Vitamin D is one of the vital nutrients required by the human body. This nutrient, which is also known as “calciferol”, has a property that sets it apart from all other vitamins: If given the right conditions, we can manufacture it ourselves.
An interesting note: This vital nutrient has to be synthesized by the human body – which means that technically, it is not a vitamin since vitamins cannot be synthesized by our body.
Instead, it is really a steroid or, to be more exact, a secosteroid. The synthesizing of this vitamin in our bodies can only be accomplished through contact with solar ultraviolet B radiation emitted by the sun
This vitamin helps your body absorb calcium as well as adjust the levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. You need these for bone, cell and tissue growth. Furthermore, in our case (MSers), it reduces inflammation and works as an immune modulator.
Studies have indicated that supplementation of this vitamin may reduce the risk and difficulties associated with autoimmune disorders. In particular, there is strong case-control and ecologic evidence that this vitamin reduces the risk of multiple sclerosis.
This is supported by animal studies in which mouse models have shown that deficiency in this vitamin in mice caused them to succumb faster to MS but, once administered with the needed vitamin, the symptoms diminish.
WHERE CAN YOU GET THE VITAMIN THAT YOU NEED?
Getting this particular vitamin is quite simple and easy to do: Just step outside for a while every day to get some sun (just 15-20 minutes of skin exposure to the sun each day) should be more than enough and do the trick). Your body then will create it from ultraviolet rays in sunshine.
The idea that sun exposure is somehow linked to Multiple Sclerosis has existed since the 1960s. Nowadays, after many scientific studies, scientist have discover that a probable connection exist between low levels of this specific vitamin in our bodies and an increased risk of Multiple Sclerosis.
The fact that MS rates are highest in countries with long, dark winters suggests that MS and this vitamin may be linked and has led to a dramatic increase in research in the area in recent years.
To top it off, our changing lifestyles, including increased indoor living and a campaign of telling folks to stay out of the sun, have resulted in most of us not getting enough of it.
In a study published in Annals of Neurology in August 2010, the authors speculated that raising serum (blood) levels of 25-OH-D — the standard blood measure of this vitamin – by 50 nmol/L (an increase some folks can achieve with daily supplementation of 2,000 IU of vitamin D3), the relapse rate could be reduced by half.
Doctors today are telling us that adding this vitamin to our diet helps to protect us against heart disease, certain cancers, and osteoporosis. Considering the widespread reported benefits of this vitamin — it seems to make sense to pop some extra D every morning with your breakfast.
DOES A DEFICIENCY EXIST TODAY?U.S. studies have determined that approximately 30% to 60% of the general population is deficient in this particular vitamin. This deficiency is widespread in developed countries such as theUnited StatesGreat BritainAustraliaNew Zealand andEurope
HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU TAKE?
The right way to approach this (as to when adding new drugs or supplements to your daily regime) should be done under the supervision of your neurologist or your doctor. The right amount you should take should be determined after blood work to assess your starting point. In the case of most adults, 1,000-2,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day is considered safe. Whether those doses are adequate to provide protection or treatment for MS is unclear.
In addition to the vitamin obtained through UVB exposure to the sun, this vitamin can be found in foods such as eggs, butter and fortified milk, with the highest levels found in fish. This vitamin can also be provided by supplements but it is important to remember that the amount required varies among individuals
CAN YOU TAKE TOO MUCH?
This vitamin is a fat soluble vitamin. What that means is that it is stored in your liver and adipose tissues (a type of tissue that stores fat) can store too much,so this particular vitamin will remain in your body longer than water soluble vitamins – like vitamin C for example.
That is why it is possible to have too much of it in your body. If you overdose you may damage your kidneys and heart over time.
At daily doses that most people take (up to 1,000 IU), there are virtually no negative effects associated with taking supplements. Most experts are in agreement that more than 50,000 IU/day for any length of time is not advisable (others argue for 20,000 IU/day as the limit), as doses in this range have been shown to have the following side effects:
Nausea and vomiting
WHAT ABOUT MSers?
The vast majority of us with MS have some degree of deficiency in this vitamin. Those living in northern regions commonly have this type of deficiency for 4 to 6 months of the year. Interestingly, relapses tend to happen more in the Spring when levels of this vitamin reach their lowest point, guess why?……..You got it……a lot of stores have been depleted of Vitamin D supplements by that time.
SOME INTERESTING FACTS
In a study of women with MS, the average bone density and the levels of this vitamin were much lower than a control group without MS. 40% of study participants reported that they got very little to no exposure to sunlight. Osteoporosis is also very common in MSers.
A vitamin D supplement should be taken in combination with calcium supplements since calcium is not useful for bone health (osteoporosis) without vitamin D.
Vitamin D supplementation should be taken with caution or avoided in folks with:
There are currently some long-term trials in progress to look at the role of this vitamin in MS. One very small study (11 people) showed a reduction in relapse rate in participants taking a combination of magnesium, calcium and fish oil with high levels of vitamin D. Another small study failed to show any effect of vitamin D supplementation.