Wondering if you can take vitamin D and probiotics together? This post is for you. We’ve compiled the latest research on the health benefits of taking this combo. Plus, we explain exactly how it works to help you achieve higher vitamin D levels and better immune support. Read on…
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. Please discuss your health concerns with your care provider and consult them before taking any supplements to avoid disease and drug interactions.
Should Vitamin D and Probiotics Be Taken Together?
The short answer is yes. Taking vitamin D and probiotics together is usually a good idea. Unless you have a condition that is a contraindication for taking either vitamin D or probiotics, you can take the two together. As always, be sure to consult your doctor first.
Recent studies reveal that vitamin D and probiotics act in synergy. Their combined effects are more powerful than the effect of each active ingredient taken alone (Abboud et al., 2021).
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to poor bone health, weak immunity, inflammation, and many other health problems. We’re in need of new solutions to vitamin D deficiency, which is becoming a global health problem.
The current approaches to tackling vitamin D deficiency in people who can’t get enough natural sunlight include vitamin D supplementation, food fortification, and the use of probiotics (Gokhale & Bhaduri, 2019).
It works the other way around too: maintaining optimal vitamin D levels supports good intestinal health and gut microbiome diversity. On the other hand, an unhealthy gut microbiome or gut dysbiosis is a big risk factor for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), obesity, diabetes, asthma, and allergies (Akimbekov et al., 2020; Butel et al., 2018).
However, not all probiotics synergize with vitamin D. We go into the science of probiotics with the highest levels of evidence in the next section.
Probiotics and Vitamin D Work Better Together: Here’s How
1) Boost vitamin D levels
The only probiotic strain proven to increase vitamin D levels in clinical trials is Lactobacillus reuteri NCIMB 30242. In a Canadian study of 123 people, Lactobacillus reuteri NCIMB 30242 increased vitamin D3 blood levels by 25.5% compared to placebo (Jones et al., 2013).
2) Enhance vitamin D absorption and production
Scientists suspect that Lactobacillus reuteri NCIMB 30242 can increase (Jones et al., 2013):
- Vitamin D absorption by boosting lactic acid in the gut
- Vitamin D production by boosting 7-Dehydrocholesterol (7-DHC), a compound that the body uses to make the active form of vitamin D in the skin
A study published in the prestigious journal Nature reveals that prebiotic fiber may enhance this benefit. Using a model of the human gut microbiome, researchers discovered that short-chain fructooligosaccharide (scFOS) or inulin fiber can additionally increase 7-DHC by feeding good gut bacteria (Gokhale & Bhaduri, 2019).
Low 7-DHC is a crucial but overlooked factor that contributes to vitamin D deficiency. The elderly have about 75% lower skin 7-DHC levels, which massively reduces their vitamin D production. Other factors that lower 7-DHC include having darker skin (since melanin competes with 7-DHC) and post-burn scar tissue (gets 40% less 7-DHC) (Gokhale & Bhaduri, 2019).
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3) Increase Vitamin D Receptor (VDR) activity
Probiotics may increase the activity and expression of the vitamin D receptor (VDR), according to animal experiments (Yoon & Sun, 2011).
Vitamin D achieves its effects by binding to VDR, which is found in all tissues in the body. It’s possible for someone to have normal vitamin D levels but poor VDR activity. Poor VDR activity can trigger the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency (Bouillon et al., 2008; Bikle, 2020).
Increased VDR activity may help remedy microbial dysbiosis, reduce inflammation, improve the integrity of the gut barrier, and boost the production of beneficial short-chain fatty acids (Abboud et al., 2021).
Benefits of Vitamin D and Probiotics
1) Immune, Gut & Inflammation Support
The first way in which probiotics like Lactobacillus reuteri support immune health is by boosting vitamin D absorption, production, and overall levels in the body (Jones et al., 2013)
Vitamin D deficiency is common to metabolic, inflammatory, and immune disorders. According to a recent review of scientific studies, supplementing both vitamin D and probiotics improved various inflammatory markers. Higher doses had a stronger effect (Abboud et al., 2021).
By activating VDR, probiotics protect the gut from inflammation and bacterial infection. Normal vitamin D levels also support a healthy gut microbiome and protect the gut lining. This might be especially helpful in IBD and colorectal cancer, but proper clinical trials have yet to be carried out (Shang & Sun, 2017).
Plus, vitamin D and VDR strengthen the immune system. Meanwhile, VDR also helps control gut dysbiosis and protects people with low vitamin D from IBD symptoms (Shang & Sun, 2017).
Probiotics supplementation—with Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species—helps the gut get rid of harmful bacteria and balances the immune response in cells that line the gut lining (Shang & Sun, 2017).
Probiotics may also increase Treg cells, which are in charge of immune balance in the body. Treg immune cells can reduce both autoimmunity and inflammation (Shang & Sun, 2017).
2) Mental Health & Hormonal Balance
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common gynecological health issue in premenopausal women. It’s a complex syndrome that’s been linked with chronic inflammation, oxidative damage, and suboptimal vitamin D levels (Ostadmohammad et al, 2019).
In a placebo-controlled clinical trial of 60 women with PCOS, vitamin D and probiotics co-supplementation over 12 weeks improved (Ostadmohammad et al, 2019):
- Mental health (mood, anxiety, stress)
- Hormonal balance (serum total testosterone and hirsutism)
- Inflammatory markers (C-reactive protein levels)
- Oxidative stress parameters (total antioxidant capacity, malondialdehyde levels, and total glutathione), and
- General health
The results are promising, and more high-quality clinical trials are needed.
Vitamin D plays many roles in the brain. It protects brain cells, supports brain development, and balances neuroimmunity. It increases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that activates your centers for motivation and reward (Abboud et al., 2021).
In parallel, gut bacteria can also impact the production of neurotransmitters. They boost serotonin, known as the “happiness” neurotransmitter, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which helps you relax and de-stress (Abboud et al., 2021).
So, the combined effects of vitamin D and probiotics may have a more powerful effect on mental health than each compound alone.
3) Metabolic Health & Lipid Levels
Limited evidence suggests that taking vitamin D and probiotics together may improve antioxidant status and blood lipid levels. This combo might also help increase insulin sensitivity and help reverse insulin resistance, reducing the risk of diabetes and clogged arteries. These findings are mostly limited to animal experiments (Abboud et al., 2021).
4) Probiotics with Vitamin D for Infants
Some strains of probiotics have been researched in babies. Clinically studied strains include Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Bifidobacterium lactis Bb-12 for diarrhea, Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 for colic, among others (Martinelli et al., 2020).
These probiotics are commonly combined into drops with vitamin D since the current guidelines state that breastfed newborns need supplemental vitamin D to maintain healthy levels (CDC).
Vitamin D drops (with or without probiotics) are recommended to fully or partially breastfed infants 0–12 months of age. Consult a pediatrician before use.
There are many benefits to taking probiotics together with vitamin D. Probiotics and vitamin D act in synergy to support your gut, immune system, and mental health. More clinical trials are needed, but most people may benefit from this combo for general well-being.
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