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MS and Vitamin D: What You Need to Know

If you have seen an MS specialist recently, chances are the topic of vitamin D might have come up. In a practice that’s becoming more and more common, you’ve probably had your vitamin D levels tested and then been prescribed it as a supplement. In recent years, vitamin D levels in MS patients have become such a big deal that the National MS Society has issued official guidelines to doctors with testing and prescribing recommendations.1 So what’s the deal with vitamin D?

Some vitamin D basics

  • Most people probably know that vitamin D is good for strong bones. It helps increase bone strength by getting the intestines to absorb calcium.2
  • Vitamin D is actually a hormone, which is essentially a type of messenger that takes information and instructions from one cell to another.3
  • Vitamin D does much more than help bones though, it is also valuable to the immune system, that’s where it comes into play for MS. While the exact mechanics of how vitamin D is helpful for fighting MS are still being studied, we do know enough to know that it’s beneficial.4
  • Vitamin D is often associated with sunlight, as our skin creates it when exposed to the sun. That was really one of the first clues that vitamin D is beneficial in fighting MS, as it’s long been known that people in sunnier areas of the world, like near the equator, have a lower chance of getting MS as well as an older onset of the disease and less severe symptoms when they do.5
  • While exposure to sunlight helps us naturally create vitamin D, there are some foods out there that can also provide it (like oily fish, red meat, and other foods, like cereals, that have been fortified with it).

  • Not only have low levels of vitamin D been shown to increase the risk of MS, but multiple studies have also shown that those who have MS and have lower levels of vitamin D have a greater risk of more relapses as well as higher levels of disability.6 So not only does it seem to affect the odds of getting MS but also how the disease progresses.
  • While there are many people that are vitamin D deficient, it is possible to take in too much vitamin D, so you should be tested and monitored when taking any supplements.7
  • So how can vitamin D affect you, someone with MS?

    Well, there seem to be enough studies showing that vitamin D can be important in fighting MS. That’s why many MS specialists have begun testing their patients’ vitamin D levels and then prescribing vitamin D supplements if they are low. There are enough examples demonstrating the benefits for people with MS that you should discuss it with your MS specialist if you haven’t already. If you are deficient, adding a vitamin D supplement is an easy and low-cost way to potentially help your long-term prognosis with MS.

    My experience with vitamin D

    Like many people with MS, when tested a few years back, my vitamin D levels were very low. I now take an over-the-counter vitamin D supplement in an amount recommended by my doctor. Do I know if it’s working? I guess I don’t. I am better off now than when I started it, but that could also be the Tysabri I get each month. From what I’ve read, I do think it can be beneficial though (and as with any article like this, I have plenty of references below for you to check out for yourself, should you be so inclined; this isn’t just my opinion, rather there's plenty of science to back it up).

    Remember, you can have too much vitamin D, so always discuss with your doctor before adding any supplements.

    Thanks so much for reading and always feel free to share! As always, would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!

    Devin

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