Vitamin D Receptors: Understanding Gut Function

If you’ve been staying in the know about the latest medical research, you’ve likely heard something about the importance of the balance of gut flora and its connection with infections and disease, particularly inflammatory bowel diseases, which makes it a vital subject of medical research. The latest study, published in the American Journal of Pathology shows that the vitamin D receptor is a “key player” in the functioning of gut flora.

We have a largely mutually beneficial relationship with our gut’s flora, which is supposed to help keep “bad” bacteria in check, aid in digestion, and boost the immune system. Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York have been exploring the workings of gut flora and how they help keep “bad” bacteria in check. According to the study’s leading researcher, Jun Sun, “Our work suggests one possible mechanism, by working through the vitamin D receptor — a molecule that binds with vitamin D and controls a number of functions — a sensor and regulator for the majority of functions of vitamin D.”

In the study, Sun, an assistant professor in the Gastroenterology and Hepatology Division of the Department of Medicine, and her colleagues looked at the role of vitamin D receptors in the colons of mice and found that pathogenic microbial strains of Salmonella were more destructive in mice without vitamin D receptors. These mice had more inflammatory molecules, lost weight faster, and their risk of death was higher than in other mice. The published study offers that the vitamin D receptor plays a key role in fighting bad bacteria “by binding the inflammatory molecule NF-Kappa B and keeping it from activating other inflammatory molecules,” according to an article on the website of United Press International (UPI).

Sun’s research is helping to clarify exactly how these gut microbes function in order to gain an understanding of disease prevention, which may be caused by inflammatory responses in the body affected by harmful bacterial invaders. This established link between vitamin D and its receptor with various diseases is a welcome clarification in this area, although much more research will be necessary.

Sun, who specializes in how the body’s bacteria behave and how their interactions contribute to disease, is showing how “bacteria often found in the human intestine affect molecular signals known to contribute to inflammatory response and cell growth,” according to the University of Rochester Medical Center’s website. This will help scientists investigating how bacteria are involved in developing inflammatory bowel diseases.

In my work as an author, researcher, and health advocate, I stress the importance of gut flora in my research as well as in my own health regimen, taking supplements such as probiotics and prebiotics to optimize the balance of gut flora. As research continues regarding the exact workings of gut flora and disease prevention, I recommend that in the meantime you consult with a qualified health care provider about creating a healthy microbial balance in your digestive tract.

Tina Turbin



United Press International: Key to Gut Functioning


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I'm a cookbook-collecting, recipe-developing paleo junkie, and I live in the kitchen. I'm hooked on farmers' markets, traveling, eating healthy, and hiking until my legs scream at me. There's nothing better than hanging out with family and good friends. I have fun and sleeping is just plain boring. Read more About Tina Turbin.

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