Can Vitamin D Relieve Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms?

By Michael A. Smith, MD

When the immune system attacks the insulating sheath covering your brain cells, the result is a loss of normal electrical conductivity and a myriad of symptoms – ranging from loss of vision, muscle weakness, problems walking and loss of sensation. This is multiple sclerosis.

It is estimated to affect 2.1 million people worldwide.1 However, since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not require U.S. physicians to report new cases, and because symptoms can be completely invisible, the prevalence of MS in the U.S. can only be estimated.

The prognosis for many is not good. Although a few patients (for reasons not fully understood) fare better than the average, most will progressively get worse and become debilitated and experience a significant decrease in their quality of life.

If this is you or a family member or a friend, talk to your doctor about starting vitamin D immediately. Why? Because new research shows that taking the “sunshine” vitamin can result in fewer MS symptoms.

This is good news considering that current treatment options for MS are mostly ineffective and risky to take.

Experiencing Fewer MS Symptoms with Vitamin D

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco reported a reduction in brain lesions and disease activity in multiple sclerosis patients who had higher levels of vitamin D.2

This conclusion came after a 5-year study, involving 469 men and women with MS. All participants underwent yearly blood testing for vitamin D and brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to evaluate disease progression.

The researchers determined that with each 10 ng/ml increase in serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D, there was a corresponding 15% reduction in the risk of new brain lesions characteristic of MS.

They also noted a 32% lower risk of areas of active disease as indicated by “white spots” or areas of inflammation visible on MRI images.

To put this into perspective, a 10-point increase in your vitamin D level can often be achieved by adding only 1 gram of it to your diet.3

Considering that the average cost-per-pill is around 8 cents, for a mere fraction of the cost of current treatments, people with MS could experience significant improvements in their quality of life.

Optimal Vitamin D Dosing & Blood Levels for Fighting MS

So what is the optimal vitamin D dose? Well, that depends on your blood level — and how much is in your blood is really the question we should be asking.

According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, a department of the National Institutes of Health, the optimal vitamin D blood level is between 20 and 50 ng/ml.4

This is optimal, by the way, if preventing bone disease is your only goal. But to reap the full benefits of vitamin D, including helping with MS symptoms and preventing new brain lesions, you’ll probably need to fall between 50 and 70 ng/ml, considerably higher than the NIH recommendations.

So we suggest obtaining a vitamin D blood level first and then taking a dose that will help you optimize your blood level, 10 points at a time.

Sun exposure helps to optimize blood levels as well. However, our ability to convert precursors into vitamin D under the influence of UVB light from the sun becomes less efficient with age5.

In addition, this process is influenced by multiple other factors, including season, latitude, time of the day, and sunscreen use5.

For these reasons, and given the many benefits attributed to vitamin D, it’s probably best to supplement with it daily. Are you?

References:

  1. Ther Adv Neurol Disord. 2011 Mar;4(2):99-109.
  2. Ann Neurol. 2012 Aug;72(2):234-40.
  3. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/589256_8
  4. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
  5. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Dec;80(6 Suppl):1678S-88S.

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32 comments:

Stephanie Gilley said...

People with MS have also had success at lowering their immune response, i.e. inflammation, when following a Gluten Free Diet. Try it along with your increased vitamin D level for minimum of 4 weeks to notice results.

Gustavo Molina said...

A Brazilian doctor (CĂ­cero Coimbra) has been using high dose (40,000 IU+/day) vitamin D therapy for treating MS and other auto-immune diseases with amazing results, for like 10 years. Not only patients improve clinically, and start to being able to run, walk normally, and even surf, after being stuck in a wheelchair for years,, but brain imaging reveals a significant decrease of the brain lesions. Despite the amazing results, this treatment is still frowned upon, and only a couple doctors follow his treatment protocol (but he offers to share this protocol with any interested doctor). The patients themselves even created a video explaining their results. It's in Portuguese, but subtitled in English, so I think anyone interested should watch it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erAgu1XcY-U

LifeExtension said...

Stephanie Gilley - Thanks for bringing that up. There is research linking MS to gluten sensitivities, so we can see how eliminating it from the diet might be helpful.

LifeExtension said...

Gustavo Molina - Thanks for sharing your input! It's amazing how treatments are frowned upon even when there is evidence to back them.

Tom Martin said...

I think the authority on MS reversal is Dr. Terry Wahl, since she reversed it in herself after being confined to a power chair. Consult her website, videos and books for more information.

Anonymous said...

Is there any table of values of optimal Vitamin D blood levels, for various other health problems. For example, Colorectal Cancer, that you could provide a link to?

maurecir mafra said...

30 minutes de sol produzem 10.000 U.I. de vitamina D
look Amigos da Cura

em google

LifeExtension said...

Anonymous - Here's a link to a good chart showing disease incidence prevention with serum vitamin D levels: http://enp-network.s3.amazonaws.com/Mount_Baker_NPA/PDF/Vitamin-D/DiseaseIncidence.pdf

Anonymous said...

Only ONE problem...it seems, EVERY time they gave me Vit D, massive doses or normal daily doses regularly, I go into a MASSIVE DEPRESSION. The only way it seems to be ok is thru the real deal, sunshine, which isn't always around. The gluten-free seemed to help. But, the best has been my Copaxone daily injection. I've done well, physically, for 12 years now...but I do have to say, my MS affects my cognition and short-term memory more than anything.

