Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is converted by the body into a hormone called calcitriol or “activated vitamin D.” Calcitriol is responsible for modulating cell growth, reducing inflammation and promoting calcium absorption, bone growth and immune function. As a result, vitamin D plays a role in the management or prevention of a variety of diseases, including psoriasis.
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, vitamin D has been proven to be effective in helping to treat psoriasis by slowing the rate at which skin cells grow and improving the immune system, resulting in thinner and less scaly plaques and reducing T-cell activity, lowering inflammation. As such, ensuring that patients with psoriasis have high enough levels of vitamin D is essential to optimizing the care of these individuals.
It is estimated that 40-75% of the world’s population is deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is caused by a number of factors, including the fact that so many foods lack vitamin D, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). What few food sources there are include fatty fish, fish liver oil and eggs, with smaller amounts found in beef liver and cheese. In fact, most dietary vitamin D comes from fortified foods such as milk, orange juice, yogurt and breakfast cereals.
Sunlight is another source of vitamin D, however, those living in northern latitudes don’t get enough due to the long, dark winter months. In addition, more people are using sunscreen, which blocks vitamin D-producing UV sun rays from reaching the skin.
Vitamin D has been associated with the prevention and treatment of many diseases, including psoriasis, mood disorders, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, immune system disorders and more:
Osteoporosis. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 40 million adults in the U.S. have or are at risk of developing osteoporosis, a disease characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue that increases bone fragility and increases the risk of bone fractures. Osteoporosis is most often associated with inadequate calcium intakes, but insufficient vitamin D contributes by reducing calcium absorption. Adequate levels of vitamin D maintain bone strength and might help prevent osteoporosis.
Cancer. Studies indicate that vitamin D can play a role in the prevention of colon, prostate and breast cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, early research showed that incidence and death rates for certain cancers were lower among individuals living in southern latitudes where sunlight exposure was relatively high, than among those living at northern latitudes. Because exposure to ultraviolet light from sunlight leads to the production of vitamin D, researchers hypothesized that variation in vitamin D levels might account for this association. In other studies of cancer cells and tumors in mice, vitamin D has been found to slow or prevent the development of cancer, including promoting cellular differentiation, decreasing cancer cell growth, stimulating cell death and reducing tumor blood vessel formation.
Heart Disease. The latest research shows that vitamin D is beneficial in preventing heart disease. According to the Cleveland Clinic, a growing number of studies support the idea that low levels of vitamin D are linked to an increased risk of heart disease and that adding vitamin D supplements can help reduce this risk.
Autoimmune Diseases. Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) are autoimmune, chronic and relapsing diseases that include Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Vitamin D is emerging as a multi-functional vitamin in IBD. It has recently been linked to a number of other functions like anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic pathways in the gastrointestinal tract.
Mood Disorders. Some studies suggest an association between low vitamin D levels in the blood and various mood disorders, including depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Also, vitamin D supplementation may improve symptoms of depression associated with SAD. In one study, vitamin D was found to be better than light therapy in the treatment of SAD.
One of the best sources of vitamin D is over-the-counter supplements, including vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Vitamin D2 is made naturally by plants and vitamin D3 is made naturally by the body when the skin is exposed to ultraviolet radiation in sunlight. Many physicians prefer vitamin D3 because it is better absorbed and closer to the naturally occurring form of the vitamin in humans.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, 400 IU of vitamin D is necessary to prevent rickets but an overwhelming number of physicians and researchers believe this level is too low to reduce the risk of disease. Many physicians are now recommending 1,000 IU to 2,000 IU for most adults. However, excessive vitamin D can cause toxicity by increasing calcium levels, which can affect soft tissues such as the kidneys, heart or lungs. A safe level of vitamin D for adults and children older than 8 years old is 4,000 IU per day. Vitamin D toxicity is more likely to occur from high intakes of dietary supplements than from food or sunlight.
Screening for vitamin D deficiency requires a blood sample for measurement of serum 25(OH)D levels. Contact your physician for more information about this test.
OptiMed Specialty Pharmacy is a privately-held healthcare entity that is ACHC- and URAC-accredited and uniquely qualified to treat not only psoriasis but other diseases as described above, including Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and more. OptiMed is devoted to helping individuals optimize treatment outcomes by providing personalized medication management and research-based clinical information. We work closely with each patient, prescriber and payer to create a personalized plan that will lead to treatment success and improved quality of life.
Our pharmacists are available to answer questions by calling 877-385-0535. For more information about our services, visit www.optimedspecialtyrx.com.
Source: National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Arq Gastroenterol