Taking Another Look at Vitamin D, Immune Tolerance, and MS

Ed Tobias avatar

by Ed Tobias |

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I’ve been popping vitamin D pills for years — decades, really. I never really understood why, I just knew that many people with multiple sclerosis (MS) are vitamin D-deficient. A recent study has cast some new light on why I should continue.

It all seems to comes down to the apparent ability of vitamin D to help “turn on” some genes that are important for promoting immune tolerance. That’s the immune system’s ability to recognize the body’s own tissues, and leave them alone while attacking threats like viruses. In MS, of course, the immune system attacks tissues that it shouldn’t.

It’s all about the sentinels

Dendritic cells are key players in this job. They’re sometimes called the sentinels of the immune system, and research has shown that they become more tolerant if they’re treated with vitamin D. The new research, by scientists in Spain, indicates that vitamin D may help to turn on immune tolerance cells that have switched off. The researchers think knowing how this happens might lead to the creation of methods to control that immune tolerance switch. That, in turn, could play a role in protecting against, or moderating, immune diseases such as MS.

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Can vitamin D really help my MS?

“Some studies suggest that for people who already have MS, vitamin D may offer some benefits,” the Mayo Clinic’s Iris Marin Collazo, MD, wrote. “These benefits include lessening the frequency and severity of their symptoms, improving quality of life, and lengthening the time it takes to progress from relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis to the secondary-progressive phase.” But the evidence isn’t conclusive, she added.

Research published in the journal Cureus is slightly more positive. One recent study noted that “the role of moderate doses of vitamin D supplementation seems integral to the prevention and management of multiple sclerosis.” 

On the other hand, professor Gavin Giovannoni, of the Barts MS Center in London, isn’t convinced about possible benefits for disease management. Though Giovannoni believes that low vitamin D levels or lack of sun exposure are causally linked to MS, he doubts that vitamin D supplements make much difference when it comes to changing the course of our illness.

Even so, Giovannoni recommends them. He says that vitamin D supplements are safe, and he believes that extra vitamin D is good for bone health. That’s important for people with MS, who have an increased risk of the bone diseases osteopenia and osteoporosis.

The Mayo Clinic’s Collazo said the Institute of Medicine recommends 600 international units (IUs) of vitamin D a day for adults up to age 70. That recommendation increases to 800 IUs a day for adults 71 and older. She said the institute cautions that people should avoid taking more than 4,000 IUs a day. So, I guess I’m good with the 2,000 IUs I take each morning. I’ll keep it up.

Remember, before making any changes to your vitamin supplement regimen or diet, always consult your healthcare providers. 

You’re invited to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Comments

Rolf Munro Zeijdel avatar

Rolf Munro Zeijdel

Hi Ed,

Very intersting this Vitamin D.

Where can i buy your book We’re Not Drunk, We Have MS , as i live in France and my wife has MS?

Please advise,

Kind regards

Rolf

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Rolf,

I'm sorry for the delayed response and thanks for your interest in my book. I have changed the name of my book to better reflect its contents. I've also updated it, slightly. It's now called "The Multiple Sclerosis Toolbox" and it's available on Amazon as both a paperback and an e-book.

I hope it's useful to you wife and to you, as well. If it is, I'd appreciate it if you'd leave a comment on Amazon.

Thanks,

Ed

Reply
Luise Wischermann Mello franco avatar

Luise Wischermann Mello franco

I have been diagnosed 17 years ago this February and of course, it has been a rollercoaster for many years, tried different drugs and for 5 years did high doses of Vitamin D. It helped and I continue to take D, but I am a cheese lover and when taking D you have to stop Dairy, for your kidney not to be overloaded. I had a side effect because of this and now, I take everything in moderation: D, Wine, cheese, lots of organic food, vegetables and a peaceful mind, Yoga, 0 stress and Love.
Does it suck to have MS? Of course it sucks, but I learned to deal with it and Life goes on, tomorrow it will be another day and we carry on.
Have a great weekend and sending you Sun and Happy Thoughts from Rio de Janeiro,
Luise

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Luise,

Thanks for taking the time to write and I'm sorry for the delayed response. It sounds as if you have things well in hand. It's always better to learn to dance in the rain than to hide from the storm. All the best from sunny and warm Florida.

Ed

Reply
Paula avatar

Paula

I, like you, have taken them for decades. Every Saturday, I take prescription D, to the tune of 50,000 mcg. I’ve thought about quitting for the last year. One less pill to take. Better sense kicked in. I’m a 70 yr old woman, whose bones reminded me. Did however stop Rebif and other dmt. 20 yrs of those injections was enough and not willing to chance pml. Great research though. Thank you! An avid fan of your art.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Paula,

I'm still taking a lot of pills at age 73, but I've cut back on some. I understand your problem with the injections. How did you ever last 20 years. I quit Avonex after 7 years due to injection fatigue, but I switched to another DMT. In fact, over 40+ years with MS I've been treated with 4 of them, most recently Lemtrada.

I hope you keep doing well,

Ed

Reply
Suann McManus avatar

Suann McManus

The researchers keep saying lack of sunlight (Vit. D) is partial cause of our immune problems. I was born and raised in the south (Ark). We had no air conditioning or TV until I was a teenager. So, I played outside all day, every day. I played tennis in Jr. Hi, Hi School and college. So I was outside a lot How is it that I have MS? The researchers seem to ignore people like me and just use statics that fit "their" scheme of things.
On another note, I do enjoy your well worded articles. Thank you.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Suann,

Thanks for taking the time to comment and I'm very glad you like what I write. I'm not sure that the researchers are ignoring people like you. They're not saying immune problems can't affect people with good vitamin D levels...they're just reporting that the majority of people with MS seem to have levels that are low.

Regards,

Ed

Reply
Dan Madden avatar

Dan Madden

I've read that vitamin D3, I think, is the specific D vitamin that does the job. Does the D vitamin you take contain D3?
Thanks
Dan

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Dan,

Yes, D3 is what I take. I could be wrong, but I assume that any form of vitamin D is useful.

Ed

Reply
Mark WILLIAMS avatar

Mark WILLIAMS

I really think this is not a good IDEA as I have MS and my Vitamin D level has always been extremely high. Current level test in Jan 2022 is 240.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Mark,

Thanks for your comment. Vitamin D is reported to be a help to people with MS whose level's are low and I'm glad you're not one of them.

Ed

Reply
Mary avatar

Mary

How often should one get there vitamin D3. Ievel check

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Mary,

That's a question for your health care provider. Sorry I can't answer it.

Ed

Reply
Carolyn Mann avatar

Carolyn Mann

I have MS and also osteoporosis. I take Vitamin D3 1000Iu/25 mcg. Should I increase the dosage? I've read that too high a dosage such as 2000 is not necessary. Answer would be appreciated. Thank you.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Carol,

I'd check with your neuro. Too much vitamin D3 can create problems, but if you lack a proper amount of the vitamin in your body you may need to supplement the standard dose. It's your doctor who knows the appropriate dose for you.

Ed

Reply

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