Research has discovered that vitamin D may be an effective therapeutic agent to treat or prevent allergy to a common mold.
Aspergillus fumigatus, is one of the most prevalent fungal organisms inhaled by people. In asthmatics and in patients with Cystic Fibrosis, it can cause significant allergic symptoms.
According to Physorg:
"The researchers focused on Th2 cells -- the hormonal messengers of T-helper cells that produce an allergic response ... The researchers discovered that heightened Th2 reactivity ... correlated with a lower average blood level of vitamin D."
Aspergillus fumigatus is a very common mold in home environments, where it's known for taking up residence in unsuspecting locations like your bedroom pillows. While ordinarily harmless if you're healthy, Aspergillus fumigatus can cause a serious allergic reaction called Aspergillosis in people with weakened immune systems, lung disease or asthma.
It's obviously important to keep excess mold growth under control by controlling moisture levels in your home, especially in your kitchen, bathrooms, and basement, but the truth is it is very difficult, if not impossible, to avoid Aspergillus fumigatus altogether.
This is why this latest study from researchers at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans is so valuable: it highlights a simple way for at-risk people to significantly lower their chances of being sickened by this common mold -- optimizing vitamin D.
Vitamin D Fights Mold Allergies
In their study, the researchers found that vitamin D not only reduced the production of a protein driving the allergic response to mold, it also increased production of the proteins that promote tolerance.
This means vitamin D may not only help treat mold allergy, it may help prevent it as well.
This makes perfect sense when you consider that sufficient vitamin D is also imperative for proper functioning of your immune system, and virtually everyone who is sickened by mold has an immune system that is functioning well below par.
For asthmatics, who are among those most impacted by this particular mold, the benefits are even greater, as optimal vitamin D levels can help lessen asthma severity and symptoms in addition to reducing the risks of an allergic reaction to mold.
As always, vitamin D never ceases to amaze, and research into its impact on non-bone related diseases continues to yield only positive results.
The Miracle Nutrient for Your Immune System
As you may know, allergies are caused by your immune system responding inappropriately to substances that are ordinarily harmless. Well, vitamin D can be a very powerful immune modulator.
In fact, lower vitamin D levels were associated with increased IgE and eosinophils, which are allergy markers, in children.
Further, one of the ways Aspergillosis causes damage is by leading to infection that can travel from your lungs, where the mold spores are inhaled, to other parts of your body including blood vessels and organs. One of the reasons that vitamin D may be beneficial in this case is that it helps your body produce over 200 anti microbial peptides that help fight all sorts of infections.
As an Oregon State University press release stated:
A new study has concluded that one key part of the immune system, the ability of vitamin D to regulate anti-bactericidal proteins, is so important that it has been conserved through almost 60 million years of evolution and is shared only by primates, including humans – but no other known animal species.
The fact that this vitamin-D mediated immune response has been retained through millions of years of evolutionary selection, and is still found in species ranging from squirrel monkeys to baboons and humans, suggests that it must be critical to their survival, researchers say.
Even though the "cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide" has several different biological activities in addition to killing pathogens, it's not clear which one, or combination of them, makes vitamin D so essential to its regulation.
The research also provides further evidence of the biological importance of adequate levels of vitamin D in humans and other primates, even as some studies and experts suggest that more than 50 percent of the children and adults in the U.S. are deficient in "the sunshine vitamin."
"The existence and importance of this part of our immune response makes it clear that humans and other primates need to maintain sufficient levels of vitamin D," said Adrian Gombart, an associate professor of biochemistry and a principal investigator with the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.
In simple terms, if you're vitamin D deficient, your immune system will not activate to do its job. And since vitamin D also modulates (balances) your immune response, it prevents an overreaction in the form of inflammation, which can lead to conditions like asthma.
Your Vitamin D Levels May be Far Too Low
Reaping the health benefits of vitamin D is dose dependent, meaning you need to make sure your levels are within therapeutic range to benefit.
And this range is far higher than previously thought.
Vitamin D deficiency is actually very widespread in the United States, where the late winter average vitamin D is only about 15-18 ng/ml -- a very serious deficiency state. Meanwhile, it's thought that over 95 percent of U.S. senior citizens may be deficient, along with 85 percent of the American public, including all ages from newborns through adulthood.
The best way to get vitamin D is from safe exposure of sun on sufficient amounts of exposed skin. Second best would be to do the same but use a safe tanning bed. If neither of these two approaches are an option for you then you will certainly want to use oral vitamin D.
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 and is far closer to 5,000-20,000 units a day for most adults to achieve therapeutic levels.
Remember, however, that vitamin D requirements are highly individual, and 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 all the latest information on therapeutic vitamin D levels, and vital updates on testing, please review my article: Test Values and Treatment for Vitamin D Deficiency.
It contains everything from recently updated vitamin D ranges and the latest dosing recommendations, to recommendations for safe sun exposure and important guidelines if you opt for oral vitamin D supplementation.
One thing is clear. If you maintain optimal vitamin D levels, your cells will function optimally, which in turn will help prevent all sorts of health ailments and chronic diseases. In fact, researchers have calculated that simply increasing levels of vitamin D3 could prevent diseases that claim nearly 1 million lives throughout the world each year!
For a great overview of the nearly unbelievable health benefits of this vitamin, I strongly recommend you watch my one-hour free vitamin D lecture.
Practical Tips for Mold Allergies
Optimizing your vitamin D levels, eating right, exercising and keeping stress to a minimum will strengthen your immune system, and this is one of the best ways to fight allergies of all kinds.
While your immune system is getting back on track, you can help to cut down on your exposure to mold in your home by keeping dampness to a minimum. This includes not only promptly repairing leaks but also possibly using a dehumidifier in damp areas like your basement. If you do use a dehumidifier, remember that you must empty the water and clean the unit regularly to prevent mold from forming.
Proper ventilation and air circulation can also help keep damp areas dry, and using an air purifier can help keep fungal spores out of the air.
Mold- and spore-proof pillow covers are also available so you don't have to worry about breathing in mold from your pillow overnight, which is actually a very common route of exposure.