Vitamin D is a fat-soluble compound that is produced during exposure to sun radiation. Besides it’s well known calcium absorption function, it also has interesting immune modulating properties.
The best way to figure out whether we have a vitamin D deficiency is measuring serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Levels are measured both in nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) or nano mol per liter (nmol/l), where 0,4 ng/ml = 1 nmol/l.
Whenever one decides to supplement with vitamin D, one should also check one’s calcium levels due to the risk of hypercalcemia, especially when using big doses. Nonetheless, a paper revision concluded that it is unlikely to suffer secondary effects from doses of up to 2500 IU/day. Some studies have even worked with up to 35000 IU/day during 6 months without observing any secondary effects. Please have a look at the references.
Vitamin D’s role in chronic diseases has been studied for more than 30 years. In the following paragraphs we will try to summarize the results of the studies on the most common diseases. The FDA, for example, suggests that healthy people be supplementing with 400 IU/day, which would by no means increase the serum levels in case of deficiency.
Patients of this disease who are in remission have higher serum levels of vitamin D than those who are flaring. The deficiency was also proportional to the amount of corticosteroids that had been administered. Higher levels of vitamin D mean much smaller risk of developing Crohn’s disease. A study found that daily supplementation with 1100 IU wasn’t enough to alleviate the deficiency (References 1-3).
93% of patients with UC are vitamin D deficient and are likely to not respond well to the immune-suppressing therapy, says a study. A well developed US trial with 230 patients showed that in UC patients, the higher the levels of vitamin D, the less severe the intestinal inflammation. The conclusions suggest that vitamin D deficiency contributes to inflammation by hindering the intestinal barrier’s function. A different study, carried out with 76 patients found a relation between the quality of life of these patients and their levels of vitamin D. As if that weren’t enough, a study published last year determined that it’s possible to predict flares by monitoring the vitamin D serum levels (References 4-8).
It is a fact that MS incidence is higher in countries with fewer hours of sun and in patients with lower serum levels of vitamin D. A certain study found smaller chance of relapse in patients with higher levels of this vitamin than in those with lower levels. In an other one, treatment with megadoses of vitamin D (50000 IU every 5 days for three months) was more effective at controlling mental health of those affected than placebo. A recently concluded study from Poland shows that only 14% of MS patients have vitamin D serum levels within the recommended values. It also shows a clear link between vitamin D deficiency and flares in this disease. Also, a paper published by the prestigious scientific journal Neurology comes to the conclusion that vitamin D has a protective effect from MS (References 9-16).
Several studies support the idea of a link between this disease’s symptoms and vitamin D levels. One of them found a clear link between vitamin D levels and anxiety and depression amongst patients. An other one conducted last year with 135 persons one again showed a connection between deficiency and symptoms, which were then corrected with adequate supplementation. Yet an other trial conducted with 159 patients and a few other lower quality studies also confirmed the findings (References 17-23).
Chronic fatigue syndrome and other musculoskeletal non-specific diseases:
As one can see in references 24 and 25, these conditions can also benefit from vitamin D supplementation.
A great enough number of studies confirm that vitamin D deficiency predicts severity of disease, number of flares, possibility of disablement and risk of developing it (References 26-35).
Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriasis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Psoriatic Arthritis & Arthrosis:
Worrying deficiencies are common in all of these conditions. Serum levels of vitamin D predict the seriousness of the disease, it’s development and the likelihood of suffering from one of them. Amazingly, one particular study found how vitamin D levels were related to the loss of cartilage in a knee arthosis. It should be remembered that these diseases often come with high incidence of osteoporosis due to corticosteroid abuse, so vitamin D supplementation seems doubly adequate.
In a very large study conducted throughout Asia, it was possible to observe a link between thyroid conditions and vitamin D levels. In an different trial with women suffering from Hashimoto’s and who were treated for 6 months with Levothyroxine (and who had acceptable serum vitamin D levels), supplementation with 2000 IU reduced antithyroid antibodies. Imagine what the results might be like in someone with an obvious deficiency (References 47-49).
Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy reduces the chances of having a child with Type 1 diabetes by 300%, says a study. An other work concluded that vitamin D causes the inhibition of insulin secretion by the pancreas. Lack of vitamin D has also been linked to glycemic problems (References 50-52).
In a large study with 1179 patients, it was found that supplementation with both calcium and vitamin D reduced the chances of developing cancer. A revision of 63 observational studies suggests that supplementing with vitamin D is an effective way to reduce chances of suffering cancer (References 53-55).
There is a wide range of other diseases and/or conditions that benefit from vitamin D supplementation, although here are only listed the more prevalent ones.
Now you’ve seen the role vitamin D seems to play in many diseases, we are going to show you which are the best sources to get it from.
Vitamin D sources:
The Sun is, without a doubt, the best, safest and cheapest way to get vitamin D. Most experts agree that 15 minutes of exposure during the central hours of the day is enough to MAINTAIN acceptable levels. Obviously, if what we want is to optimize our levels, exposure should be a little longer. Although this may seem obvious and easily attainable, western lifestyle doesn’t enable many people to achieve this. One should also take into account that many people live in areas with little direct sunlight.
This is your main ally.
Diet also plays an important role. Some foods such as fatty fish (salmon, trout, mackerel, etc.), seafood, liver or egg yolks contain vitamin D. Increasing the consumption of these foods seems like a positive thing to do if one suffers deficiency.
Will also help you out.
Supplements: for cases in which deficit cannot be compensated by using the measures mentioned above it seems logical to use supplements, provided that test results are taken into account and that advice from your physician is being followed. There are plenty of supplements available on the market, both solid and liquid and in different doses. Below you can see the Amazon link to our favourite Vitamin D supplement: