Can Vitamin D Benefit in Lupus?

Lupus, also known as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is a complex disease condition where the defense mechanism of the body attacks its own healthy cells. [1]

Lupus is sometimes even referred to as a terrible disease as it can affect numerous organs of the body. Around 1.5 million people in the U.S. suffer from this disabling condition. [2]

Patients may experience fever, arthritis, chest pain, rash on the face, mood problems, photosensitivity, and ulcers in the mouth. [3]

In severe cases of lupus, there can be a development of kidney problem, hypertension, and heart diseases. [4]

Lupus tends to affect more women than men. The exact cause of this disease is still unknown. However, genetics and environmental factors have found to play a significant role in the development of lupus. [5]

Even though there is no cure available for lupus there is a wide range of treatment options to control the disease. It included medication and supplemental therapy. [6]

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is an important lipid-soluble vitamin that is present in a few foods, obtained from sun exposure and available as a dietary supplement. [7]

The main function of vitamin D is to maintain and help in bone growth in the body. Without vitamin D the bones become brittle and are easily breakable. [8]

Vitamin D also has other effects on the body by acting on the cellular level in secreting insulin and maintaining body immunity. [9]

Vitamin D deficiency occurs either by reduced sun exposure or by decreased absorption by the body. [10]

Vitamin D helps in reducing the risk of cancer, heart diseases, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, depression, neurological diseases, and infections. [11]

Vitamin D has its benefits on numerous diseases including lupus. Let us now discuss briefly the benefits of vitamin D in lupus.

Benefits of Vitamin D in Lupus

Benefits of vitamin D in lupus are due to its capacity to reduce the disease progression, improve symptoms like fatigue and strengthen muscles, reduce the chance of kidney and heart disease, prevent bone damage and reduce the risk of developing depression and anxiety. Vitamin D supplementation in lupus patients is proven by research to be highly necessary.

Vitamin D Benefit in Lupus

1. Vitamin D Reduces Lupus Progression in the Body

Vitamin D plays a key functional role in the disease activity in lupus. It forms a part of the immune system that prevents disease progression. [12]

Inadequate vitamin D in the body can aggravate lupus by producing more auto-antibodies (which are responsible for damaging the healthy cells). [13]

A large study in 1006 patients revealed a 21% decrease in the disease progression in lupus patients with the supplementation vitamin D. [14]

A study conducted by Amital H et. al., in 378 patients demonstrated a decrease in the lupus activity with increasing concentration of vitamin D in the body. [15]

An Australian trial in 119 patients also shared the same result of reduced disease activity with rising vitamin D levels. [16]

Vitamin D is clearly responsible for reducing the disease activity through the clinical studies conducted and forms a supplement that is utmost necessary in lupus patients.

What does this mean? Vitamin D helps the body in preventing damage to its healthy cells. This activity renders it the property of reducing the disease progression in lupus patients.

2. Vitamin D Strengthens Muscles and Fights Fatigue in Lupus

Fatigue is reported to be the most disabling symptom in 50% of lupus patients. They also experience reduced muscle strength and exercise capacity. [17]

Vitamin D exerts its effects on the muscle cells and reduces muscle fatigue. This feature can help in decreasing fatigue and increasing muscle strength in lupus patients. [18]

A trial conducted in 80 lupus patients proved the need for vitamin D supplementation in lupus patients to improve their fatigue symptoms. [19]

A systematic review of the literature including 4 clinical trials concluded that vitamin D supplementation was vital in reducing fatigue and improving the exercise capacity of lupus patients. [20]

What does this mean? Vitamin D reduces excessive tiredness and improves muscular strength in lupus patients by getting concentrated within the muscle cells.

3. Vitamin D Reduces the Chance of Bone Damage in Lupus Patients

Vitamin D deficiency is common in lupus patients. This deficiency results in bone resorption (Vitamin D required to fulfill the body needs is removed from the bones) which leads to bone deformities and fractures.

Moreover, vitamin D inadequacy in lupus patients can occur from damaged kidneys and less sun exposure which puts them at a higher risk of developing bone fractures. [21]

Scientific research analysis of 20 clinical trials conducted by Bischoff-Ferrari HA et.al., shows that vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk of bone fractures by 15-29%. [22]

What does this mean? Lupus patients are at a higher risk of developing bone fractures and damage due to low vitamin D levels. Supplementation with vitamin D helps reduce the risk of fractures in them.

Vitamin D Benefits Kidney and Heart Health of Lupus Patients

Kidney disease and heart diseases are the most severe complication of lupus disease. Vitamin D can have beneficial effects in maintaining the health of these two crucial organs. [23]

Research shows that the chance of protein in the urine (an abnormal feature indicative of kidney dysfunction) is reduced in lupus patients with increased vitamin D supplementation. [24]

Lower levels of vitamin D in lupus patients have an increased risk of developing cardiac diseases like hypertension, increased cholesterol, stroke, etc. [25]

Vitamin D intake by lupus patients helps prevent kidney and heart-related diseases by maintaining the normal metabolic processes in the body.

What does this mean? Vitamin D reduced the chance of developing kidney and heart-related diseases in lupus patients which is otherwise a most troublesome complication of the disease over the years.

4. Vitamin D Helps Lupus Patients in Reducing Anxiety and Prevents Depression

Anxiety and depression are common among lupus patients due to the disease burden and disability caused by it.[26]

Vitamin D deficiency is also found to be common among patients with anxiety and depression. [27]

Vitamin D is well-studied by scientists to prove that it can reduce the chances of depression and help in curing the depressed. [28]

A systemic review including 15 clinical trials showed that vitamin D had an impact of reducing the depression in patients. [29]

A trial conducted in 63 patients with lupus demonstrated that vitamin D had a role o play in improving sleep quality. [30]

What does this mean? Lupus patients are at a higher risk of developing anxiety and depression. Vitamin D is a supplement that helps reduce the chance of anxiety and depression in them.

Dosage

There is no exact dose of vitamin D established for lupus patients. It is ideal to maintain the vitamin D level of 30ng/mL in the blood. [31]

A dose of 800 IU per day is suggested as per research data in patients with vitamin D deficiency. [32]

However, it is best to obtain a dose from your physician after determination of your vitamin D levels in the blood. [33]

Precautions

Vitamin D is mostly safe in patients when taken at normal doses. Do not exceed 4000 IU per day. [34]

It is not safe to be taken above the required concentration in the blood as it may lead to kidney stones, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and headache. [35]

Vitamin D toxicity can cause weight loss, frequent urination, and heart rhythm disturbances. [36]

The dose should not exceed 400 IU per day in post-menopausal women as it increases the chance of renal stones. [37]

Vitamin D can interact with steroid medication like prednisolone, cholesterol-lowering drugs like cholestyramine, and epilepsy medication like phenytoin and phenobarbital. [38]

Conclusion

Lupus is a troublesome condition that is disabling which can be managed with medication and supplements.

Vitamin D is a great supplement in lupus as it reduces disease activity and prevents bone damage and fractures.

Fatigue is a disabling symptom of lupus which can be reduced with the intake of vitamin D and it also improves the exercise capacity.

Lupus patients experience anxiety and depression more commonly and vitamin D can help reduce their chances. Vitamin D lowers the chance of kidney and heart diseases that are complications of long-term lupus.

Vitamin D can be argued as an indispensable supplement in lupus patients as it is safe, efficacious, helps symptoms, cures vitamin D deficiency and reduces disease activity.

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