multiple sclerosis vitamin D

Ever want to
blame someone for your multiple sclerosis?

How about
blaming a natural substance?

Vitamin D
has long been associated with multiple sclerosis (MS). Many people with MS
appear to have lower levels of the substance compared with those who don’t have
MS.

But evidence
is mounting that vitamin D may be a safe and effective way to treat, and even
prevent, the disease.

Low levels
of vitamin D have been associated with MS relapses and disease progression. A study led by the Harvard School of Public
Health (HSPH), concluded that low levels of vitamin D could predict disease severity and
accelerate its progression in people in the early stages of MS.

Another
study made the connection between neonatal levels of vitamin D in mothers and the risk of developing MS, showing
the possibility that preventing MS could involve taking the right supplements during pregnancy.

Read
more: Stem cell treatment possibilities for MS »

A
preventable risk factor?

Because
vitamin D is something that people with MS have control over and can manage, it
is considered an environmental modifiable risk factor.

People can
take over-the-counter vitamin D supplements or a prescription from their
doctor. They can spend more time in the
sun (taking precautions) and could change their diets to include more foods
that contain vitamin D.

“Vitamin D
is manageable and evidence suggests that covering levels is important for MS
patients in general,” Jaime Imitola, M.D., director of the progressive
multiple sclerosis multidisciplinary clinic and translational research program
at The Ohio State University, told Healthline.

He added
that while levels above 30 units are generally OK, people with MS might aim for
numbers between 50 to 70 units.

Considered
safe, the one conflict that may occur is if the vitamin is consumed with calcium
supplements, which are often taken by older women.

Imitola
suggests that women, especially premenopausal and menopausal, discuss their
bone density and vitamin D levels with both their neurologists and OB-GYNs to
find the best solutions.

Promising research from Yale University points to a possible role of
vitamin D in neuroprotection.

From Cambridge University, another study shows how vitamin D can repair
the myelin sheath.

Neuroprotection and myelin repair are both necessary for slowing down or
stopping the progression in MS.

However, not
all studies are proving positive.

One study
showed that vitamin D can fight oxidative stress in most people but not in people
with MS.

Oxidative
stress is known to cause inflammation and increase exacerbations and disease progression in people
with MS.

Read
more: Magnet therapy may be effective in treating MS »

Reasons for
vitamin deficiency

Vitamin D
deficiency can be caused by a variety of things.

As people
with MS age and the disease progresses, they may not be as active and therefore
spend less time outside.

People with
MS may also gain weight due to inactivity, creating a higher body mass index
(BMI), which can also cause lower vitamin
D levels
.

And due to
general aging, their kidneys may have a harder time converting
vitamin D into a form the body can use.

Susan
Weiner, a registered dietitian and nutritionist has a few suggestions.

She told
Healthline that people with MS may want to eat natural foods rich in vitamin D,
such as wild caught salmon, mackerel, mushrooms exposed to UV light,
D-fortified milk, D-fortified cereals, D-fortified orange juice, beef or calf
liver, egg yolks, cheese, sardines canned in oil, and cod liver oil — with a
warning to use with caution due to high levels of vitamin A.

“Vitamin D
supplementation may be indicated for some people with MS who cannot consume an
adequate amount through their diets,” Weiner added. “Remember to always check
with your healthcare provider before taking any vitamin or mineral supplement.”

But the verdict
is still out as to why vitamin D seems
to positively affect those with MS.

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