Vitamin D and Your Health

by Jason Boehm, MS, CNS, MMC

Other Ways Vitamin D Affects Your Health

Vitamin D is no longer thought only to be important in bone health, it is now recognized as playing many roles in our body. In fact, vitamin D receptors (VDRs) are found in at least 35 different types of cells, and vitamin D can selectively activate 600-700 genes in our body, or about 3% our total number of genes! The ways in which vitamin D helps our body are not all fully understood yet, but there are a few which have been brought to light recently.

Vitamin D And Autoimmune Diseases

Vitamin D receptors are widely found in most of the immune cells our body produces, and they play a role in how our immune system responds. Of particular importance to autoimmune diseases is the way vitamin D affects immune cells called T helper cells, which have been implicated as a driving force in autoimmunity. Vitamin D reduces the T helper response, which reduces the symptoms associated with various autoimmune diseases.

More research needs to be done to determine exactly what effect vitamin D supplementation will have on autoimmune diseases such as type I diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis, but prospective studies show that it lowers the incidence of them and may help relieve them.

Further evidence of the connection between vitamin D and autoimmune diseases is the frequency in which they occur by latitude: Incidence of certain autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and type I diabetes, is correlated strongly with latitude, with more cases being reported in areas with less sun exposure and longer winters. While other factors may also play a role in the frequency of these diseases, it’s not coincidental that many vitamin D related illnesses occur more frequently in areas with less sun exposure.

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