Slash your MS risk 40% with a vitamin

Women are more at risk for a lot of autoimmune diseases — lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and multiple sclerosis (MS). In fact, 78 percent of all autoimmune disease sufferers are women.

The jury is still out on why. However researchers suspect it could be related to differences in how women’s hormones affect their immune response.

But whatever’s making women more susceptible to debilitating (and sometimes deadly) autoimmune diseases, the question is what, as women, can we do about it?

Well, when it comes to one of the most devastating autoimmune dangers women face — MS — there may be a simple way to gauge and lower your risk…

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An amazing and familiar vitamin

The connection between low vitamin D levels and MS isn’t exactly a new discovery. But in the past, it’s only been demonstrated in a few small studies… not enough to say whether that daily vitamin D supplement could really make a difference in your MS risk.

Now, for the first time, Harvard researchers demonstrated in a large, reliable study that detecting and correcting low vitamin D levels in women could predict and counteract MS risk.

“Our study, involving a large number of women, suggests that correcting vitamin D deficiency in young and middle-aged women may reduce their future risk of MS,” said study author Kassandra Munger, ScD, of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

The study, which included 800,000 women from Finland, found that 58 percent of women who eventually developed MS had low vitamin D levels nine years before they were diagnosed with the disease. But only 52 percent of women who didn’t develop the disease had low vitamin D levels.

Researchers also found that women with deficient levels of vitamin D in their blood (less than 30 nmol/L) had a 43 percent higher risk of developing MS than women who had adequate levels (50 nmol/L or higher). And they had a 27 percent higher risk of developing the disease than women who had insufficient levels (30 to 49 nmol/L).

When researchers looked at all the data combined, they found that each time a woman raised her vitamin D levels to 50 nmol/L, she effectively lowered her MS risk by 39 percent.

Those are some good odds for such a simple change!

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Do your vitamin D duty

So my message to women everywhere is… go get your vitamin D levels checked pronto. If they’re under 50 nmol/L (or 20 ng/ml depending on how it’s measured), start supplementing and sit out in the sun without sunscreen for 15 to 20 minutes every day.

If your levels are in the 0-25 nmol/L (0-10 ng/ml) range, you’ll want to take at least 1,000 IU of D3 per day to get your levels up. If your levels are in the 25 to 50 (10-20 ng/ml) range, you’ll want to take at least 500 IU of D3 per day to boost and maintain your levels.

If you want to take higher amounts of vitamin D you can… but be aware… vitamin D toxicity can occur at extremely high doses. According to the Vitamin D Council, you can take up to 10,000 IU of vitamin D per day without a risk of toxicity. Dr. Michael Cutler recommends D3 because it is more easily absorbed, and suggests 1,000 International Units (IU) daily or 5,000 IU twice weekly to boost and maintain your levels adequately.

Once you do what you can to get those D levels up, then get them tested again at your next check-up to see where you’re at. At the rates women are falling victim to MS and other autoimmune diseases, there’s no reason to let this simple prevention method fall to the wayside. You’ll thank yourself ten years from now when you’re still healthy and autoimmune disease-free.

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  1. Vitamin D levels in blood may help predict risk of multiple sclerosis.” — MedicalXpress. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
  2. Fairweather and N.R. Rose. “Women and Autoimmune Diseases.” — Emerging Infectious Disease Journal. 2004 Nov; 10(11): 2005–2011.
  3. I tested my vitamin D level. What do my results mean? — Vitamin D Council. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
  4. Am I getting too much vitamin D? — Vitamin D Council. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and