Summer is on its way and this means we are exposed to a lot more summer related allergies and with COPD even though there are multiple contributors to COPD such as tobacco smoke, occupational dusts, chemicals and air pollution, vitamin D and sun deficiencies may also play a role. Research has demonstrated that the severity of the disease is correlated directly to levels of vitamin D, and other research demonstrates that severe disturbed lung and peripheral muscle functions are more pronounced in COPD patients with vitamin D deficiency. In addition, recent research shows that cardiopulmonary exercise capacity is increased remarkably in people with high vitamin D levels compared to those with low levels. Of course, 90% of vitamin D blood levels are produced by sun exposure.
One may intelligently conclude, based on this information, that a part of the cause for both diseases is a lack of sun-derived vitamin D.
The best supplements to take during cold winter months include vitamin D due to the lack of sunshine.
However, a new study has found that topping up on the essential vitamin could also protect against severe asthma attacks too.
Asthma attacks can be more prevalent during winter because cold air in the airways can cause them to go into spasm, according to Asthma UK.
Researchers at Queen Mary University of London discovered that people who took oral vitamin D supplements in addition to standard asthma medication could halve their risk of an asthma attack that required hospital attendance.
“On average, three people in the UK die from asthma attacks every day.
While getting vitamin D from sun exposure is the most efficient way to absorb it, people can struggle to get enough during the winter months and there is also the risk of skin cancer.
We obtain 80% of our Vitamin D from sunlight but the rest we obtain through our diet such as from fish, egg yolks and in fortified dairy and grain products. Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, because it helps the body use calcium from the diet, but increasingly, research is revealing the importance of vitamin D in protecting against a host of health problems.
Low blood levels of the vitamin have been associated with the following:
- Increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- Cognitive impairment in older adults
- Severe asthma in children
Research suggests that vitamin D could play a role in the prevention and treatment of a number of different conditions, including type 1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance, COPD and multiple sclerosis.
Vitamin D protects against COPD flare-ups by protecting the body against infections, which can trigger COPD attacks and also reducing levels of compounds that destroy lung tissue.
The most well-known benefit of Vitamin D is its role in ensuring strong bones and teeth by facilitating calcium uptake in the body. COPD patients have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, which is an indicator of vitamin D deficiency. This evidence alone is strongly indicative of the importance of maintaining good levels of vitamin D in a COPD patient’s diet.
Studies in America show that there is a strong relationship between the levels of Vitamin D and forced lung capacity. Lower vitamin d levels result in worsened ability to exhale air from the lungs. Also studies in the Netherlands show that former smokers with low vitamin D levels had more severe COPD.
A study in 2011 showed that COPD patients taking vitamin D could breathe easier and muscle strength improved resulting in patients being able to exercise more than those who were taking a placebo. Other studies show that those patients with low vitamin D levels have an increased risk in falls, slower walking speeds, poorer balance and decreased muscle strength. Also their COPD symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath grew worse.
Studies show that COPD patients often have low levels of Vitamin D. This may be due to genetics, which can predispose someone to naturally have lower levels. Also those with COPD often stay indoors a lot more and therefore it may be due to reduced exposure to sunlight.
Although there is little evidence that low Vitamin D levels may directly result in developing COPD, this possibility cannot be ruled out.
The advice for COPD patients is to ensure they have their Vitamin D levels monitored and to take supplements of both vitamin D and Calcium to ensure healthy levels are maintained. This topic again highlights the huge importance of ensuring COPD patients have a balanced and nutritional diet as well as ensuring they get outdoors and keep active to aid in preventing flare-ups and improving their medical condition as well as improving quality and duration of life,
References: www.vitamindcouncil.org and www.webmd.com