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Does Vitamin D Help People Living with MS?

By Matt Cavallo

My neurologist has said on more than one occasion that taking vitamin D is as important as taking any other MS treatment. When my neurologist says it is that important, I follow my doctor’s orders. So, for the past couple of years, I included taking it as a part of my morning routine and had been taking vitamin D every day like clockwork. 

Then this past January, I fell into a deep depression. In the midst of that depression, my morning routine fell apart, which included not taking my vitamin D. As I am climbing out of my depression, I noticed I have not felt any noticeable differences in my health without vitamin D. For me, this is one of the challenges to sticking with vitamin D. Even though my neurologist tells me it is important, and I should treat vitamin D like it is an MS treatment, I can’t tell the difference either physically or mentally whether I am on it or not. However, my neurologist can tell because of the change in my labs when I am not taking it.

I do know I have a vitamin D deficiency. It is something that has shown up in my lab work since being diagnosed. I have been with my current neurologist for the past 15 years, but prior to that, my previous neurologists also recommended vitamin D because of my deficiency. When I don’t take vitamin D, my level is usually around 9 nanograms per milliliter. When I take my 5,000 IU vitamin D supplement daily, blood tests show my levels at 25 ng/mL, which is more of a normal range. My neurologist would like to see me around 30 ng/mL consistently. 

So, even though I don’t feel a difference from taking the supplement, my blood test does show the vitamin D supplement does increase the vitamin D levels in my body to more of a normal range. But, does it help me with my MS?

I learned early on in my MS diagnosis that vitamin D is thought to be helpful to people living with MS. According to the Mayo Clinic, people who have MS and take vitamin D supplements may have symptoms that aren't as bad as they would be if they didn't take vitamin D. Also, symptoms may occur less often, which improves quality of life. Taking vitamin D also may lower the risk of relapse and may decrease new scarring in the nervous system. 

However, when I was researching the question, does vitamin D help people living with MS, I found this article published last year titled UPDATE: Reports Suggest Vitamin D Supplements Do Not Reduce Ongoing MS Disease Activity. In this article there were a couple of studies that were conducted showing high doses of vitamin D do not reduce MS disease activity. So, the new studies contradict the previous studies that suggested vitamin D may help decrease MS activity. 

I will bring this new research up with my neurologist at our next visit to see if this changes the way he feels about me taking vitamin D. I will also continue taking vitamin D as a supplement. Even though I do not feel any difference, I do have the before and after blood tests that show vitamin D supplements bring my deficiencies into a normal vitamin D range. Finally, even though there is contradictory research in terms of the vitamin D benefit for those who live with MS, vitamin D does help you maintain strong teeth and bones, which is important as we age, and also helps regulate your immune system and reduce inflammation.