Vitamin D plays a major role in your liver health. Vitamin D deficiency may increase your risk of liver disease like cirrhosis. Increased vitamin D may help you manage liver conditions.

Vitamin D deficiency is common in people with liver conditions like cirrhosis.

That’s because malnutrition often results from the liver’s inability to process vitamin D and other important vitamins, such as vitamin A and zinc. Malnutrition is when your body doesn’t absorb enough nutrients to support itself.

This lack of nutrition can make the symptoms of cirrhosis more severe, while also keeping your immune system from properly protecting against other infections or illnesses.

Read on to learn more about the close relationship between vitamin D and liver cirrhosis, including how you can use vitamin D supplements to prevent or manage liver disease.

Experts believe that vitamin D deficiency is more common in people with cirrhosis than in the larger population. A 2018 study of 218 people with cirrhosis found that 59% had a deficiency in vitamin D, with 25% of them having a severe deficiency.

The two main factors responsible for this link are malnutrition and inflammation.

Scarred liver tissue loses its ability to metabolize vitamin D and other important vitamins from food or oral supplements, leading to malnutrition. This causes vitamin D levels in your blood to fall over time.

And diseased liver tissue often becomes inflamed. This not only reduces your liver’s ability to process vitamin D but also causes it to produce more C-reactive protein (CRP), which is involved in your immune system response.

This change in vitamin D and CRP levels can cause inflammation, making it even harder for your body to absorb vitamin D.

A 2018 study of 338 people with liver fibrosis and cirrhosis found that both malnutrition and inflammation played a role in severe vitamin D deficiency, increasing the risk of severe cirrhosis and death.

While vitamin D deficiency may result from liver problems, it’s less clear whether low vitamin D levels are a direct cause of liver problems.

A small 2020 study compared vitamin D levels in 40 people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and 40 people without NAFLD. The researchers found that participants with NAFLD had a history of low vitamin D levels that may have increased their risk of NAFLD, even when they had typical liver enzyme levels.

Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to a higher risk of severe complications and death from cirrhosis and other liver diseases.

Can low vitamin D cause jaundice?

Low vitamin D doesn’t cause jaundice on its own. But liver disease is related to both low vitamin D and jaundice.

Jaundice happens when your liver doesn’t properly process bilirubin, a yellowish substance in your blood that typically passes into your intestines as a waste product. Instead, bilirubin stays in your blood and builds up to high levels, causing your skin and eyes to turn yellow.

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Vitamin D supplements may be able to treat liver disease and cirrhosis, but the research isn’t conclusive.

A 2021 research review found that vitamin D supplements can help manage chronic liver disease like NAFLD.

And a 2021 study found that taking oral vitamin D supplements over 6 months reduced certain bacterial infections in people with cirrhosis and helped them respond better to treatments.

But researchers in a 2021 review of 27 clinical trials of vitamin D supplements for liver diseases concluded that many of the trials didn’t have enough people to consider the results reliable. They also noted that many of the trials didn’t disclose how they were funded, making it hard to know whether they were sponsored or funded by industry groups who could bias the results.

Vitamin D after a liver transplant

Some people with advanced cirrhosis may require a liver transplant to replace damaged liver tissue. According to a 2022 study, vitamin D supplementation after a liver transplant can increase your chances of transplant success and prolong your survival.

While it’s unclear whether low vitamin D contributes to liver disease risk, it can increase the risk of liver disease progressing to cirrhosis.

Healthy vitamin D levels may also help prevent complications of liver disease, such as inflammation and fibrosis.

While some studies suggest that vitamin D from food, ultraviolet (UV) light, or oral supplements is beneficial for people with liver disease, most studies are inconclusive. The American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases does not include vitamin D in its management guidelines.

There’s no evidence that too much vitamin D harms your liver.

Too much vitamin D can have toxic effects on other parts of your body, though, such as your kidneys or thyroid.

Other vitamins for liver health

Other vitamins that are important for your liver health include:

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Vitamin D plays an important role in your liver health. People with liver disease often have low vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiency in conditions like cirrhosis or NAFLD can make symptoms or complications more severe.

Talk with a healthcare professional about how to get a healthy amount of vitamin D if you’re at risk for liver disease or want to help manage a liver condition.