When we think about our immune system, we usually jump to colds and flu, but the immune system does so much more than that! Aside from destroying germs and harmful bacteria within the body, the immune system also determines which cells are good and bad. When the immune system isn’t balanced correctly, it can essentially turn against its own cells, resulting in an autoimmune disease.
Autoimmune diseases include disorders like Crohn’s, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis, just to name a few; and based off of a study from 2019, up to eight percent of people in the world are affected by some sort of autoimmune disease (this is only those diagnosed!). One of the most prevalent autoimmune disorders in the world today is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. It accounts for 90% of hypothyroid cases. This disease is caused when the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland in the neck, which is an important gland for making vital hormones to ensure the proper functioning of the body.
There is no current cure for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (ie, there are no drugs that cure), but there are some promising treatments out there that can help to normalize hormones, improve the immune system, and even aid in regulating metabolism that might be thrown off due to this disease. Even more promising is the inclusion of micronutrients into treatment options – especially therapeutic doses of Vitamin D.
Vitamin D plays multiple roles within the body, including aiding in the absorption of calcium. The combination of vitamin D with calcium is essential for growing healthy and strong bones. It also plays a role in the growth of cells, as well as how well the immune system functions. It even helps in decreasing inflammation within the body.
Vitamin D is a micronutrient that is produced within the body, through the synthesis of sunlight, and from supplements. Ultimately, every single cell requires vitamin D to function. And the immune system is regulated by Vitamin D. T regulatory cells are routinely stimulated to help the immune system perform its many tasks. These symphony conductors are responsible for communicating to downstream cells like B cells, which then produce antibodies. If we lose normal levels of Vitamin D, we lack the ability to stimulate the symphony conductors which then creates a downstream issue which eventually creates chaos in the immune system (ie, autoimmune disorders).
Within the last decade, a deficiency of this important vitamin has been noted in patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. One study in particular, comprised of 42 women with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, divided participants up into two groups – one that took a placebo, and one that took a Vitamin D supplement. Over a three-month span of time, the supplement group received 50,000 IU weekly. At the end of the study, there was a significant decrease in the amount of anti-thy-roglobulin antibodies in the body as well as a decrease in thyroid stimulating hormone/TSH in the group with the Vitamin D supplement; thus, conferring that supplementing with this vitamin can help in decreasing Hashimoto activity within the body. These are results that would be coveted by pharmaceutical companies!! Of course, this is not being shouted from the roof tops by your endocrinologist as there is no profit for pharmaceutical interests.
Another similar research study was conducted on patients with Hashimoto’s to see what effect Vitamin D had on the disease; this group had 75 patients with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and after treatment and supplementation with Vitamin D for eight weeks, the thyroid autoantibodies were decreased.
What’s interesting about the body – and the correlation between cells, the immune system, and Vitamin D – is that within the body are certain T cells. T reg cells are a certain type of T cell, and these particular ones are dedicated to suppressing the immune system’s response to self-anti-gens (also called “tolerance”). With that being said, Vitamin D has been shown to stop the growth and multiplication of these cells if they are self-reacting, which is amazing step toward further treatment!
Because the deficiency of this vitamin is so prominent in those with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, supplementing with Vitamin D in patients who are struggling with hypothyroidism can prove to be beneficial. Part of the study even demonstrated a decrease in the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease as well, so Vitamin D supplementation is certainly an option to consider across multiple realms.
Vitamin D is just one tool your functional medicine practitioner should be using for you. But, what’s critical is that dosage is based on your current levels, level of inflammation and how your body responds to therapy. After initiating vitamin D therapy we typically re run lab analysis after 8 weeks. At therapeutic doses, this should increase your level and your health should improve!
If you’d like to learn more about how Vitamin D can Let Your Health Soar, please contact Dr. Autoimmune.
Ian Hollaman, DC, MSc, IFMCP