and Science, people with liver disease are susceptible to Vitamin D deficiency. In the study titled “Prevalence of Vitamin D Deficiency in Chronic Liver Disease,” researchers from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, TN examined over 100 patients with chronic liver disease.

While the Tennessee study participants had either Hepatitis C and cirrhosis, Hepatitis C without cirrhosis or cirrhosis from a different cause, the researchers found that 92 percent had a Vitamin D deficiency. “Since deficiency is common among these patients, Vitamin D replacement may hopefully prevent osteoporosis and other bone complications related to end stage liver disease,” said lead researcher Dr. Satheesh P. Nair.

An increasing number of physicians are becoming aware of the possibility that their patients with chronic liver disease are deficient in Vitamin D and are ordering blood tests to assess it. Along with the guidance of a knowledgeable doctor, people with liver disease can find out if they are getting enough of this crucial vitamin and, if not, they can easily correct it with increasing their sun exposure and/or supplementing with Vitamin D.

References:

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2005/02/02/vitamin-d-production.aspx, The Secret of Vitamin D Production, John Cannell, MD, Retrieved January 2, 2011, Dr. Joseph Mercola, 2011.

http://www.hcvadvocate.org/news/newsLetter/2011/advocate0111.html#2, Healthwise: Vitamin D and the Liver, Lucinda K. Porter, RN, Retrieved January 1, 2011, Hepatitis C Support Project, 2011.

http://www.hepatitis-central.com/mt/archives/2008/10/hepatitis_c_and_11.html, Caution: Hepatitis C and Vitamin D Deficiency, Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., Retrieved January 2, 2011, Natural Wellness, 2011.

http://www.hepatitis-central.com/mt/archives/2009/12/could_vitamin_d.html, Could Vitamin D Be the Missing Ingredient in HCV Therapy?, Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., Retrieved January 2, 2011, Natural Wellness, 2011.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081006092645.htm, Vitamin D Deficiency Common In Patients With IBD, Chronic Liver Disease, Retrieved January 1, 2011, ScienceDaily, 2011.

  • teri

    Coud specialists find a correlation between the level of vit D and the hcv virology? In other words could the level of vit D be a leading indicator to get a better snapshot in that disease? Knowing that there is no a truly method to ascertain the level of virus activity.

  • pat

    i have chronic hep c & and i am on pegisis treatment, & would like to know if i can take milk thistle?

    • Lawrence

      Hello Sonia Maria, I also went through the Pegasys/Ribavarin chemotherapy in 2002. It was recommended to me by a lot of internet research, and speaking with many doctors, that I should be on a Milk Thistle regimen as well. If you have any questions, feel free to ask! Larry

      • Lawrence

        Please excuse me. I think I replied to the wrong asker!

    • Lawrence

      Hello Pat, I also went through the Pegasys/Ribavarin chemotherapy in 2002. It was recommended to me by a lot of internet research, and speaking with many doctors, that I should be on a Milk Thistle regimen as well. If you have any questions, feel free to ask! Larry

    • Thomas Miklos

      I encountered serious side effects with milk thistle.
      Any active product can have undesirable effects.
      By the way, Desmodium Adcendens is much used in France, recommended by doctors and pharmacists.

  • Louie Lewis

    I am hcv+,genotype 2 for 3 1/2 decades now. treatment is optional. my doctor a resident back then at the va medical center told me that he made out a prescription for vit.d and that was in 2009,cause it was found lacking in my lab work. the medical community knew there was a connection back then at least in 2009.

  • http://Google Linda hatchett

    I have hcv and my head doctor ran some blood
    Work and she is the only doctor that made me
    Aware of this. Not my medical doctor.

  • mike

    i have hepc with ccirosis and i need to see if anyone could help me with info on which suppliments are goodfor me

    • greg

      Mike here is a list of supplements I’ve been taking for about a year with fantastic results!
      Lecithin 1200 mg x 2
      Vit C (rose hips) 1000 mg x 3
      Flaxseed oil 1200 mg x 3
      Super B complex x 2
      Milk thistle extract 175 mg x 2
      Beta-carotene 25,000 iu x 2
      D3 2,000 iu x 2
      Selenium 200mcg x 1
      Vitamin E (d-alpha) 400 iu x 3
      Good quality multi-vitiman (in my case 50+)
      I took Iron for awhile to address anemia, but quit once blood levels were adequate since Iron is hard on the liver. Alot of these are good anti-oxidants and fight free radicals,and help keep the liver soft.
      I’m currently on interferon therapy and so glad I’ve done the research to promote my health. Good luck and keep a positive outlook!

    • Gill

      Hi Mike – Greg has left you a great list of supplements but I just wanted to add Vit K. My naturopath has prescribed it as my vit D levels were horribly low – no, none of the Dr’s I have seen bothered to check. Vit K2 and D need each other to be effective. Since being on K2 and D I have stopped bruising like a peach and no longer have aneamia symptoms !!

  • http://www.normasplace.biz Norma

    I have been taking Isotonix Vit D w K2 for more than 1 year with a liver disease and see improvement in my blood work. I also take many other Isotonix and supplements with amazing results

  • http://www.blogdasboasnovas.blogspot.com sonia maria

    Sou portadora de cirrose hepática , dou informações as pessoas sobre artigos cientifico de interesse aos portadores e outras doenças hepáticas. Assunto pouco esclarecido nos consultórios, Obrigada. Estarei enviando para contato

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