Vitamin D boosts remyelination
Researchers at the University of Cambridge set out to find what controls oligodendrocyte progenator cells (OPCs) ability to differentiate and create myelin--and discovered that it is Vitamin D which binds and activates vitamin D receptors and controls myelin sheath regeneration. In fact, remyelination of axons is impaired when Vitamin D receptor (VDR) is blocked. When Vitamin D was added to the brain's stem cells, production of OPCs increased 80%.
In case we need even more proof that Vitamin D is an important part of MS recovery, I'd like to round up the latest crop of papers, published in 2015, linking higher Vitamin D levels with better health for people with MS.
Vitamin D prevents brain atrophy
Researchers at Yale University discovered that higher serum levels of Vitamin D is linked to higher levels of gray matter in the brain, and lower rates of tissue loss, or brain atrophy, in MS. They looked at 65 pwMS and measured brain volume on MRI. The strongest correlation was between low Vitamin D levels and brain atrophy.
Vitamin D strengthens endothelial cells
A study from the University of Utah found that Vitamin D stabilizes the endothelium and strengthens the vasculature. It acts directly on endothelial cells to inhibit vascular leak. Since inflammation and "auto-immune" reactions are a function of plasmic particles leaking into tissue and setting off an immune reaction (in places like the gut or blood brain barrier)---finding ways to strengthen endothelial cells is vitally important.
Higher Vitamin D levels means more time from RRMS to SPMS conversion
Researchers in the Netherlands found that there was an association of low Vitamin D levels at the start of diagnosis of MS which was linked to an early conversion to SPMS. Those with higher Vitamin D levels took longer to convert to SPMS.
Higher levels of sun exposure decreases MS risk
Australian researchers find the UV ray exposure is associated with lower MS progression rates and disease activity, through both Vitamin D and non-Vitamin D pathways. UV rays modify and regulate immune cells.
Pretty impressive research! But are the benefits of Vitamin D for those with MS simply recent news? Not really. Dr. Ashton Embry's Direct-MS site is where Dr. Terry Wahls and many of us first heard about the connection between Vitamin D and improved MS outcomes almost a decade ago. In fact, Direct-MS funded two trials on Vitamin D, and both had very positive results published in 2009 and 2010. Thanks to the Embry Family for funding and pushing this research!
I've been writing about the therapeutic powers of vitamin D on the vascular endothelium since 2008. I also included sunshine and UV rays.
Here's a blog post from 2010, where I explain how Vitamin D provides "vasculoprotection" and prevents brain atrophy.
Here's some completely anecdotal evidence from our home:
Jeff's Vitamin D level has stayed around 70ng/mL since he began supplementing and getting rays, and he continues to do well, with no MS progression or disabilities. His Vitamin D level was at 15ng/mL when diagnosed for MS in 2007. We had to pay for his first D3 test, since it wasn't covered by insurance. Our doctor asked why we wanted his D3 levels tested, and I shared the Direct-MS site with her. Since then, our insurance company has seen the light (pun intended!) and covers yearly testing of D3 levels. As for me, I hadn't been taking any D3 supplements, but that's recently changed. This past spring, my level was 17ng/mL and I was put on a high dose (50,000IU) weekly dosage for 2 months. My levels are now good at 65g/mL and I maintain that with 4,000IU daily. I have much less arthritis pain and more energy. There's a link to optimizing Vitamin D levels for healthy people, too.
So, while this info on Vitamin D is not new or ground-breaking for most following MS research, it is further building on the foundation. Let this be a shout out to all people with MS. Find out what your Vitamin D levels are, and make sure you optimize them! This doesn't always mean simply taking a supplement. It might involve more sun exposure or phototherapy, quitting smoking, losing weight and eating a whole food diet. Work with your healthcare provider to establish the best program for you, and get those numbers up! And don't forget, it's not about one pill or supplement, it's about living a new life.