While previous studies have suggested that vitamin D may affect how airway cells respond to treatment with inhaled steroids, this is the first study of vitamin D and disease severity in children with asthma.
Children with lower vitamin D levels were significantly more likely to have been hospitalized for asthma in the previous year, tended to have airways with increased hyperreactivity, and were likely to have used more inhaled corticosteroids -- all signifying higher asthma severity. These children were also significantly more likely to have several markers of allergy, including dust-mite sensitivity.
|Vitamin D Dose Recommendations|
|Below 5||35 units per pound per day|
|Age 5 - 10||2500 units|
|Age 18 - 30||5000 units|
|Pregnant Women||5000 units|
There is no way to know if the above recommendations are correct. The ONLY way to know is to test your blood. You might need 4-5 times the amount recommended above. Ideally your blood level of 25 OH D should be 60ng/ml.
The incidence of asthma cases has increased by more than 300 percent over the last two decades and now affects an estimated 20 million Americans.
Asthma is an inflammatory condition, typically of your upper airways. Common symptoms include:
- Chest tightness
- Shortness of breath
Since asthma is caused by inflammation, the fact that vitamin D deficiency can aggravate the condition makes perfect sense in light of what we now know about vitamin D. As Dr. Robert Heaney explains in this Inner Circle Expert Interview, vitamin D can be a very powerful immune modulator.
And although this study may be the first to demonstrate an inverse association between circulating levels of vitamin D and markers of asthma severity, it’s not the first study to show that vitamin D can benefit asthmatics.
In 2006, Australian researchers discovered that exposure to sunlight significantly reduced the development of asthma symptoms in mice.
Is Vitamin D Deficiency to Blame for Asthma Epidemic?
In this latest study, 28 percent of the children with asthma had vitamin D levels of less than 30 ng/ml, which is clearly a deficiency state.
They discovered that lower vitamin D levels were associated with increased IgE and eosinophils, which are allergy markers.
This may also offer an explanation for why it’s so important to make sure your vitamin D levels are optimized during pregnancy, as infants whose mothers are vitamin D deficient have a higher risk of developing asthma.
One 2007 study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, states:
“Vitamin D has been linked to immune system and lung development in utero, and our epidemiologic studies show that higher vitamin D intake by pregnant mothers reduces asthma risk by as much as 40 percent in children 3 to 5 years old.
… Providing adequate vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy may lead to significant decreases in asthma incidence in young children.”
And, said Dr. Celedón in the article above:
"This study also provides epidemiological support for a growing body of in vitro evidence that vitamin D insufficiency may worsen asthma severity, and we suspect that giving vitamin D supplements to asthma patients who are deficient may help with their asthma control."
So not only can your vitamin D status during pregnancy influence the development of asthma in your child in the first place, but if your child is deficient as well, it may aggravate his or her asthma symptoms.
In fact, the children with higher vitamin D levels had a lower risk of being hospitalized for any cause, and needed fewer anti-inflammatory medications. This too correlates to another recent meta-analysis that showed higher vitamin D levels significantly reduce mortality from all causes.
Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels to Treat Asthma
It’s important to realize that although the medical community is beginning to embrace the importance of raising your vitamin D levels to protect against a large number of diseases and health conditions, the conventional dosing recommendations have not caught up.
Currently, the recommended daily allowance is a mere 400 units a day, which is about ten times lower than most people need for optimal health. You really need to make sure you’re getting therapeutic levels, which I list in this previous article – along with all the other facts you need to know about getting your vitamin D levels checked and optimized.
Ideally, you’ll want to obtain your vitamin D from exposing a significant amount of your skin -- not just your hands and face -- to appropriate amounts of sunlight outside. Exposing your skin to sun behind a window, whether in your home, office, or car will actually lower your vitamin D, as the UVB is filtered out and the UVA will lower your vitamin D.
You can tell you’ve had enough, from either the sun or a safe tanning bed, when your skin turns the very lightest shade of pink.
Once you reach that shade of pink, your body is not going to produce any more vitamin D. In fact, you’re only going to cause damage to your skin if you continue your exposure past that point.
