Vitamin D (D3) is one of the most commonly recommended vitamin for psoriasis treatment. When we say vitamin D, it is vitamin D3. Don’t get confused with any other form of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin which helps in the maintenance of the immune system. It is anti-inflammatory in nature and helps in absorption of various minerals by your body, particularly calcium.
Vitamin D is also known as cholecalciferol. When you take vitamin d through sunlight or foods or dietary supplements, it travels through the bloodstream to the liver. In the liver, it is converted into calcidiol with the help of enzymes. Part of this calcidiol is transformed into calcitriol by the kidney. This calcitriol is the biologically active form of vitamin D which is responsible for all the health benefits of vitamin D. Calcitriol circulates throughout the bloodstream, regulating the concentration of calcium and phosphate. Along with that, it balances the neuro-muscular and immune function.
These days, various health experts around the world are quite high on effectiveness of vitamin D to treat cancer. More than 800 papers have been already presented in this regard. Vitamin D has the ability to reduce the rapid growth of cancer cells. Similar action is evident in case of psoriasis also. Role of Vitamin D for psoriasis healing lies in the fact that vitamin D slows down the rapid growth of skin cells, regulates the body immunity and reduces skin inflammation.
Vitamin D deficiency and Psoriasis
Nutritional deficiency among people having psoriasis is a well acknowledged fact. Due to improper body metabolism, impaired liver and digestive tract and leaky gut- your body is not able to absorb all the necessary nutrients in optimum quantities.
As stated earlier, vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin. Most of the people having psoriasis have issues like- disturbed gut flora, inflammation in the gut, leaky gut, high level of body toxins, low bile production- all these issues can result in fat malabsorption. It makes it more difficult for your body to absorb vitamin D.
Interestingly, most of the people suffering from autoimmune disorders are found to be deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D has been found effective in treating various autoimmune disorders- rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis (MS), eczema and psoriasis.
Deficiency of vitamin D becomes severe in winters and as we all have experienced, psoriasis also flare up in winters. Lack of sunlight may be the reason for it. If you are photosensitive (sensitive to sunlight), then your psoriasis would flare up in the summer.
It is important to note that there is no definite trend of vitamin d among people having psoriasis. Some people may have severe deficiency while others may have negligible. Hence, the healing effect would also vary. Some people may feel a drastic improvement by taking vitamin d supplements and/or sunlight while others may feel little effect.
Generally, older people and people having a chronic illness tend to have high level of vitamin d deficiency than others.
Vitamin D for Psoriasis healing
Role of vitamin D for psoriasis healing:
- It reduces the growth of skin cells, resulting in the reduction of psoriasis scales thickness
- Vitamin D helps to calm down the overactive immune system
- It reduces skin inflammation
- Sunlight (most prominent source of vitamin D) kills the hyperactive T cells in the skin to reduce the scaling and inflammation
How to make up for vitamin d deficiency
There are five different ways to make sure that you get enough vitamin D.
- Exposure to sunlight
- By consuming vitamin d rich diet
- By taking vitamin d dietary supplements
- Applying vitamin d based creams on the skin
- Light therapy
Exposure to Sunlight
Your body gets 80-85% of the vitamin d through UV rays of sunlight. If you are not among those few photosensitive (sensitive to sun rays) people, then exposure to sunlight would definitely have a healing effect on your psoriasis. Sunbathing for sufficient time would provide adequate amount of vitamin D to your body. Apart from that, sunbathing would increase your body temperature to sweat also. Sweating is a way of flushing out of toxins from your body. Hence, apart from providing you vitamin D, sunbathing helps in body detox also.
UV rays of sunlight can be divided into three bands – UV-A, UV-B and UV-C rays.
- UV-A rays are long wavelength rays, less intense than UV-B rays. But, they don’t provide you vitamin D.
- UV-B rays, also known as “burning rays” due to their intense nature are short wavelength rays. UV-B rays are responsible to provide you vitamin D. But, excessive exposure to UV-B rays can cause issues like sunburn.
- Most of the UV-C rays are absorbed by the ozone layer and doesn’t reach the earth.
The best time to go out in the Sun is 10 am to 2 pm. The UV-B rays are most intense during this time period. So, you would get enough vitamin D in shortest exposure time.
The Ideal exposure time is 15-20 minutes. If you are light (white) skinned, then 15 minutes is enough for you. If you have a dark complexion- Black, Latin, Asian- than ideal exposure time for you is around 20 minutes. Darker the skin, more the exposure time. Don’t restrict sunlight only on your face and hands, try to expose as much area as possible to the Sun rays.
Avoid over exposure to the sunlight. Once the equilibrium reached, then Sun doesn’t provide you any more vitamin D. Rather, it only damages your skin to cause photo aging, sunburn and in extreme case, skin cancer. Hence, 15-20 minutes is enough, don’t go beyond that.
One interesting thing here- one of the most common culprit for skin cancer is the excess of omega 6 fatty acids in your body. Sunlight converts these omega 6 fats to cancer causing molecules. On the other hand, omega 3 doesn’t produce any such molecules when come in contact with sunlight.
Ideal ratio between omega 3 and omega 6 is 1:1 to 1:4. But, these days, due to unhealthy diet habits, this ratio goes as high as 1:20. Fish oil is the trouble shooter here. Fish oil provides you a healthy amount of omega 3 without any omega 6. Hence, we got one more reason to consume fish oil supplements.
