Why do people with IBD get vitamin and mineral deficiencies?
There are various reasons why you may suffer from deficiencies. The most common reasons include:
Restricted diet - many people with IBD struggle to eat a ‘normal’ diet and therefore may not be getting the vitamins and minerals they need from their food
Damaged intestinal tract - absorption of most vitamins and minerals takes place in your stomach and/or intestines. However, if you have IBD these areas of your intestinal tract can be damaged by inflammation, fistulas or strictures then absorption can be difficult. This is especially the case if you have Crohn’s disease in your small intestine as many vitamins and minerals are absorbed in this area
Surgery - similarly if you have had sections of your large or small intestines removed you can have difficulties absorbing vitamins and minerals
Bleeding in intestinal tract - if you are losing blood in your intestines (which may present as bloody stools) then you may be losing vitamins and minerals such as iron
Medications - taking some medications can increase your chances of becoming deficient in some vitamins and minerals
Diarrhoea - if you have chronic diarrhoea then you may lose essential vitamins and minerals in the diarrhoea
It has been found that people with IBD who have mild disease, or are in remission, can suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
What are the symptoms of vitamin and mineral deficiencies?
The symptoms of vitamin and mineral deficiencies are varying - you may get no symptoms at all or very severe. The symptoms you get will depend on which vitamin/mineral you are deficient in.
Most vitamin and mineral deficiencies can be treated, however, if they are left untreated and the deficiency becomes very severe then they can cause long-term damage. If you are concerned about vitamin and mineral deficiencies then speak to your doctor.
How are vitamin and mineral deficiencies diagnosed?
Most vitamin and mineral deficiencies can be diagnosed through a blood test which can be carried out by your doctor.
How are vitamin and mineral deficiencies treated?
The most common treatments include taking supplements for the vitamin/mineral you are deficient in and/or increasing foods which are high in vitamins and minerals.
Your doctor can advise the best treatment if you have a deficiency.