Anonymous said...

Note that the symptoms of MS are identical to the symptoms of mercury toxicity. People with amalgum ("silver") dental fillings or root canals can develop MS type symptoms. SEE: http://zap.intergate.ca/biglie.htm Amalgum fillings should be replaced with white/plastic ones by a dentist who knows how to do it in such a way as to prevent inhalation of mercury vapors in the process (few and far between but can be found). THEN, oral chelation therapy should be undergone to remove existing mercury toxicity in the body. Do not begin oral chelation BEFORE having dental amalgums removed, or it will simply pull the mercury out into your bloodstream, brain, spine and organs (and worsen symptoms).

Anonymous said...

There seems to be a lack of understanding about the nature of this disease. Symptoms come and go in most people with MS, that is called the relapse remitting form. There is NO cure for it. Other forms of MS include primary progressive, secondary progressive, and a rarer combination of relapse remitting/progressive. No 2 individuals with MS have the same symptoms. It has been recently suggested that there are possibly other forms of it. Latest news show a link between low Vitamin D levels among MS sufferers as well as a genetic component and viral component. Current treatments do not cure it, they just halt or slow the progression of the disease and there is new research into remylination, which is promising in mice but is not set to test in humans until 2015/2016. As for diet, a low protein diet is usually recommended. I have had 13 years to educate myself on the subject since I was diagnosed and take a Vitamin D supplement daily as recommended by my MS Neurologist.

Anonymous said...

Sleeping problems, over active brain, calcium deposit,muscle pain and sharp nerves pain down to the arms are they connected with low D in the blood? (20 ng/ml)

LifeExtension said...

Thank you all for the feedback. We truly appreciate your comments.

LifeExtension said...

Anonymous - Muscle pain and sleeping problems have been linked to vitamin D deficiencies.

Elwira Strzalkowski said...

I know Dr. Hesselink from Chicago-land area "Contemporary Medicine" in Burr Ridge, who is using LOW DOSE (4.5 mg) C-Naltrexone)to treat MS. I heard it works great for MS patients. My mom has a Parkinson Disease. She started taking Naltrexone a week ago. We are happy to say that after a week of using Naltrexone the tremors has lessened to the point that my mom's hand tremor does not wake her up anymore. Her jaw tremor lessened as well. We are very hopeful. The only side effect that we see right now with low dose is that my mom is more sleepy. Thanks and good luck!

LifeExtension said...

Elwira Strzalkowski - Thanks for sharing your comments. We all learn from each other!

toronto escot said...

In socialized health care, care is rationed based upon bureaucratic decisions.
In "free market" health care, care is rationed based upon the ability of the person to pay.

Caloundra Bookkeeper said...

This is an informative article in the field of health and medicine. Everyone should take vitamin D everyday.We could stimulate it by being exposed in the sun very early in the morning.Nothing beats the power of nature.

LifeExtension said...

Caloundra Bookkeeper - Why thank you!

Brainsmart said...

Dr Smith , I am a UK based specialist and I have spent some time researching the potential benefits of using Vit D in easing muscle spasms in my ageing patients but there have been no studies of its effects on MS overall existing in European archives.I have found this piece and its references most usefull in plugging a gap in my knowledge .Thank you

LifeExtension said...

Brainsmart - We're glad the information was helpful. Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

I have been taking LDN from Dr. Hesselink for over a year. I feel it does keep the MS symptoms stable and I have had no more relapses. I also started Vitamin D and feel that has helped.

LifeExtension said...

Anonymous - Thanks for your input! We're sure that other people will also appreciate it.

Stephen in Miami said...

Hello, I just wanted to say thanks for sharing this article! It really is incredible how important vitamin D can be. I have read elsewhere of the role that this seems to play with autoimmune disease, except the primary focus happened to be lupus. There seems to be some significant evidence that vitamin D supplementation could really help with the symptoms associated with SLE.

LifeExtension said...

Stephen in Miami - You're welcome! Vitamin D is an immune system regulator. That's why it's generally helpful in battling autoimmune conditions.

Anonymous said...

I was diagnosed 19 yrs. ago. I tryed almost all of the MS theropies, but the last few yrs I've been taking just a high dose of vitamin D and have been just fine no changes in my MRI in over 2 yrs. Just thought I'd share that.

LifeExtension said...

Anonymous - Thank you so much for sharing your experience! Keep up the good work. :-)

Anonymous said...

anonymous-how many IU's of Vitamin D do you take each day?

LifeExtension said...

Anonymous- It depends on existing vitamin D blood levels, but mainly between 5000 to 8000 IUs.

donna said...

I came across this article by accident but so happyi did. I have been taking vitamin D supplements daily as my neurologist suggested. I am amazed at the decrease in my pain level and my ability to walk and go up steps and drive and walk around long periods of time shopping without crying in pain etc ever since taking vitamin D doses daily. It'scrazy how something so simple can help soooooooo much.

Life Extension said...

donna - That's awesome donna! Glad to hear that vitamin D is making a difference in your life.

Muscle Building Diets said...

Oh, I know that’s not your intention. LOL No guilt here. :)
Your posts are always so deep and thought-provoking.

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