The adage, "You learn something new every day" is certainly correct for a recent study on the link between vitamin D and asthma. It appears that researchers have correlated vitamin D levels with the frequency of attacks suffered by asthma patients. The lower a patient's vitamin D level, the more likely the patient is to suffer an asthma attack. This could be a significant breakthrough in the treatment of asthma.
Reviewing vitamin D
Vitamin D is only found naturally in small amounts in a very few foods such as salmon, cod liver oil, fish oil, and tuna. It is added to some food products, such as juice and milk. You can take vitamin D supplements to boost your intake. However, vitamin D is best absorbed by the body through sunlight. Sunlight on the skin triggers your body to produce vitamin D and send it to your liver, where it is transformed into a hormone called calcitriol and then sent throughout your body.
People who live above the latitude that stretches across the southern half of the United States may, simply by virtue of their geographic location, not get enough sunshine to make the vitamin D their bodies need.
Role in lung function
Once vitamin D has been converted to calcitriol, it helps to regulate your immune system, muscle function, heart strength, respiratory system, and brain function. Vitamin D plays a critical role in making lungs healthy; without it, chronic respiratory diseases such as COPD, cystic fibrosis, and interstitial lung disease may develop. Respiratory infections may also occur, as well as complications from influenza A and tuberculosis. With this in mind, scientists are studying whether a lack of vitamin D in pregnant women may result in asthma diagnoses for their babies. With regards to asthma, vitamin D deficiencies cause
poor asthma control
reduced lung function
possible resistance to steroid medications (which are often used to treat asthma flare-ups).
Clearly, the amount of vitamin D in the body affects the course of asthma in patients' lives.
Role in asthma attacks
Once asthma is diagnosed, victims can expect to suffer episodic attacks during which their airways are restricted (logically called asthma attacks). A recent study of 21,237 young adults with asthma by Tel Aviv University in Israel found that those with low vitamin D levels were 25% more likely to suffer asthma attacks than those with adequate amounts of the vitamin. The results broke down specifically like this:
15% of people with the lowest vitamin D levels (0-10 ng/Ml) had at least one asthma flare up in the year prior to vitamin D testing
12% of those with a vitamin D level between 10-20 ng/Ml had a flare up
9% of those who had what are considered sufficient levels of vitamin D (above 36 ng/Ml) had an attack.
The lower the level of vitamin D, the more asthma attacks patients suffered. This remained a constant finding even when researchers considered other factors such as asthmatics' age, gender, ethnicity, and smoking habits.
If you have asthma and are having difficulty getting control of your attacks, talk to your doctor about checking your vitamin D level. If it is low, consider increasing it by spending 15 minutes a day in the sunshine if you live in a sunny climate. Eat salmon once a week and stock vitamin D-fortified juice and milk in your fridge. Take D3 supplements (talk to your doctor for the recommended dosage). Dr. Ronit Confino-Cohen, lead researcher on the Tel Aviv study, states, "Increasing vitamin D levels is something we can easily do to improve patients' quality of life." Doing so may drastically improve the number and severity of your asthma attacks. For more information, visit websites like http://www.oakbrookallergists.com.