Important: Multiple Sclerosis And Vitamin D Are Connected

 

Vitamin D May Help -Or Prevent- Multiple Sclerosis

 

You take take your supplements.

And with good reason: minerals and vitamins play an important role in the body’s ability to fight disease and recover from illness.

But, for those either living with, or at risk of multiple sclerosis (MS), there’s a reason to take supplements seriously.

The MS Society of Canada has recently published recommendations regarding vitamin D supplementation, the intake of which may help those with the disease or potentially help prevent its development.

MS is a chronic autoimmune condition in which the body attacks myelin, a coating that protects nerves. The resulting nerve damage produces an unpredictable and dizzying array of symptoms, from pain or numbness, vision or bladder problems, to fatigue or the loss of mobility.

 

Vitamin D may help those with MS, and potentially help prevent its development.

 

 

The MS Vitamin D Connection

 

The focus on vitamin D and MS emerged from the fact that Canadians tend to have proportionally higher rates of MS, as do other countries further from the equator.

 

Countries with less sunlight have proportionally higher rates of MS.

 

Exposure to sunlight is the primary way we get vitamin D, so the connection not only seemed reasonable, but also generated curiosity among MS researchers, and those affected by the disease.

 

Countries with the highest rates of multiple sclerosis (MS) in the world with as of 2015. During this year, there were 291 cases of MS per 100,000 people in the Canada.

The push for the recommendations thus came from a simple place: people clearly wanting to know more.

 

How Much Vitamin D?

 

“We saw that any time we posted anything related to vitamin D on our social media,” says Dr. Karen Lee, Vice-President of Research at the MS Society of Canada, “people would always ask us ‘how much should I be taking?’”

“We recognized that there were no clear recommendations out there,” says Dr. Lee, “so we thought it was really important to have recommendations for people living with MS and those who may be at risk.”

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“We saw that any time we posted anything related to vitamin D on our social media,” says Dr. Karen Lee, Vice-President of Research at the MS Society of Canada, “people would always ask us ‘how much should I be taking?’”

“We recognized that there were no clear recommendations out there,” says Dr. Lee, “so we thought it was really important to have recommendations for people living with MS and those who may be at risk.”

The recommendations were created after a group of experts came together to review the evidence on vitamin D and MS. Dr. Ruth Ann Marrie from the University of Manitoba was part of that group, who noted that there’s a growing body of evidence that how much vitamin D a person takes in, may contribute to a set of risk factors for MS. But it also may help those currently living with the disease.

“We made recommendations for individuals to take vitamin D on a regular basis for those with MS, basing those directions on age and as well safety,” Dr. Marrie says.

Key to that point is that while vitamin D appears to have benefits, there is an upper safety limit, as too much vitamin D can be harmful.

As such, most MS specialists suggest the following:

 

Adults With MS

The optimal dose for adults with MS is between 600 and 4000 IU a day.

 

Children and Teens With MS

Children and adolescents with MS should take 600 to a 1000 IU a day.

 

Higher Risk Adults Without MS

For adults at increased risk of MS, such as those with an immediate family member with the disease, it is suggested that taking a similar dose to adults with MS may decrease the risk of developing the disease.

 

Children and Teens Without MS

For children and teens, the recommendations vary with age and risk.

 

Vitamin D Deficiency

If you are diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency, it may be appropriate to use up to 50,000 IUs weekly for up to three months until your vitamin D levels become normal, and then switch to a maintenance dose.

The maintenance dose varies, but is usually between 2,000 and 5,000 IU daily.

 

Avoid Very Large Doses

Very large doses of vitamin D over an extended period can result in toxicity.

Signs and symptoms include nausea, vomiting, constipation, poor appetite, weakness and weight loss.

In addition, vitamin D toxicity can lead to elevated levels of calcium in your blood, which can result in kidney stones.

 

How Vitamin D Helps MS

 

Research over the years has shown that maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D may have a protective effect and lower the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS).

A number of studies have shown that people who get more sun exposure and vitamin D in their diet have a lower risk of MS, so supplementation is considered an important modifiable environmental risk factor for development of multiple sclerosis.

 

Vitamin D is considered an important manageable risk factor for MS.

 

 

Reduced Disease Activity

Dr. Marrie suggests the second way it is helpful may be a direct effect on MS itself. “There are also a number of observational studies that suggest vitamin D may be associated with reduced disease activity and reduced brain atrophy,” she says.