You can actually produce up to 20,000 units of vitamin D per day through this kind of exposure. However, you don’t need to be concerned with how much you’re producing, as your skin has a feedback loop that will shut down the production of vitamin D past a certain point. (I explained some of the mechanics of this in my recent article Shocking Update -- Sunshine Can Actually Decrease Your Vitamin D Levels.)
Bear in mind that when you take an oral vitamin D supplement however, this feedback loop does not exist so you need to be far more careful, as overdosing can be just as bad as being severely deficient.
Last year I realized that oral supplements of vitamin D are necessary for just about everyone. I even take them myself on cloudy days where I am unable to get a few hours of sun exposure. But if you take oral supplements, make sure you monitor your blood with an accurate test. In the U.S., I recommend using Labcorp. They use the gold standard Diasorin test for checking vitamin D levels.
If you get your levels to about 60 ng/ml, there’s a strong likelihood you may not experience the symptoms of asthma anymore.
I personally monitor my own blood level every few weeks. The BIG inside story is that we will be able to offer the same test I do for myself at Labcorp, to everyone in the US at a really amazing price - far lower than is typically available, hopefully by the end of summer. Keep on reading the newsletter for the announcement.
Even More Strategies to Safely and Effectively Treat Your Asthma
Sadly, many seem to think that serious diseases require potent (and hence potentially dangerous) drugs to be kept in check. This is not true however, and asthma is no exception. In fact, safely and effectively treating your asthma is not a complicated affair.
In addition to making sure your vitamin D levels are optimized, here are several additional strategies that can help treat the root of your problem, as well as a few that can offer safe symptom relief:
- Purify your indoor air. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air is up to five times more polluted than outdoor air, on average. So, considering the fact that you spend about 90 percent of your life indoors, you may want to consider installing a good air purifier that is easy, safe, cost-effective, and leaves behind no dangerous chemical residues (which are often just as bad as the substances you're trying to clean away.)
- Consider the hygiene hypothesis – There’s a tendency in our modern culture to be obsessive about cleanliness, especially in children. However, this may not be as healthy as initially thought. It appears that being exposed to common bacterial and viral infections as a child can be instrumental in providing the stimulus to your immune system to prevent asthma naturally.
- Get regular exercise – Studies have shown that asthmatics who exercise regularly tend to show improvement in:
- Maximum ventilation
- Maximal oxygen uptake
- Work capacity, and
- Maximum heart rate
- Increase your intake of animal-based omega 3 fats – I can’t emphasize enough the importance of getting sufficient amounts of high quality animal-based omega 3 fats in your diet.
I strongly believe we all need plant-based omega 3 fats (and I consume some virtually every day myself, like hemp seed or flax seed), many people do not possess the metabolic machinery to rapidly convert the ALA in these plants to the higher order fats DHA and EPA, which are potent anti-inflammatories.
Although I still recommend fish oil in some instances, I believe krill oil is a superior source of omega 3 fats for most people.
- Avoid all commercial milk products. They are notorious for making asthma worse. If you consume milk at all, use only raw milk products from grass-fed cows, but even then be careful and take note of whether or not the raw milk is making your asthma better or worse.
- Eat foods rich in vitamin E. Much like vitamin D, higher vitamin E intake has also been associated with lower serum IgE concentrations and a lower frequency of allergen sensitization.
- Try some Butterbur (Petasites hybridus). This perennial shrub has been used since ancient times to treat a variety of conditions. As far back as the 17th century, butterbur was used to treat coughs, asthma, and skin wounds. Researchers have since identified the compounds in butterbur that help reduce symptoms in asthma by inhibiting leukotrienes and histamines, which are responsible for symptom aggravation in asthma.
In one study, 40 percent of patients taking a butterbur root extract were able to reduce their intake of traditional asthma medications.
- Build your immune system with allergy testing. In my experience, conventional testing does not work very effectively and there is a fair amount of risk. A far better intradermal skin test is the provocation neutralization testing.
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has a list of physicians who are trained in this highly effective technique.