Lupus and Vitamin D Deficiency
As a lupus warrior there is one thing I look forward to after a long dark winter, and that is sunshine. No, I cannot actually go out and absorb the sun’s rays like someone without lupus, but I can enjoy the brightness from afar and feel the effects that moderate temperatures and longer hours of daylight have on my health and mood.
I really miss the sunshine on my skin and the warmth it brings (as well as the tan), but spending time in direct sunlight is something I must avoid unless I was to feel physically ill and break out in a rash.
But I am learning that this sunshine avoidance, which I do for my health, actually may negatively affect my lupus. The reason: vitamin D deficiency.
There has been a lot of recent studies focusing on the connection between vitamin D levels and the immune system and how it responds. The findings are interesting to me, having been in a lupus flare for quite a while now and being desperate to figure out some way to help myself out of it.
And having a vitamin D deficiency is something that is so simple to determine (a simple blood test) and treat (your doctor will recommend the proper dosage for your condition, taking in mind any other health issues you may have) with a daily supplement.
I recently learned from my rheumatologist that I am vitamin D deficient and that this can play a role in my disease activity. And I have to admit, I am someone who avoids getting direct sun exposure and who is horrible at remembering to take supplements. My lupus and thyroid medications are on a strict schedule, which is the only reason I remember to take them, but my supplements are not.
With my lupus brain fog I forget many things, so I tend to think of my supplements of B12, B6, fish oil, biotin and vitamin D at random moments, usually when I am out the door and cannot actually act on it.
After learning about the relationship to this sunshine vitamin and lupus, I think I need to find a way to remember my supplement.
Interest has been growing in the role of vitamin D in all sorts of diseases and medical conditions, including autoimmune diseases and chronic pain. And the studies my doctor pointed me to indicate I should be more diligent in taking my supplement.
Some studies have shown that more than 67 percent of patients with lupus also have a vitamin D deficiency, and that it has a direct role in immune system activity.
Another study from the University Of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center discovered a possible link between SLE and low vitamin D levels. Several other studies found that people with low levels of vitamin D are more prone to develop SLE than those with higher levels.
How You Get Vitamin D
Typically you get vitamin D by either absorbing it through the skin from sunshine or through a very select number of foods. Some foods have been fortified with vitamin D in recent years, like milk and orange juice. The only other way is by taking a vitamin D supplement daily.
Why Do We Need Vitamin D?
Vitamin D within the human body turns it into a hormone called calcitriol and affects many systems within the body. Here are just a few necessary things it does:
- Helps the body use calcium from dietary intake
- Promotes good muscle function
- Supports cellular growth and changes
Next page: why we need vitamin D, and what recent research has revealed about lupus and vitamin D.