People with multiple sclerosis (MS) want to do everything possible to prevent the autoimmune disease’s uncomfortable and disabling consequences, including weakness, numbness, blurred vision and bladder problems.
What’s wonderful is that recent research has found that consuming more of a certain nutrient found in foods and supplements might slow the progression of the disease.
I talked to the study’s lead author, Ellen Mowry, MD, to find out more about this vitamin and how much of it exactly might help my readers who are living with MS…
“D-CIPHERING” THE RESEARCH
The nutrient in question is vitamin D.
Dr. Mowry and her colleagues analyzed people with MS during a five-year period. They gauged their blood levels of vitamin D from all sources—sunlight, foods and/or supplements. (Patients weren’t told to consume specific amounts of vitamin D.) Researchers used MRI scans on the patients to look for two particular types of lesions in the brain—new T2 lesions and gadolinium-enhancing lesions. These lesions indicate that MS is advancing—the development of lesions in MS patients is associated with long-term disability.
Dr. Mowry and her team found an intriguing association—the higher the level of vitamin D in the blood, the lower the number of both types of lesions. Each increase of 10 nanograms per milliliter of vitamin D in the blood was linked to a 15% lower risk for new T2 lesions and a 32% lower risk for gadolinium-enhancing lesions.
Researchers also tracked the progression of disability in patients and found that the higher the levels of vitamin D, the less disability a person would subsequently have.
This doesn’t mean that consuming more vitamin D will definitely prevent MS from progressing (this study did not show cause and effect—only an association with blood levels), but there’s a chance that it could.
THE BEST DOSE OF D
Curious to know how much of the vitamin MS patients may want to take, I asked Dr. Mowry and Daily Health News regular contributor Andrew Rubman, ND, founder and medical director of the Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines in Connecticut, to address this question.
They both said that beyond getting vitamin D through foods and sunlight, people with MS often need to take an additional 2000 IU to 4000 IU of the vitamin each day in supplement form. (Keep in mind that not all experts agree yet on what is optimal. Plus, vitamin D may interact negatively with certain drugs and exacerbate certain health conditions. So check with your doctor before taking any vitamin D.)
Both also advised having your blood levels of vitamin D measured by your doctor before starting supplementation. This way, if you have MS, you can see whether your measurement falls between the 40 and 60 nanograms per milliliter that Dr. Mowry counsels her MS patients to shoot for. You can then adjust your vitamin D dosage to reach that range.