Vitamin D has been in the headlines lately because of its health benefits—everything from bone strength (it helps your body use the calcium you need for strong bones) to heart health. Vitamin D ointment has been used to treat psoriasis for many years. So you might wonder whether adding vitamin D to your diet, through foods or vitamin supplements, might also help manage your psoriasis. Here’s what you need to know before you load up on vitamin D.
Get Vitamin D Naturally
Unlike other vitamins, vitamin D isn’t found in a wide variety of foods. Sources of vitamin D include oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel, and foods with added vitamin D. The most common vitamin D fortified foods include milk, orange juice, and some breakfast cereals.
Vitamin D is unique because your skin can make it if you get enough sunlight on unprotected exposed skin. A lack of sunshine is one of the reasons why many people who live in the north or who don’t get outdoors much have low levels of vitamin D. Recent studies show that many people, especially seniors, have low vitamin D levels.
Heal with Vitamin D Medication for Psoriasis
Very often, psoriasis treatment starts with topical creams and ointments—products you put on your skin. Studies show that vitamin D ointment works as well as strong anti-inflammatory topical medications called corticosteroids. In fact, a combination of the two types of prescription medications is even more effective. One example of a vitamin D ointment is calcipotriene (Dovonex). It’s usually applied twice a day to psoriasis plaques, the red areas of skin covered by silvery scales.
Ask Your Doctor About Vitamin D Supplements
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease. Some studies show that people with other autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, tend to have low levels of vitamin D. People with autoimmune disease may see improvement with vitamin D supplements.
We also know that exposure to ultraviolet light slows down the immune system response in psoriasis and increases vitamin D production. Treatment with ultraviolet light, called phototherapy, is a common and effective psoriasis therapy.
Although it sounds like vitamin D supplements might help your condition, right now doctors don’t have enough scientific evidence to recommend them as part of a psoriasis treatment plan. However, although there may not be enough evidence to suggest that taking a vitamin D supplement is good for psoriasis, there is enough evidence to suggest that it’s good for a lot of other health problems. Vitamin D may help prevent some other autoimmune diseases, heart disease, infections, and some cancers. Because studies show that many Americans have low levels of vitamin D, many doctors are now recommending a vitamin D supplement along with a multivitamin every day. A simple blood test can tell whether you have a deficiency.
Ask your doctor whether taking vitamin D supplements could be good for your health in general. This is especially important if you are already getting vitamin D through a psoriasis ointment because you can overdose on vitamin D. Taking more than 2,000 IU (international units) per day could result in unwanted side effects.
Psoriasis, American Osteopathic College of Dermatology.
Vitamin D and Psoriasis, Dr. Tell Me Blog, National Psoriasis Foundation.
Psoriasis, U.S. National Library of Medicine, NIH.
Topical Treatments for Chronic Plaque Psoriasis, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2009, Issue 2.
Time for More Vitamin D, Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School.
“Sun Exposure, Vitamin D Linked to MS Risk: Study,” Reuters.