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Vitamin D Fights Auto-Immune Diseases

When we were living in Qatar, there was a study published in the Qatar Gulf Times about the increasing problem of Vitamin D deficiency among women who are covered. It suggested that just ten minutes a day, uncovered, in full sunshine, could help relieve this common deficiency.

Part of the problem may be a lack of private area where a covered woman will feel comfortable being outside, uncovered, free from prying eyes. Another problem is cultural, where whiter skin is valued more highly than darker skin, or freckled skin.

What cost beauty? There are long term ramifications of Vitamin D deficiency, and the consequences can be dire. The cure is so easy . . .

By Diana Rodriguez
Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH

Your body needs a wide range of nutrients so that each cell performs the way it’s supposed to and all your body functions run smoothly. One important source that’s been getting a lot of buzz? Vitamin D — this essential vitamin helps build strong bones and much more.

Now researchers are discovering that vitamin D may be a powerful tool in understanding, and perhaps even preventing, certain health problems, including a group of conditions that currently has no cure — autoimmune diseases.

Autoimmune diseases occur when your immune system turns against your own body instead of fighting harmful invaders like bacteria and viruses. Autoimmune diseases affect different areas of the body. For instance, psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that affects the skin, while Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid gland.

Little is known about how and why autoimmune diseases occur, what can be done to prevent them, and how to reduce your autoimmune disease risk. But that could be about to change.

The Scoop on Vitamin D’s Benefits

One recent study discovered that people who are deficient in vitamin D, which comes from both food sources and sunlight, have an increased autoimmune disease risk. The study also found that vitamin D can affect how your genes function by binding to them in particular spots. These binding locations may help researchers better understand genes that trigger diseases related to vitamin D.

We know that vitamin D plays a role in protecting the immune system. And researchers found that not getting enough vitamin D increases your risk for rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes, among other autoimmune diseases. Unfortunately, researchers can’t yet pinpoint exactly how and why this is the case, or how getting enough vitamin D may help to ward off the onset of autoimmune disease symptoms.

5 Ways to Up Your Daily Dose of D

It’s clear that much more research needs to be done to better understand both autoimmune diseases and the impact of vitamin D on reducing autoimmune disease risk. But we already know that not getting enough vitamin D can be devastating to bones, leading to osteoporosis and fractures.

For overall good health, it’s essential to meet vitamin D requirements, up to 600 international units, or IU, each day. If your doctor tests your blood vitamin D level and finds a low level, you may be advised to get higher amounts. Where can you find this bone-building, immune-boosting vitamin? Here are some simple ways to get the recommended daily intake of vitamin D:

Feed on fish. Specifically, canned pink salmon, mackerel, and sardines offer the highest amounts of vitamin D.

Choose fortified beverages. Both soy and cow’s milk are available fortified with vitamin D. Some brands of orange juice also come with an added dose of D.

Eat egg yolks. Though they’re sometimes a concern because of cholesterol, egg yolks are a good source of vitamin D.

Start your day with cereal. Dry cereals and instant oatmeal that have been fortified with vitamin D are a great way to start your day.

Keep it simple with a supplement. Vitamin D supplements can make it easy to get all you need each day — just take one pill.

Exposure to the sun also helps your body to produce vitamin D. Relaxing in the sun for a brief period of time (just 5 to 10 minutes) a few days per week without sunscreen can help your body create enough vitamin D to ward off a deficiency. Just remember to guard against the potential damage of the sun — keep your exposure limited to reap the vitamin D benefits without harming your skin.

December 18, 2012 Posted by | Beauty, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Health Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Qatar, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues | , , | 2 Comments