Some studies suggest that for people who already have MS, vitamin D may offer some benefits.

These benefits include:

  • lessening the frequency and severity of their symptoms
  • improving quality of life
  • lengthening the time it takes to progress from relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis to the secondary-progressive phase

 

Promotes Bone Health

MS is associated with an increased risk of falls and osteoporosis, and vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which in turn promotes bone health.

 

Immune System Booster

Research also suggests that a connection between vitamin D and MS could be tied to the positive effects vitamin D has on the immune system.

 

Further Studies Needed

It’s important to note that there are no clinical trials that prove this link between the two beyond a shadow of a doubt.

However, Dr. Marrie notes that there are vitamin D receptors on many cells in the body including the brain, so we know it can have widespread effects.

For now, the aim is to have those with MS and those at risk maintain optimal vitamin D levels.

At a minimum, it will promote good bone health. But as we continue to learn more about this complex disease, it may prove to be one more weapon in the fight against MS.

 

Supplements, Sun Or Food?

 

On average, wild-caught salmon packs 988 IU of vitamin D per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving.

 

While supplements are the most obvious path for most people, safe exposure to sun still helps (is there such a thing?), as does eating foods rich in vitamin D, like fatty fish (such as salmon), egg yolks, and milks and cereals that have been enriched.

 

Finding A Good Vitamin D

 

Vitamins D2 and D3 Are Not Equal

Vitamin D3 is only found in animal-sourced foods, whereas D2 mainly comes from plant sources and fortified foods.

Both are effectively absorbed into the bloodstream. However, the liver metabolizes each one differently.

The liver metabolizes vitamin D2 into 25-hydroxyvitamin D2, and vitamin D3 into 25-hydroxyvitamin D3. These two compounds are collectively known as calcifediol.

 

Calcifediol is the main circulating form of vitamin D, and its blood levels reflect your body’s stores of this nutrient.

 

For this reason, your health care provider can estimate your vitamin D status by measuring your levels of calcifediol.

However, vitamin D2 seems to yield less calcifediol than an equal amount of vitamin D3.

Most studies show that vitamin D3 is more effective than vitamin D2 at raising blood levels of calcifediol.

For example, one study in 32 older women found that a single dose of vitamin D3 was nearly twice as effective as vitamin D2 at raising calcifediol levels.

 

Vitamin D3 is much better at raising blood levels of calcifediol.

 

If you are taking vitamin D supplements, consider choosing vitamin D3.

 

Note: for better absorption, choose oil-based supplements or take them with food that contains some fat.

 

Shopping For Vitamin D

Vitamin D is inexpensive and widely available, both online, and at any store that has a pharmacy. 

These are a couple of brands I use and trust:

 

BioSchwartz Superior Strength Vitamin D3

 

BioSchwartz Superior Strength Vitamin D3

 

There are 360 softgels in this bottle of BioSchwartz Vitamin D3; enough for a 1 year supply! 

Each softgel contain 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 in an organic olive oil base (for better absorption). 

This is a quality brand, and a good value.

Trio Formulas D3 With K2

 

Trio Formulas D3 (5000 IU) With K2

 

If you have concerns about bone or cardiovascular health,  I recommend taking a vitamin D3 that also includes vitamin K2, such as Trio Formulas Daily Essentials D3 With K2.  

Current evidence supports the notion that joint supplementation of vitamins D and K might be more effective than the consumption of either alone for bone and cardiovascular health.

 

Vitamins D3 and K2 are more effective than either one alone.

 

Final Thoughts

Vitamin D is thought to be an important and modifiable risk factor for developing MS, and a beneficial supplement for those who have the disease. 

While it hasn’t been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, there’s no reason to put off supplementing with this vitamin (especially if you live in far from the equator, have MS, or are at high risk for the disease).

If you’re considering vitamin D to reduce your risk of or help manage multiple sclerosis, talk with your doctor about what’s both safe and helpful for you.

 

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References

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  9. McLaughlin L, et al. Vitamin D for the treatment of multiple sclerosis: A meta-analysis. Journal of Neurology. 2018;265:2893.
  10. Muris AH, et al. A low vitamin D status at diagnosis is associated with early conversion to secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry & Molecular Biology. 2016;164:254.
  11. Marin Collazo IV (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla. Jan. 31, 2019.
  12. Ashtari F, et al. High dose Vitamin D intake and quality of life in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Neurological Research. 2016;38:888.

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