To follow on from a previous post, it has been shown that a wide variety of medications, including anti-fungal medications, anti-convulsants, glucocorticoids, medications to treat Aids/HIV, and now cancer drugs have been added to this list of drugs adversely impacting Vitamin D levels. Research is now coming to light that chemotherapeutic drugs can ‘enhance the breakdown of Vitamin D and lead to low levels‘!!

To put Vitamin D in perspective, vitamin D receptors are found throughout the body where vitamin D seeks out and binds to these receptors.  Vitamin D is believed to contribute to the regulation of insulin signalling, the response of macrophages to antigens as well as control of cell proliferation. The most important thing to take away from all this is that every living tissue in the body requires Vitamin D for proper cellular function.  Therefore, should the active form of Vitamin D drop to low levels, then these important functions are impaired, which can go undetected for many years, unless regular diagnostic testing is performed.

‘Research on maintaining vitamin D levels during chemotherapy treatment is still in early stages. Doctors at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute tested 2000 IU/day of supplemental vitamin D given to their colon cancer patients in a randomized trial. The average level of vitamin D for all patients at the start of the trial was 17.5 ng/ml. After six months of supplementation, this rose to a healthy 37.5 mg/ml for non-chemotherapy patients, but to only 29 mg/ml for patients on chemo, which is still insufficient. A similar trial was run with breast cancer patients, using low dose (1000 IU/day) or high dose (50,000 IU once per week). Patients started the trial with an average of 27.5 mg/ml. On the low dose, patients’ levels increased by only 9.4 mg/ml. However, the high dose increased patients’ vitamin D by 24.3 ng/ml, which brought their levels into a healthy range. These trials confirmed that chemotherapy may reduce a patient’s ability to utilize supplemental vitamin D, requiring them to take much higher doses than normal to achieve sufficiency.’

How can vitamin D levels be maintained during chemotherapy?

What supplements you take is as important as how you take them, as Vitamin D is a ‘fat soluble’ nutrient and therefore should always be taken with a meal that contains oil or fat, to aid the uptake and absorption of this essential vitamin. The absorption of nutrients involves at least three steps: any supplement must first be digested, then assimilated, and, finally, utilized.  Increasing bio-availability may require the manipulation of one or more of these factors. Studies have shown that when taken on an empty stomach versus with a meal containing fat, there was an average of 32% more vitamin D absorption in the fat-containing meal. This ranged from 11%-52%. Even an 11% reduction is significant and can impact your vitamin level. A recent study instructed people to take their supplement with their largest meal (typically the one with the most fat), and in three months, their blood levels went up an average of 56.7%.

There are many supplements on the market, therefore the aim is to make sure you source the best ‘bio available‘ supplement to ensure effective uptake into the cells.  This is why there is a need to consult with a qualified ‘Naturopath‘ who will be able to recommend and prescribe the best supplements available for your individual circumstances, plus provide information on a holistic treatment plan, request any necessary testing and walk along side you on your journey to good health.

There are a number of ways to increase absorption of Vitamin D, which include the most obvious natural source being sunlight, which is why this vitamin is often referred to as the ‘sunshine vitamin‘.  Supplements come in many forms, including: ‘Lyposomal’, meaning that this form of supplement is more ‘bio available‘ and therefore more effectively assimilated into the body.  Sprays are another form, where it is readily absorbed through mucosal tissue in the mouth, bypassing gastric absorption.  Then there are also liquid forms also available.

Deciphering all of this information, to find the best supplement for you, can be extremely complex and therefore once again highlights the need for professional advice, ensuring no time is wasted experimenting, when the need may be ‘RIGHT NOW’!!

Researchers of a 2009 study outline the need of careful monitoring of Vitamin D levels, before, during and post chemotherapeutic treatment, which sums the findings up under this heading:

“Chemotherapy is linked to severe vitamin D deficiency in patients with colorectal cancer”

This study concludes that:

“Chemotherapy is associated with a significant increase in the risk of severe vitamin D deficiency. Patients with colorectal cancer, especially those receiving chemotherapy, should be considered for aggressive vitamin D replacement strategies”

Chemotherapy drugs are linked to severe vitamin D deficiency

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