The benefits of vitamin D are common knowledge. It keeps our bones, teeth and muscles healthy, supports health of the immune system, brain and nervous system, regulates insulin levels and aids diabetes management, and works to strengthen the heart function.
The deficiency of vitamin D, on the other hand, welcomes various problems and diseases. Eighty percent cases of pelvic fractures are known to have deficiency of this important vitamin. In this article we will explain the importance of the ‘sunshine vitamin’ and the problems its deficiency causes in the context of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
Vitamin D and MS
In a review article, Fatimah M. Alharbi, Qassim University, Saudi Arabia, denoted that approximately one billion people in the world had deficiency or insufficiency of vitamin D. Alharbi also noted that several studies have shown that increased exposure to sunlight – which is a vital source of vitamin D – is associated with lower risk of MS.
Benefits of Vitamin D
Listed below are some of the benefits of Vitamin D for Multiple Sclerosis Patients:
Strengthens bones and teeth
We know that we need to have calcium for bone and teeth strength. Vitamin D helps absorb calcium in the intestine and reclaim calcium that would, otherwise, be excreted through the kidneys. Hence, it regulates calcium and maintains phosphorous levels in the blood.
Recent studies on the effects of Vitamin D on the disease have shown that higher levels of Vitamin D are associated with reduced episodes of relapses. This means that to lower the relapse rate, along with other measures, MS patients should increase the intake of Vitamin D, and the best source is sunlight. Theoretically, you may worsen your symptoms if you avoid sun-exposure. However, patients who are heat intolerant must avoid sun and heat exposure.
Reduced Risk of flu
MS patients are advised to avoid having flu. In a study, conducted in winters, children were given 1200 IU of Vitamin D for 4 months. A reduction in risk of influenza was noted by over 40%. Therefore, we can deduce that Vitamin D is beneficial in reducing the risk of getting influenza.
Deficiency of vitamin D
A deficient or insufficient presence of the ‘sunshine vitamin’ causes various problems and diseases. In people with MS, low levels of vitamin D can increase their disabilities and make their disease worse. A recent study by Hearn and Silber has shown that vitamin D deficiency may cause osteoporosis. Majority cases of pelvic fractures were found to have deficiency of Vitamin D. We now discuss the problems which may arise due to this vitamin’s deficiency.
The symptoms of the vitamin D’s deficiency are themselves problems for MS patients. These symptoms mean deficiency of the vitamin, which can cause:
- Bone pain
- Muscle weakness
- Increased blood pressure, and
Risk of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder which usually appears in people of ages between 16 and 30. A review published in October 2014 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism proposed a link between deficiency of Vitamin D and Schizophrenia. The review suggested that the possibility of the disease was two times stronger in people with deficient Vitamin D levels than in people who had sufficient levels of Vitamin D.
Risk of Heart Disease
Low levels of Vitamin D also cause heart disease. Numerous researches have shown a link between the two. A review published in Circulation Research showed a possibility that several heart diseases, such as atherosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes, and stroke, might have been caused by deficient Vitamin D levels.
How much do you need?
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society suggests that 200-600 international units (IU) daily should be your target. The unit of measurement for Vitamin D is ‘International Units (IU)’.
Sources of Vitamin D
The most readily-available and efficient source of Vitamin D is Sunlight. Along with the sun, Vitamin D is present in various food-items. The richest food sources are fatty fish and fish oil. Here is a list of various food items and amount of Vitamin D in each:
- Fortified skim milk, 1 cup: 120 IU
- Egg, chicken, whole large: 44 IU
- Tuna, canned in water, drained, 3 ounces: 68 IU
- Cod liver oil, 1 tablespoon: 1,360 IU
- Raw mistake mushrooms, 1 cup: 786 IU
- Herring, fresh, raw, 4 ounces: 1,056 IU
- Salmon, sockeye, cooked, 4 ounces: 596 IU
- Sardines, canned, 4 ounces: 336 IU
- Swordfish, cooked, 4 ounces: 941 IU
You can modify the risk associated with Vitamin D deficiency in MS. People showing symptoms similar to Multiple Sclerosis must be screened for Vitamin D deficiency. Sunlight is your friend, be with it, daily.