Cirrhosis and vitamin D deficiency – what’s the story?
Nutrient deficiency has always been associated with some forms of illnesses and disorders. In a study conducted by Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, it is revealed that over 90% of cirrhosis patients have vitamin D deficiency. And vitamin D deficiency is shown to be associated with the worsening of liver functions.
How is low vitamin D level related to the progression of liver disease? In light of this phenomenon, should cirrhosis patients increase their vitamin D intake to improve their liver function?
The liver’s less-known responsibility – “Activation” of vitamin D
The tricky thing about vitamin D is that, it cannot be readily used by the body without proper metabolization and synthesis. Being the body’s master multitasker, the liver is responsible for synthesizing vitamin D for the body to use.
After vitamin D is ingested or produced by the body after exposure to the sun, it travels to the liver for it to be metabolized into a usable form.
It is not difficult to imagine that, when liver function deteriorates, as in the case of cirrhosis, the synthesis of vitamin D is affected to a large degree, leading to a drop of vitamin D in the body.
In other words, it is possible that even if cirrhosis patients have a normal intake of vitamin D daily, they still cannot absorb it because of the malfunctioning liver. However, up till today it still cannot be confirmed if vitamin D deficiency is a cause or an effect of liver cirrhosis.
Worsening of liver functions relates to vitamin D deficiency
Aside from the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, vitamin D deficiency in cirrhosis patients is shown to be associated with advanced stages of liver cancer, fibrosis progression, and poor prognosis, as pointed out by multiple research published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Because of vitamin D’s anti-inflammatory effects, vitamin D deficiency is also associated with systemic inflammation, meaning that patients are more prone to developing chronic diseases.
Importance of anti-inflammation and anti-fibrosis in cirrhosis
Multiple research has indicated that, what’s beneficial about vitamin D in liver cirrhosis is its high level of anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic properties.
In liver cirrhosis, continuous inflammation causes healthy tissues to become fibrotic, causing the widespread scarring in the liver. Anti-inflammatory properties can help the liver at the front line, preventing healthy liver tissues from becoming scarred. On the other hand, anti-fibrotic properties can help reverse the already damaged liver cells, allowing them to slowly repair and regenerate.
Should cirrhosis patients take more vitamin D then?
Despite the benefits of vitamin D, overtaking it might cause adverse effects. Most importantly, it is still unsure if it’s cirrhosis that causes vitamin D deficiency or the other way round. However, it is worthwhile to take note of the beneficial effects of anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic properties on the liver.
Cirrhosis patients may supplement their diet with a moderate amount of vitamin D, and at the same time, they should also consider alternatives that can help improve the liver inflammation level (ALT) and the degree of fibrosis. Together with healthy eating habits and a moderate amount of exercise, bringing liver function back to normal is achievable. Once liver function gradually improves, the ability to synthesize vitamin D should also recover.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6224127/, (Accessed Date: 2019-05-15)
- Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, https://www.cghjournal.org/article/S1542-3565(15)00587-X/abstract, (Accessed Date: 2019-05-15)
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5787673/, (Accessed Date: 2019-05-15)
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5946281/, (Accessed Date: 2019-05-15)
- * All research and clinical data should be used as reference purposes only, results may vary.