Vitamin D shown to reduce depression scores in people suffering from ulcerative colitis – can it be a potential antidepressant?

Vitamin D isn’t just for bone growth and calcium absorption. According to a study in the Journal of Dietary Supplements, the “sunshine vitamin” can also improve the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) scores in people with ulcerative colitis.

BDI is a 21-item, self-report rating inventory, one of the most commonly used instruments for measuring the severity of depression. Lower total scores indicate less severe depressive symptoms.

Depression is prevalent in people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) like ulcerative colitis, and research shows that they are twice more likely to suffer from depression compared to their healthy peers. Many studies have shown an association between low levels of vitamin D in the blood and symptoms of depression, and some researchers have advised that vitamin D supplements may be beneficial for people with depression. (Related: Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Depression! How to Get More Vitamin D Naturally.)

For the study, a team of researchers from Golestan University of Medical Sciences and Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran evaluated the effect of vitamin D supplementation on BDI scores in people with ulcerative colitis.

To do this, the research team conducted a double-blind randomized controlled trial involving 90 people with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis. They gave the participants either a single dose of 300,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D3 or one milliliter (ml) of normal saline as placebo. Prior to the treatment and three months after the treatment, the research team measured the BDI scores and vitamin D3 levels of the participants.

Based on the results of the study, participants who received vitamin D had lower BDI scores compared to those who received the placebo. However, the researchers observed that vitamin D supplementation was more effective in lowering BDI scores in people who had normal or high vitamin D levels compared to those who are vitamin D deficient. This suggests that higher serum vitamin D levels may be needed for vitamin D to be effective against depression in people with ulcerative colitis.

With these findings, the research team concludes that supplementing 300,000 IU vitamin D3 in people with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis significantly improves their BDI scores after three months.

Symptoms and treatment of ulcerative colitis

It is important to know what exactly ulcerative colitis is to better manage its symptoms. Ulcerative colitis develops when the lining of the large intestine, rectum, or both becomes inflamed, producing small sores called ulcers. Ulcers may cause bleeding and discharge of mucus and pus. Typically, the inflammation occurs first in the rectum, then spreads upward which can affect the entire colon.

In addition to causing ulcers, the inflammation causes your bowel to move its contents quickly and empty more often than normal.

The severity of this condition varies and can change over time. Some of the common symptoms of ulcerative colitis include abdominal pain, bloody stools, diarrhea, fever, increased abdominal sounds, malnutrition, rectal pain, and weight loss. This disease affects people of all ages but is most common in people between 15 and 35 years old.

Many people with ulcerative colitis try natural remedies to manage their condition because most drugs used to treat this condition are unsafe and ineffective. Ulcerative colitis can be managed naturally by:

  • Eliminating the consumption of alcohol, dairy, meat, processed foods, high-carbohydrate foods, and sugar alcohols.
  • Eating more berries, spinach, bell pepper, and parsley.
  • Trying herbal remedies, such as psyllium seed, Boswellia, bromelain, probiotics, turmeric, or gingko biloba.

Lifestyle changes can also help prevent relapses and improve overall health and quality of life of people suffering from ulcerative colitis. Experts suggest people with ulcerative colitis to manage their stress through therapies, yoga, and meditation, and to practice a healthier lifestyle by being more physically active and quitting smoking.

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