Role of Vitamin D in the Natural History of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

J Crohns Colitis. 2018 May 25;12(6):742-752. doi: 10.1093/ecco-jcc/jjy025.


Inflammatory bowel disease [IBD], including ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, is a chronic and unpredictable condition characterised by alternating periods of remission interspersed with relapses. In recent years, accumulating support for an immunomodulating effect of vitamin D on both the innate and the adaptive immune systems has been presented. Through the vitamin D receptor, the active form of vitamin D, 1,25[OH]2D, induces antimicrobial peptide secretion, decreases dendritic cell activity, and promotes Th2 and regulatory T cell development and activity. In addition, vitamin D promotes an increased ratio of anti-inflammatory cytokines to pro-inflammatory cytokines. Studies in IBD point to a role for vitamin D in ameliorating disease outcome. Suboptimal circulating levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D are common in IBD and appear to be associated with an increased risk of flares, IBD-related hospitalisations and surgeries, an inadequate response to tumour necrosis factor [TNF] inhibitors, a deterioration in quality of life, and low bone mineral density. With only few available randomised double-blind, placebo-controlled studies investigating therapeutic effects of vitamin D related to IBD, further research is necessary to determine the true therapeutic potential of vitamin D, as well as to define its optimal range in serum to achieve and maintain quiescence of disease. This review aims to summarise the latest knowledge on the extraskeletal effects of vitamin D in IBD, and outlines the potential deleterious consequences of vitamin D deficiency in this patient cohort.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity*
  • Biological Products / therapeutic use
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / complications
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / immunology
  • Vitamin D / analogs & derivatives
  • Vitamin D / blood
  • Vitamin D / physiology*
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / complications
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / drug therapy*


  • Biological Products
  • Receptors, Calcitriol
  • Vitamin D
  • 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D
  • 25-hydroxyvitamin D