Read more: Omega 3 for Psoriasis
Vitamin D rich foods
Sunlight is the richest source of vitamin D for your body. Foods can provide you only a small amount of vitamin D, hardly 10-15%. Due to low content of vitamin D in their original forms, a lot of packaged foods (dairy, juices, cereals) have added vitamin D in them. These foods are labelled as “fortified with vitamin D”.
A few of Vitamin D rich foods are-
- Oily fish like salmon, tuna, swordfish, trout and mackerel
- Orange juice
- Some cereals
- Egg yolk
- Cod liver oil
Being a person having psoriasis, I don’t have much confidence in most of these foods. You know- milk, orange, mushroom, egg, cereals (grains)- either I don’t eat any of these stuffs or eat in very less quantities. So, in my opinion, getting enough vitamin D from foods is not an option for you if you have psoriasis.
But, there is a good news also- fish oil, which is a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids can provide you some vitamin d also.
Read more: Omega 3 for Psoriasis
Vitamin D supplements
In today’s hectic lifestyle, we all have little time for sunlight exposure. Also, sunlight is not available throughout the year. Hence, the best way to make up for vitamin D deficiency is dietary supplements.
In general, 1000 IU (International Units) of vitamin D is recommended for an average adult just to avoid vitamin D deficiency. But, when more than 80% of USA population is deficient in vitamin D, we have to go beyond this recommendation.
Various research studies recommend as high as 5000 IU of vitamin D for an average adult.
The best way to solve this confusion is- getting tested for vitamin D to know the exact level of vitamin D in your blood.
Vitamin D blood test
The best way to avoid vitamin D overdose is to get tested for your current vitamin d levels. This test is known as 25-hydroxy vitamin D test. It is also known as 25-(OH) vitamin D test. This test gives a fair idea of vitamin D levels in your blood.
Sometimes, results are given in nmol/liter. The conversion formula between ng/ml and nmol/liter is:
nmol/liter = 2.5* ng/ml
Dosage of Vitamin D supplements
After getting results of the vitamin D test, you can start consuming the supplements accordingly.
But, there are high chances that due to ignorance or tight daily life schedule, you would simply delay this testing and hence, you would continue with vitamin D deficiency.
So, let us do this way- get tested for vitamin D immediately and start consuming supplements. Otherwise, if you are finding it hard to spare time for the test, just start taking 2000 IU of vitamin D supplements per day regularly for 2 months. After that, get your blood tested for vitamin D.
Irrespective of your existing vitamin D levels, consuming 2000 IU for 2 months would not harm you.
Grassroots Health, a public health promotion organization says- to increase vitamin D levels from 20 ng/ml to 50 ng/ml, you need to take around 4000 IU of vitamin D for at least 3 months.
From where to buy Vitamin D supplements
It is very important to buy a good quality supplement to get optimum results. You can buy a good quality vitamin D supplement from a store near to you.
You can also buy them online:
If you are from USA, click here to buy
If you are from India, click here to buy
Vitamin D based creams and ointments
There are prescribed creams which contain vitamin D (in the form of calcipotriene or tacalcitol) as the main active ingredient. These creams contain vitamin D in its biological active form. Hence, they are quite effective in managing symptoms of mild to moderate psoriasis.
Other sources of vitamin D- sunlight or dietary supplements- provide you inactive form of vitamin D which is converted into biologically active form by the liver and kidney (as explained earlier).
As we have discussed a number of times before, psoriasis is an internal body metabolism related problem, hence, its actual healing would also be from inside-out. But, if you are looking for topical creams to manage the psoriasis symptoms, then these creams can be tried. At least they are far better than the light therapy.
From where to buy Vitamin D based creams
If you are looking for topical ointments to manage your psoriasis, then vitamin D based ointments can be a good choice. Buy them from a chemist shop near to you.
You can buy them online also:
If you are from USA, click here to buy
If you are from India, click here to buy
Light therapy (photo therapy)
Light therapy, i.e. exposure to UV rays is the least suitable way of getting vitamin d for psoriasis healing. The powerful UV-B rays, coming from an artificial light source, would be thrown on your body parts (affected with psoriasis) for a specific period of time. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends diet, sunlight and dietary supplements over UV light therapy because of the potential risk of skin cancer. In my opinion also, UV therapy is a big NO. We have already discussed four other ways of getting enough vitamin d. These options are less complex and very cheap as compared to light therapy. So, don’t put your body on serious health risks just for some short lived results of light therapy.
If you are suffering from tuberculosis, lymphoma or any kidney problem, then you should avoid consuming vitamin D supplements. Excess of vitamin D can play a role in causing kidney stone also. Expert advice is recommended if you are prone to any of the above mentioned health conditions before consuming vitamin D supplements.
Deficiency of vitamin D is linked to various autoimmune diseases, including psoriasis. Exposure to sunlight and intake of good quality dietary supplement is the best way to make up for vitamin D deficiency. Start with 2000 IU of vitamin D per day and regularly monitor vitamin D levels in your blood with the help of 25 (OH) D test.
If you are looking for some topical creams, vitamin D based creams can help you in managing mild to moderate psoriasis up to some extent. But, for long term healing of psoriasis, holistic healing approach is advisable with significant changes in your diet and overall lifestyle.