Today I am pleased to have a guest contributor, Kathy Bolen, RN, MSCN. Many of you know Kathy who is a certified MS nurse and director of the infusion center here at MSCT.Vitamin D
Thank you, Dr. Rice for allowing me in on this digital adventure. The topic of Vitamin D seemed like a good place to start.
Over the last several years Vitamin D, has become a topic widely discussed. Many experts in the field of medicine and research are gathering more information on Vitamin D and its benefits. It has been found that Vitamin D deficiency is widely epidemic with approximately 75-80% of adults showing deficient or insufficient levels.
Vitamin D is referred to as the “Sunshine” vitamin because sun exposure is crucial for the body to change it to the active form of vitamin D. Studies have shown that people who live in the northern latitudes (farther way from the equator) have less sun exposure, lower levels of Vitamin D and a higher incidence of MS. Invention of sunscreen, sun-protective clothing, geographic location, season, high skin pigmentation, decrease dietary intake, aging and obesity are also common causes for deficiency. We have known for years that Vitamin D helps regulate calcium absorption, which is important in maintaining bone health. Recent studies show that the benefit on the body is more widespread. Most cells and tissues in the body respond to Vitamin D and in relationship to the immune system it has an anti-inflammatory and immune regulatory effect.
So what does Vitamin D deficiency mean for the MS patient?
Since we know that most of our MS patients need to avoid the sun at all costs more than likely many will show inadequate levels just by that fact alone. We know that deficiency may cause myopathy (disease of the skeletal muscle), muscle weakness and increased risk of falls. It is also thought that Vitamin D has a neuro-protective benefit, which could help to slow progression. MS patients with high levels of Vitamin D have shown decreased risk for attacks and less severe disability. The main concern for MS patients is that low Vitamin D levels can make the MS associated weakness worse. Research is looking into the possibility that adequate levels of Vitamin could possibly prevent MS.
Will my doctor automatically check my Vitamin D levels?
This may vary among physicians. We check our MS patients regularly and supplement with various doses according to their levels. Levels may require a daily maintenance dose of 2000-4000 IU daily and in some cases a higher dose for 2 months may be required followed by the maintenance dose. While approaches for supplementing have not been established, evidence based on our experience has shown no down side and many patients with extremely low levels have often expressed that they feel much better when Vitamin D levels are increased.
As with any information presented we always encourage you to talk with your physician and we will do our best to keep you updated on the latest and greatest news. Thanks for reading.
Kathy Bolen, RN