Multiple sclerosis is considered by many scientists to be an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases are those diseases in which our bodies attack our own cells. Some examples are psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. Our immune system attacks cells that it does not recognize – foreign invaders from outside out bodies. Antigens are toxins or other foreign substances that cause an immune response. Our bodies don’t recognize that cell (antigen) as part of our own body.
With multiple sclerosis (MS), some scientists claim it cannot be an autoimmune disease because no specific antigen has been found linked to MS. MS is tied to our central nervous system (CNS). When our autoimmune response kicks in to protect us, it damages various parts of our CNS – myelin, myelin-producing cells, and the underlying nerve fibers.
There are many more cases of MS in higher latitudes around the world. The sunlight intensity is less at the poles of the earth than it is around the equator. Our bodies convert sunlight into vitamin D. Vitamin D is needed for many functions within our bodies. Studies reported in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in September 2016 show a correlation between low vitamin D levels in the winter time (low levels of sunlight) and increased risk and MS relapse and increased levels of MS-related disabilities. This study focused on Polish men and women with MS.
Vitamin D3 levels were measured in the MS subjects and disability levels were assessed periodically during this study. Average vitamin D3 levels were lower in the winter and the level of disability increased as the levels of vitamin D3 decreased. Severe cases of MS had the lowest average level of vitamin D3 along with the highest assessment of disability.
The study concluded that low levels of vitamin D, as observed during winter months, are associated with an increased number of MS relapses. Vitamin D3 is available in pill form. I believe that the recommended daily allowance for vitamin D3 is far too low to be effective in maintaining normal health, much less reducing the intensity of disability or the risk of increased relapses of MS during the winter time. Tomorrow I will discuss how much is too little and why.