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Chronic Liver Disease and Vitamin D

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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.


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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.

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About the Author

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)®

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM is a long time advocate of integrating perspectives on health. With a Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience from the University of Rochester and a Master's degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Five Branches Institute, Nicole has been a licensed acupuncturist since 2000. She has gathered acupuncture licenses in the states of California and New York, is a certified specialist with the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, has earned diplomat status with the National Commission of Chinese and Oriental Medicine in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology and is a member of the Society for Integrative Oncology. In addition to her acupuncture practice that focuses on stress and pain relief, digestion, immunity and oncology, Nicole contributes to the integration of healthcare by writing articles for professional massage therapists and people living with liver disease.

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