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Improve Your Eczema By Using Vitamin D

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Vitamin D has the potential to suppress inflammatory responses and enhance antimicrobial peptide activity. As a result, supplementation offers a possible treatment for a number of skin issues, including eczema.

In the United States, over 30 million people suffer from some type of dermatitis. Commonly known as eczema, dermatitis is a group of conditions which causes inflammation of the skin.

Symptoms of eczema include itchiness, red skin, raised bumps, scaly skin and rash. Although the causes of eczema are not always clear, allergies, poor circulation or irritants can produce eczema. 

Types of Eczema
Atopic dermatitis - Although the cause is unclear, genetics, immune system dysfunction, food allergies and environmental exposures may contribute. This type of eczema is chronic. 
Contact dermatitis - Caused by allergens, chemical irritants and physical irritants, it is usually short term.
Stasis dermatitis - Caused by blood pooling in the legs from insufficient venous return. Also known as varicose eczema or varicose veins.

Typical Treatments for Eczema

Those who suffer from severe eczema sometimes find it difficult to live a normal life. However, this very common health issue is also very manageable.

Moisturizers, frequent bathing without soap, prescription medications (corticosteroids, immunosuppressants and biologics), over-the-counter medications and phototherapy (UV light therapy) are typically used to manage eczema. In addition, vitamin D is also effective in helping people manage either acute or chronic eczema.

Research on Vitamin D and Eczema

A number of studies over the years have examined vitamin D’s effectiveness in helping people with eczema. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, low vitamin D levels are associated with eczema among children and adolescents.

Also, some studies suggest that pregnant women with low vitamin D status could pass the risk of developing eczema to their babies during their first year. Below are a few of these studies.

Children with Eczema

One study showed that daily vitamin D supplements may help children with eczema that worsens in winter. Known as ‘winter-related atopic dermatitis,’ researchers learned that vitamin D reduced discomfort associated with this type of eczema.

Published in the October 2014 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the study revealed that children who received vitamin D supplements, “had an average 29 percent improvement in their symptoms. In contrast, the children who received the placebo had a 16 percent improvement.”

Dr. Carlos Camargo, of Massachusetts General Hospital's department of emergency medicine, said of the study, “In this large group of patients, who probably had low levels of vitamin D, taking daily vitamin D supplements -- which are inexpensive, safe and widely available -- proved to be quite helpful.”

Vitamin D and Atopic Dermatitis

A review by Daniel A Searing, MD and Donald YM Leung, MD, PhD, highlighted the role of vitamin D in atopic dermatitis. Searing and Keung write:

Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are secreted on the surface of the skin as a first-line defense against infection...Cathelicidin is one of the most well-known AMPs. Cathelicidin deficiency in the skin is known to be associated with atopic dermatitis...Vitamin D has been shown to have a significant role in cathelicidin expression in the skin.

In summary, any type of skin infection or injury eventually leads to increase production of activated vitamin D and also antimicrobial peptides. The authors conclude that due to vitamin D’s potential, “to suppress inflammatory responses, enhance antimicrobial peptide activity, and promote the integrity of the permeability barrier,” vitamin D supplementation offers a possible treatment for a number of skin issues, including chronic eczema (atopic dermatitis).

Treating Eczema with Vitamin D

A number of other studies show that vitamin D is beneficial for treating eczema:

In 2008, an experiment took 11 children with eczema in the winter and gave them 1000 IU (international units) of vitamin D or a placebo for one month. By looking at the IGA score which measures symptoms and severity of eczema, they discovered: 

  • IGA scores improved in 80% of the children who took vitamin D.
  • IGA scores improved in only 17% of children taking the placebo.

In 2012, people over age 14 with eczema were given either 1600 IU of vitamin D or a placebo for 60 days. The group receiving vitamin D showed the most improvement. Also, the severity of eczema was lower for those who took vitamin D supplements.

In a 2013 Polish study, vitamin D supplements were given to adults with eczema who were also vitamin D deficient. In the wintertime, each person received 2000 IU of vitamin D daily for 3 months. By looking at the severity and symptoms of eczema before and after supplementation they discovered that:

  • People who took vitamin D supplements showed significant improvements. 
  • Those with the lowest vitamin D levels had more skin infections.
  • Eczema symptoms and the severity score was much lower after supplementing with vitamin D.

Vitamin D Supplementation for Managing Eczema

A review of the research shows that vitamin D supplementation is beneficial for managing eczema. This is especially true for treating eczema in winter when symptoms may be worse because people get less vitamin D from the sun.

Also, research shows that people with low levels of vitamin D tend to have more skin infections and sometimes experience more severe symptoms. The reason is that in the skin, vitamin D causes cells to create more antimicrobial proteins. Because of this, people who suffer from eczema may benefit from higher levels of vitamin D.

Although the vitamin occurs naturally in some foods and is added to others, the most easily accessible source of vitamin D is sunshine. When direct sunlight strikes the skin, the body synthesizes vitamin D. Yet many Americans spend a great deal of time indoors and wear sunscreen when outdoors. Because of this, almost 40% of Americans are vitamin D deficient.

Many people, especially those who live further from the equator, may not get adequate vitamin D from their diet or from sunlight. As a result, vitamin D supplementation is often necessary to elevate your serum levels. Check with your care provider to see if a vitamin D supplement is right for you.

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