Vitamin D Health Multiple Sclerosis

MS (multiple sclerosis) is an autoimmune disease that affects your brain and spine. Doctors believe that in people with MS, the immune system attacks and damages the protective covering that surrounds nerve cells.

Though there are a number of treatments for MS, there is no cure for the disease. However, there is some evidence that vitamin D could help treat multiple sclerosis symptoms.

Multiple Sclerosis and Vitamin D: The Relationship

The exact relationship between MS and vitamin D is not well understood. However, researchers think that vitamin D might be effective both in preventing multiple sclerosis, as well as in treating symptoms of the disease.

Incidence of multiple sclerosis is lower in areas where people get a lot of sun and consume more fish that is high in vitamin D. One study found that people who live below 35 degrees of latitude (about the location of Atlanta) for the first 10 years of their life are 50 percent less likely to develop MS than people who spent their early years in more northern locations. In general, MS incidence increases in regions farthest from the equator. However, there is not yet conclusive evidence that supplemental vitamin D will reduce the risk of MS, though scientists are currently studying this issue.

Do I Need More Vitamin D?

Several studies suggest that people with high vitamin D levels are less likely to develop MS. In addition, one recent study found fewer relapses in MS patients who took high doses of vitamin D. Scientists speculate that sufficient vitamin D levels in the body may diminish the autoimmune response that is thought to cause MS.

Given its known and suspected health benefits, some doctors recommend that MS patients take supplemental vitamin D. If you are considering adding vitamin D supplements to your diet, talk to your doctor, since high levels of vitamin D can be toxic, particularly in individuals with certain health conditions, such as kidney disease.

If you have MS, or are at risk for the disease, you can also talk to your doctor about having your vitamin D levels tested. If you have a vitamin D deficiency, a few simple lifestyle changes (such as spending more time in the sun, or eating more fatty fish, like salmon or tuna), could help increase your vitamin D to normal levels.

Can Vitamin D Cure MS?

There is no cure for multiple sclerosis. In addition, there is no conclusive evidence that taking vitamin D supplements will prevent the development of the disease. There is also no clear evidence that suggests that vitamin D supplements will help change the course of the multiple sclerosis once it has already begun.

Resources

Bowling, A. (2008). So what’s new about vitamin D? Retrieved December 19, 2009, from the National Multiple Sclerosis society Web site: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/download.aspx?id=133

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2009). Multiple sclerosis. Retrieved December 19, 2009, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/multiple-sclerosis/DS00188

MedlinePlus Staff. (2009). Vitamin D. Retrieved December 18, 2009, from the MedlinePlus Web site: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-vitamind.html#Interactions

Menning, K. (n.d.). Vitamin D deficiency and multiple sclerosis: What you need to know. Retrieved December 19, 2009, from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Web site: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/download.aspx?id=16671

National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements Staff. (2009). Dietary supplement fact sheet: Vitamin D. Retrieved December 15, 2009, from the National Institutes of Health website: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitamind.asp

National Multiple Sclerosis Society Staff. (2009). Study shows link between vitamin D and an MS susceptibility gene. Retrieved December 19, 2009 from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society website: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/news/news-detail/index.aspx?nid=774