The Connection Between Low Vitamin D and Colorectal Cancer: Boosting Your Levels for Prevention

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In a post a few weeks ago, we highlighted the new guidance on colorectal cancer screening from the American Cancer Society. In May 2018, the American Cancer Society started recommending that people start their annual screenings at age 45 instead of age 50, in response to the rising rates of colorectal cancer among younger adults. This recommendation change suggests that it’s never too early to start taking preventive measures to lower your risk of colorectal cancer. Now, scientists are out with a new study that highlights a possible strategy–boosting your intake of vitamin D.


In this groundbreaking study, which was published by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in June 2018, a group of researchers from around the world collaborated to pool their data related to vitamin D levels and colorectal cancer risk. In total, they analyzed blood samples from 17 patient cohorts, which consisted of over 5,700 colorectal cancer patients and over 7,100 healthy controls. The researchers found that people with vitamin D deficiency had a 30 percent higher risk of colorectal cancer, while people who had sufficient levels of vitamin D had a 22 percent lower risk of the disease. These figures were consistent for patients around the world, regardless of geographic region, and they even held true when the researchers controlled for for age, body mass index, physical activity level, and other common risk factors for colorectal cancer.


What do these findings mean for you? As usual, the scientists are hesitant to make clinical recommendations based on the preliminary findings, but the data do suggest that boosting your vitamin D levels–and, even more importantly, avoiding vitamin D deficiency–may be an effective way to lower your risk of colorectal cancer. You can have your blood tested to find out if you are deficient in vitamin D, but even if you’re not, it’s important to make sure you are getting enough of this key nutrient so that your levels stay within a healthy range. Read on for some ideas that can help you achieve this goal.


Adding More Vitamin D to Your Diet


There are two ways to increase the amount of vitamin D in your diet: by eating more natural sources and by eating more fortified sources. Unfortunately, there are only a few foods that are naturally high in vitamin D: mostly fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, sardines, trout, mackerel, and swordfish. You can also get smaller (but still substantial) amounts of vitamin D from beef liver, egg yolks, cheese, and certain types of mushrooms.


When it comes to boosting your daily dietary intake of vitamin D, it’s a lot easier to get it from fortified foods. Most nutrition experts say that it’s better to get your vitamin D from natural sources, but fortified foods are a more convenient alternative. You’ll find that most dairy products, like milk and yogurt, are fortified with vitamin D. Also, many companies that make dairy alternatives, like soy milk and almond milk, are now fortifying their products with vitamin D as well. Other commonly fortified foods include breakfast cereal, nutrition bars, and orange juice. In short, with fortified foods, you can make a significant dent in your daily goals for vitamin D intake, just by getting a good breakfast!


Taking a Vitamin D Supplement


Because there are so few food sources that are naturally high in vitamin D, you may want to consider adding a vitamin D supplement to your diet. This is the easiest way to boost your levels of vitamin D, especially if you’re a vegetarian, lactose intolerant, or not fond of eating fish. Although it’s most common for people to start a vitamin D supplement after they find out their levels are low, these supplements are generally considered to be safe for anyone who is concerned about getting enough vitamin D from their diet alone. Conveniently, you can find vitamin D in both capsule form and liquid form. Both of these supplements make it easy to boost your vitamin D level without having to interrupt your busy lifestyle or completely revamp your diet.  


Get Outside and Enjoy the Sun


Diet isn’t the only way to get vitamin D. When your skin is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, it can make large amounts of vitamin D. There’s no shortage of Atlanta sun in the summer, so you can boost your levels just by walking around outside. Of course, you should also make sure you’re wearing sunscreen (since too much sun exposure can lead to skin cancer), and that your staying hydrated, especially during the heat of the day. Exercising outside can be a great way to get vitamin D, but when you do, it’s best to do it at times of the day (and year!) when the outdoor temperature is relatively cool. Ultimately, as with all your wellness-related endeavors, you have to strike a healthy balance!

At Atlanta Chiropractic and Wellness, we offer vitamin D supplements in both liquid and capsule form, and our chiropractors can offer nutritional counseling that can help you increase the levels of the nutrient in your diet. Contact us today for more information!

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