Wonder vitamin cuts severe asthma attacks in half

If you have asthma attacks, allergies or a tendency toward respiratory infections, you can breathe a sigh of relief. There’s a vitamin that can improve your respiratory health tremendously.

It’s the same vitamin that helps prevent osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and multiple sclerosis — vitamin D.

One recent study published in the Cochrane Library (a UK medical research database) found that asthma sufferers who took vitamin D reduced their severe asthma attacks — the kind that require immediate medical attention — by 50 percent.

That means they spent a lot less time in the emergency room or a hospital bed. They also had less mild or moderate asthma attacks, reducing their need for steroid pills.

But this isn’t the first time researchers have linked vitamin D to better respiratory health. In previous studies, vitamin D also:

  • Decreased the risk of upper and lower respiratory infections
  • Decreased the risk of tuberculosis and improved recovery time from tuberculosis
  • Increased lung capacity for people with asthma and wheezing diseases
  • Reduced bacteria in the airways of people with cystic fibrosis

The secret may lie in vitamin D’s anti-viral superpowers.  It keeps your immune system strong, which means fewer bacteria can enter your airways and infect your lungs. It also decreases your risk of getting a cold or flu. And, as you probably know, viruses like those can leave you with a respiratory infection that lasts for weeks or even months afterward.

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As the icing on the cake, vitamin D reduces respiratory inflammation, which keeps you breathing free and easy. Vitamin D’s ability to ease inflammation also explains why it can help people with asthma — a disease caused by inflammation in the airways.

The sad fact is most Americans aren’t getting enough of this so-called “sunshine vitamin.” And, if you’re one of them, it’s could be contributing to your respiratory problems.

So if you’re sick of coughing, wheezing and struggling for breath, you’ll want to add vitamin D to your respiratory health regimen ASAP. Here’s how you can get started:

  • Get your vitamin D levels tested. If your levels are below 75 nmol/L (nanomoles per liter of blood), you could stand to get more vitamin D… but you’re not quite deficient. Anything below 50 nmol/L is officially considered vitamin D deficient. And if you’re levels are below 25 nmol/L, you’re severely deficient. So start supplementing stat.
  • Most doctors will recommend you take 500 to 1000 IU of vitamin D a day if you have asthma or other respiratory problems. That’s a pretty conservative dosage. If you’re deficient or severely deficient you’ll probably want to take more (vitamin D can be compromised by other medications, certain medical conditions, weight and age).
  • The Vitamin D Council, a nonprofit vitamin D advocacy organization, recommends taking 5,000 IU of vitamin D per day if you’re an adult with asthma. It sounds like a lot. But as long as you take less than 10,000 IU per day, it won’t cause you any harm.
Sources:
  1. R. Martineau, et al. “Vitamin D for the management of asthma.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD011511.
  2. A. Hughes. “Vitamin D and respiratory health.” Clinical & Experimental Immunology, 2009 Oct; 158(1): 20–25.
  3. “Respiratory infections.” The Vitamin D Council. https://www.vitamindcouncil.org. Retrieved September 10, 2016.
  4. “Asthma.” The Vitamin D Council. https://www.vitamindcouncil.org. Retrieved September 10, 2016.

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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, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.