Asthmatic children with low blood vitamin D levels may have a greater risk of suffering severe asthma attacks.
A study followed more than 1,000 children with asthma for four years, and found those with vitamin-D insufficiency at the outset were more likely to have an asthma attack that required a trip to the hospital.
"When the researchers considered other factors -- including the severity of the children's asthma at the study's start, their weight and their family income -- vitamin D insufficiency itself was linked to a 50 percent increase in the risk of severe asthma attacks."
Vitamin D never ceases to amaze, and research into its impact on non-bone related diseases continues to yield positive results.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a variety of health conditions, from depression to autoimmune disorders, to colds and flu, to cancer, and now asthma, and even cognitive function.
This is good news.
Asthma has increased by more than 300 percent over the last two decades, now affecting some 20 million Americans, and if vitamin D is even partially responsible for this meteoric rise in prevalence, then the answer is literally right outside your door.
Millions of people are needlessly exposing themselves to the dangers inherent with the standard drug treatments for asthma. Advair, for example, contains the long-acting beta-agonist (LABA) salmeterol, which can actually increase the severity of an asthma attack.
Researchers estimate that salmeterol may contribute to as many as 5,000 asthma-related deaths in the United States each year. Conventional asthma treatments can also increase your risk of heart disease and osteoporosis, just to name a few.
This is why it's so important to start focusing our attention on simple, effective, and infinitely safer methods, such as increasing vitamin D levels, to combat the underlying cause of this growing health problem.
Vitamin D Deficiency and Asthma at All Time Highs
Right now, only 5 to 37 percent of American infants meet the standard for vitamin D set by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which will make them prime candidates for a slew of future health problems related to vitamin D deficiency – one of them being asthma.
At the end of 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics doubled its recommended dose of vitamin D for infants, children and adolescents, raising it from 200 to 400 units per day. But research published earlier that same year revealed children may need ten times that amount in order to receive the health benefits that optimal vitamin D levels have to offer.
Many mothers also are vitamin D-deficient, which is another contributor to asthma. A 2007 study showed that poor diet and lack of vitamin D during pregnancy were the determining factors in whether their children suffered from asthma by the age of five.
In addition, this latest study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology confirms previous findings, showing that asthmatic children with low blood vitamin D levels also have an increased risk of suffering severe asthma attacks.
According to this study, vitamin D insufficiency itself was linked to a 50 percent increase in the risk of severe asthma attacks.
This makes sense, as a number of other studies have confirmed that there's an inverse association between respiratory infections and vitamin D levels in children. This is likely because vitamin D upregulates a specific gene that produces over 200 anti-microbial peptides, some of which work like a broad-spectrum antibiotic.
In addition, optimizing your overall immune function is an essential part of treating asthma, and vitamin D is proven to be an incredibly powerful immune modulator, which is why optimizing your vitamin D levels is so essential.
Beware: Conventional Vitamin D Recommendations are Still Too Low
Based on the latest research, many experts now agree you need about 35 IU's of vitamin D per pound of body weight. This recommendation also includes children, the elderly and pregnant women.
This is a far cry from the 200-600 IU's currently recommended by our health agencies.
Remember, however, that vitamin D requirements are highly individual.
Your vitamin D status is dependent on several factors, such as the color of your skin, your location, and how much sunshine you're exposed to on a regular basis. So, although these recommendations may put you closer to the level of what most people likely need, it is virtually impossible to make a blanket recommendation that will cover everyone.
The only accurate way to determine your optimal dose is to get your blood tested. Ideally, you'll want to maintain a vitamin D level of at least 50ng/ml and perhaps as high as 80-90 ng/ml year-round.
For in-depth information about safe sun exposure, dosing and other recommendations to safely and effectively optimize your vitamin D levels, please review this previous article.
Additional Safe and Effective Strategies to Treat Asthma
Although asthma is a serious disease, safely treating your asthma is not complicated.
Optimizing your vitamin D levels is the first step, but there are other simple strategies that can help treat the root of the problem as well.
In my experience, the following strategies are highly effective when treating asthma:
- Increase your intake of animal-based omega 3 fats and reduce your intake of processed omega 6 fats
- Consider the hygiene hypothesis – There's a tendency in our modern culture to be obsessive about cleanliness, but 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 – Exercise (especially out in fresh air if you're an asthmatic) is actually crucial, as it helps to moderate insulin levels. It increases your insulin receptor sensitivity, and as a result your body produces less insulin, which tends to optimize it.
- Purify your indoor air
- 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.
- Hydrate well. You will want to make sure you drink enough clean pure water to turn your urine a light color of yellow, as dehydration will clearly worsen asthma.
- 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.
The Link Between Asthma and Allergies
In addition to the 20 million Americans suffering from asthma, another 60 million are affected by allergic rhinitis, or 'hay fever.'
The hidden link between asthma and allergies?
Again, vitamin D deficiency!
So whether you're an asthmatic or suffer from allergies, optimizing your vitamin D levels should be at the top of your list.
For natural allergy relief, another recent study found that Pycnogenol®, an antioxidant plant extract derived from the bark of the French maritime pine tree can offer significant relief.
Although it won't treat the root cause of the problem, it may be worth a try to get relief from the symptoms, which can be quite debilitating for some, such as itchy rashes, swelling, hives, and excessive mucous.
Vitamin D is Important for Thinking Clearly Too
As I mentioned at the beginning, scientists have also found more evidence linking vitamin D and cognitive function, by studying seniors receiving home care. Cognitive function is the level at which your brain is able to manage and use available information for daily activities.
As I've mentioned in previous articles, vitamin D receptors have been identified throughout the human body, and scientists have shown that vitamin D influences at least 3,000 different genes. So it is no surprise that metabolic pathways for vitamin D also exist in your brain. In this case, researchers located pathways in the hippocampus and cerebellum of the brain.
These are the areas of your brain that are involved in planning, processing of information, and the formation of new memories.
Of the 1,000 participants, only 35 percent had sufficient vitamin D levels.
Keep in mind that "sufficient levels" in this case are based on the conventional recommendation, which states that 15 ng/ml is sufficient for bone- and overall health.
We now know this is woefully inadequate for most.
Experts now believe the optimal level for general health lies between 50-70 ng/ml.
Still, participants with higher vitamin D levels performed better on cognitive tests than those who were deficient.
Other studies have also provided evidence that vitamin D is involved in brain function by promoting detoxification of damaging heavy metals. One such study showed that vitamin D helps remove mercury by radically increasing intracellular glutathione.
As you can see, there's plenty of reasons to check your vitamin D levels, if you haven't done so already, to make sure you're within the optimal range.
For more information about the numerous health benefits of vitamin D, please review the related articles listed below.