Skip to content

    Multiple Sclerosis Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Can Vitamin D Help MS?

    By Kara Mayer Robinson
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD

    You may have heard some buzz about vitamin D and multiple sclerosis. There are some hopeful signs that it can ease your symptoms, but researchers still have a lot of work to do before we know for sure.

    "There's no perfect study," says Matthew McCoyd, MD, an MS specialist at Loyola University Medical Center. But some research suggests several ways that vitamin D can be good for you, whether you have MS now or want to keep it at bay:

    Recommended Related to Multiple Sclerosis

    Optic Neuritis: When MS Affects Your Vision

    It can happen all of a sudden. Your vision gets dim or blurry. You can’t see colors. Your eyes hurt when you move them. It’s a condition called optic neuritis, and it’s a common problem for people living with multiple sclerosis (MS). The symptoms can seem scary, but most people recover fully, often without treatment.

    Read the Optic Neuritis: When MS Affects Your Vision article > >

    Slows down the disease. Researchers checked the symptoms of people in an early stage of MS. They found that after 5 years, those with more vitamin D in their blood had fewer problems.

    Prevents MS. Studies show that children who get a lot of sunlight, which is one way to get vitamin D, are less likely to get the disease when they grow up.

    Some research also shows that people who live away from the equator, where there's less sunlight, have a higher rate of MS.

    It's not yet clear how vitamin D helps, McCoyd says. It may be good for your immune system. This is your body's defense against germs, and when you have MS, it isn't working right.

    How Much Do I Need?

    There's a lot of debate about how much vitamin D you should get each day. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society suggests you aim for 200-600 international units (IU).

    A blood test that checks your levels can tell you if you're on track.

    Matthew Brennecke, ND, a naturopathic doctor in Fort Collins, CO, says most people get too little vitamin D, not just those with MS.

    How Can I Boost My Levels?

    Sunlight. Try to get 10-15 minutes a day. But don't overdo it, since too much sun raises your risk of skin cancer.

    Food. Salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines have vitamin D. There are also small amounts in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks.

    Sometimes vitamins and minerals are added to foods that don't naturally have them. Look for the words "fortified with vitamin D" on the label. You can find it on things like:

    • Cereal
    • Orange juice
    • Yogurt
    • Milk

    Today on WebMD

    nerve damage
    Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
    woman applying lotion
    Ideas on how to boost your mood and self-esteem.
     
    woman pondering
    Get personalized treatment options.
    man with hand over eye
    Be on the lookout for these symptoms.
     
    brain scan
    ARTICLE
    worried woman
    ARTICLE
     
    neural fiber
    ARTICLE
    white blood cells
    VIDEO
     
    sunlight in hands
    ARTICLE
    marijuana plant
    ARTICLE
     
    muscle spasm
    ARTICLE
    Neuron
    ARTICLE