A Guide To Vitamin Supplementation And Autoimmune Disorders
For healthy individuals with well-rounded diets, vitamin supplementation may not be necessary. However, using vitamins to supplement what you lack in your diet can be a great way to avoid deficiencies in essential vitamins and nutrients. Since nutritional deficiencies can lead to the development of various ailments and chronic illnesses, it’s vital that you are always giving your body the nutrients it needs to function at its best.
There is another instance in which vitamin supplementation may do more harm than good, and that is for people with autoimmune disorders. But what is an autoimmune disorder, exactly? And what is the link between vitamin supplementation and autoimmune disorders?
What is an autoimmune disorder?
When the immune system is working as it should, it acts as a vital defense system by keeping pathogens out of the body or neutralizing them when they happen to infiltrate. A healthy immune system sends certain cells and creates others so that when bacteria, viruses, and other threats come to harm you, they are fended off.
For those with an autoimmune disorder, though, immune function is not at its best. Autoimmune diseases occur when defenses become confused and begin attacking the body’s own healthy cells as opposed to pathogens. When healthy tissues in the body are attacked by the immune system, it develops into a chronic health condition.
Some of the most common forms of autoimmune disease include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis: A form of arthritis that occurs when the immune system attacks the joints
- Psoriasis: The immune system cannot function properly, causing scaly patches of skin
- Psoriatic arthritis: This type of psoriasis occurs when the joints become affected
- Lupus: Various areas of the body are affected by Lupus, such as the joints, skin, and organs
- Thyroid diseases: Grave’s disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are both examples of autoimmune diseases
- Celiac disease: This disease occurs when the immune system becomes overactive when gluten is consumed
- Type 1 Diabetes: The immune system attacks and destroys cells in the body that are supposed to make insulin, which results in a lack of adequate insulin in the body
Medical researchers have yet to find a definitive answer as to what exactly causes the immune system to react negatively to healthy tissues, but it’s thought that the overactivity could develop following an infection or injury in the body in people who have certain genetic predispositions.
Vitamin deficiency and autoimmune disease
Autoimmune diseases are thought to be associated with vitamin deficiencies. The type of deficiency will vary depending on the disease. A lot of research has been done on the connection between vitamin D and autoimmune disorders, most of which has found that because vitamin D has such a great impact on regulating the immune system, not having enough can be detrimental to overall health for people with an autoimmune disease.
Other deficiencies commonly occur in people with autoimmune disease. They include:
- Vitamin A
- B vitamins
- Vitamin K2
- Omega 3
Take celiac disease, for example; it’s been found that vitamin deficiencies are incredibly common in people with this disorder. This is because of the damage that celiac disease leaves on the intestines, which leads to malabsorption of essential vitamins and minerals from the food people eat.
Can vitamins help autoimmune diseases?
In some cases, supplementing with vitamins or essential minerals can be helpful for those with an autoimmune disease. However, that is not always the case. This is because the immune system is already overactive, so taking vitamins that are said to increase immune function could actually worsen symptoms of the disease. When the immune system works harder, it can attack healthy tissues even further.
Vitamins and supplements such as vitamin C and echinacea are thought to help give the immune system a boost, but since people with autoimmune disorders don’t need that extra immune power, taking these could actually worsen symptoms and take them out of remission. This isn’t to say that you can’t take vitamin C if you have an autoimmune disorder; it just means that you should proceed carefully, as it could make things worse. It’s important to always speak to your doctor or nutritionist prior to starting any new vitamin regimen, as each person is different and has unique needs for their own health.
What are the best vitamins for autoimmune disease?
As mentioned above, vitamin D is a key nutrient for those with an autoimmune disorder. Along with vitamin D, zinc is also high on the list of supplements that you may wish to investigate if you have an autoimmune disease. Research has shown that vitamin D plays a crucial role in the function of the immune system; studies have shown that it regulates the immune system, and acts as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. This combination of effects has led to further investigation on its role in autoimmune disease. Research has found that having adequate levels of vitamin D can help to hinder the development of autoimmune disease as well as help curb symptoms for those who already have one.
Zinc is also a great supplement to take when you have an autoimmune disease because it is essential to the functioning of every single cell that works in the immune system. It helps to support the immune response.
While zinc and vitamin D could both be beneficial, it’s important that you always speak to your doctor. They will know your specific case and the nutrients you may be lacking. When it comes to autoimmune diseases, management is the best way to cope and live a normal life without symptoms, and some supplementation may just help with that. However, it must be the right kind of supplementation, or else you could end up with worsening symptoms.