Natural Health Remedies, Dietary Supplements | Jon Barron's Blog

Date: 02/14/2009    Written by: Jon Barron

Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis

Vitamin D, MS, Multiple Sclerosis

A new study has confirmed that a lack of vitamin D triggers a gene response that can lead to multiple sclerosis--a disease that affects 2.5 million people worldwide. Scientists have hypothesized for years that a lack of vitamin D might play a role in the development of MS. Since sunlight is the major source of vitamin D, previous research looked at the connection between climate and the development of MS. Studies found that the closer people live to the equator, the lower their chances of getting MS, while people who live in places that don't get much sunlight for long periods of time, such as in Northern Europe, have far higher MS rates. A 2006 study out of the Harvard School of Public Health confirmed the connection by discovering that subjects who developed MS had the lowest blood levels of vitamin D.

While these earlier studies acknowledged the vitamin D/MS connection, this new study is the first to establish a genetic link between the lack of vitamin D and the disease. When the researchers, from Oxford University in England and the University of British Columbia, isolated a gene that triples the risk of MS and then exposed that gene to vitamin D, they found that the vitamin caused proteins to bind to the gene and switch it on, which provided for normal functioning. They hypothesized that without sufficient stores of vitamin D, the gene doesn't work properly. Instead, it interprets proteins as invaders and causes the body to produce T-cells, which would normally attack pathogens--but in this case, because the T-cells have faulty programming, they attack the protective sheaf around nerve cells, causing MS.

As I've written before, a deficiency of vitamin D puts you at risk for more than MS. Studies have shown a connection between too little of the vitamin and an increased risk of prostrate and breast cancers, colon cancer, a weakened immune system, cardiovascular problems, diabetes, hypertension, schizophrenia, depression, and kidney disease. In fact, research holds that getting enough vitamin D reduces the likelihood of getting serious diseases like cancer and diabetes by as much as 80 percent.

The seemingly obvious conclusion is that you should consume more vitamin D, but it isn't so simple. First, very few dietary sources contribute vitamin D, and those that do don't begin to provide enough even to meet the minimum daily requirement. You'd have to drink at least 10 large glasses of milk a day just to get anywhere near the minimum required, and then you accrue all the problems associated with dairy. Perhaps that's why more than half of all adults and most elderly people have a vitamin D deficiency. Also, the researchers believe that even a prenatal lack of vitamin D can lead to MS later in life--so if your Mom didn't have enough vitamin D, you might be suffering for it now (yet another reason to blame Mom for your woes). In fact, the authors say in a paper published in PLoS Genetics that a deficiency a generation back could carry over and cause MS down the line. That's downright Biblical (Exodus 34:7).

The best natural source of vitamin D really is sunshine. Just 15 minutes of exposure a day can provide the equivalent of 10,000 units taken orally. Traditional guidelines, which are absurdly low, set the minimum daily requirement at 200 IU (and most of us are deficient at that) or 400-600 IU for adults over the age of 50. Current research, on the other hand, says that to achieve optimal health you need between 1,000--4,000 IU per day - although that does not seem to have filtered down to the mainstream medical community yet.

Clearly, getting out in the sun is the most powerful and efficient way to get your daily dose, but if you live in Yakutat, Alaska or if it's winter wherever you are or if you have a rainy spell or you work all day in an office, you need to supplement. In fact, you probably need to supplement anyway. For one thing, suntan lotion cuts vitamin D absorption by up to 95 percent. If you're always wearing suntan lotion, you're not getting enough vitamin D. Also, long sleeves and burkas and any clothing that covers a large area of your skin reduces your vitamin D production. And if you have dark skin, you need to up the amount of sun exposure: African Americans, for instance, need five to ten times the amount of sun exposure that Caucasians do in order to produce enough D.

In fact, the Journal of the American Medical Association recently advised all adults to take supplements, reversing a long-standing policy of advising people to get their nutrients from food and to forget about vitamins. JAMA now concedes that 80 percent of Americans don't eat enough fruits and vegetables to meet the minimum daily requirement, that many of the requirements are set far too low, and that food sources just can't supply certain vitamins (like vitamin D) anyway.

While you can't get too much vitamin D from sunshine (the body regulates itself), it is possible to develop toxicity from taking too much in supplement form. The upper limit for vitamin D supplements, according to traditional thinking, is considered to be 2,000 units daily. It should be noted, however, that all recorded cases of vitamin D toxicity start in the range of 40,000 IU a day. In fact, current research indicates that any level below 10,000 IU a day is likely to be safe.

Bottom line: get out in the sun for 10 to 15 minutes daily, without sunscreen, weather permitting. If not the sun, then supplement between 1000-2000 IU a day. If you're pregnant, you need to be especially vigilant in this regard. And if you have kids, make sure that they get enough of the vitamin. As I recently wrote, a study last year showed that up to 40 percent of children between the ages of eight-months to two years are vitamin D deficient.


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    Submitted by Dena Everly on
    March 23, 2009 - 2:13am

    My Vitamin D level was 297 and they can't find any reason for it....I feel that I just was taking to much extra vitamin D...They have checked my liver, kidney, and lungs..and everything is good...all blood test come make good....but the vitamin D...It is now down to 242,,,and the only differents that were made was stopping all vitamins..for six months....My question is can the sun bed peak your vitamin D level this high..only going twice aweek ten minute at a time...and is there something I can be doing to help detox my body of this vitamin D,,,or does it have to come down on it's own

    Submitted by Evelyn Orf on
    December 25, 2011 - 8:04am

    I have the same situation as the entry for Dena Everly, entered on March 23, 2009. Is it possible to get too much vitamin D? My levels checked by a "MD" were 194. Is this okay, or must I concede to their recommendation and stop taking it until my levels come down. If so, what would is the normal range the levels should be at?

    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    December 26, 2011 - 10:24am

    As to why levels of vitamin D might be high, the quick answer is to ask yourself two questions.

    Are you drinking enough water (8 glasses a day) to maintain proper hydration?

    Are you supplementing only with D3 and not D2?

    The reasons why are covered below.

    Because the body has a built in mechanism for preventing toxicity with vitamin D produced in the skin, there is no risk of vitamin D toxicity due to ultraviolet-B (UVB) exposure - whether from the sun or a tanning bed. However, the more sun exposure you have, the less supplemental vitamin D you need to take. Supplemental vitamin D bypasses your skin’s  built-in protection and, if excessive amounts are consumed over a period of time, 25(OH)D blood levels can reach a point where toxicity is possible.

    According to the standard dietary models, toxicity blood levels for 25(OH)D are as follows:

    Toxicity threshold level - 200-250 ng/mL (500-750 nmol/L) 

    Upper limit - 100 ng/mL (250 nmol/L)

    But is that a valid level? Keep in mind that concentrations twice this amount have yet to ever be associated with toxicity. In animal models, serum concentrations have reached as high as 400-700 ng/mL (1,000-1750 nmol/L) before toxic effects (severe hypercalcemia) were observed. Based on these models, some health experts recommend higher levels than those expressed in the standard dietary model. Whether they should be higher or not is open to debate. At the very least, then, we can say that the levels expressed in the standard dietary model are, at the very least, conservative.

    The first sign of vitamin D toxicity, as mentioned above is hypercalcuria (excess calciumin the urine) followed by hypercalcemia (high blood calcium). The following symptoms may present:



    poor appetite

    constipation (possibly alternating with diarrhea)


    weight loss

    tingling sensations in the mouth


    heart rhythm abnormalities

    The immediate symptoms of vitamin D overdose are:

    abdominal cramps



    If the results show a serum 25(OH)D level of 200-250 ng/mL (500-750 nmol/L) or more, you could be toxic. The following measures should be taken until vitamin D levels return to normal:

    Avoid foods and supplements containing vitamin D – especially D2. If you are supplementing with vitamin D2, be aware that studies have shown that because of the poorer stability of and greater impurities in vitamin D2, it may lead to a higher risk of toxicity that that associated with D3. Supplementing with vitamin D2, the inferior form, is actually far more likely to lead to toxic levels in the blood.

    Avoid of direct sunlight exposure

    Reduce your calcium intake, since high levels of vitamin D can cause calcium levels to build up in the blood

    Drink 8 glasses of water daily. Drinking sufficient water helps clear high levels of vitamin D and high levels of calcium from the body

    Once 25(OH)D levels have normalized, sunlight exposure and/or vitamin D supplementation can be resumed, taking care not to overdo it – and making sure to use only D3 for supplementation and making sure to continue to maintain proper hydration.

    Submitted by Reta Oram on
    March 11, 2009 - 6:14am

    What would be the major symptoms of Vitamin D toxicity?

    Submitted by Suma G Nathan on
    January 5, 2012 - 4:38pm

    They (the knowledable ones) say that anything or anyone can be toxic!!! first i hardly agree, and statistics don't always give us the right answers! Everyone has a different metabolic pathway to assimilate and digest, perhaps, besides the fact it wasn't D3 the better form as Doc Barron stated, or perhaps it was, and was not absorped correctley, or not enough good bacteria in the gastro track to be assimilated!!!(Probiotics) So, looking @ all of these conditions which could also be responsible, Of course cutting down, is always a good idea too, however other Health Conditions might also enter in to it!!! Be sure to check, unfortuntely people are bandading their own Nutritonal programs and not adherring to a professional for a complete Therapeautically Designed Protocol and ordering what looks good, I say that a million times in my seminars and always look to Dr. Barrons articles and newsletters to be on the right programs Suma G Nathan,Certified Registered Holistic Nutritionist/Certified Chinese Herbologist/Holistic Health Practitioner/Journalist/Seminars 

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