What The Researchers Found
Manson directed the VITAL Trial, a five-year randomized double-blind clinical trial of more than 25,000 participants aged 50 and above. VITAL researchers are studying connections between vitamin D and omega-3 supplements and the risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
We and our colleagues were interested in looking at whether vitamin D and omega-3s could also prevent autoimmune diseases because these supplements are known to reduce inflammation and to have benefits for the immune system, Manson said.
The study found that 2,000 IU per day of vitamin D supplement, with or without omega-3s, was associated with a lower risk of autoimmune disease compared to placebo.
In addition to vitamin D, researchers examined the connection between omega-3s and autoimmune disease risk. They found that omega-3 supplements didnt make a significant difference when they were taken without vitamin D.
However, the study suggested that there may be additional benefits after taking the omega-3 supplements for a longer period of time.
I must say I was as surprised as anyone because, despite all the very strong immunologic and anti-inflammatory mechanisms, actually seeing that giving a supplement reduces the risk of developing disease is quite astonishing, Karen H. Costenbader, MD, MPH, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and senior author of the study, told Verywell.
Categories Of Immune Action
There are several different categories we use to describe an herbs action with regard to the immune system. Take these into consideration, but dont rely entirely on the terms you see in a single resource. Every herb has many constituents and performs a variety of actions. These terms are a tool we use to talk about general actions of herbs on the body in comparison to each other. Some sources favor one term or another, which is why it is useful to look at a variety of sources. Its also helpful to ask questions to those who have more experience with a given herb.
Immunomodulants, on the other hand, are a more neutral approach. However, theyre not entirely without the risk of aggravating an autoimmune or hypersensitivity concern. What complicates matters even more is that, as mentioned above, herbs dont fit neatly into just one category. Individuals may also respond differently to various herbs, particularly in the context of autoimmune concerns.
Should You Start Taking Vitamin D And Fish Oil Based On This Research
Though vitamins and supplements are generally regarded as safe, it’s still possible to take too muchwhich means your doctor should be clued into any new ones you want to try .
This study in particular gave participants 2,000 IU/day of vitamin Dthat dosage is kind of in between the daily recommended dosage for adults and the upper limit for adults , according to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements. Manson points out that the NIH daily recommendations are primarily for bone health. “They don’t have recommendations on preventing other chronic diseases such as cancer or cardiovascular disease or recommendations for preventing autoimmune disease,” she said. “We tested these supplements over 5.3 years and found they were very safe.”
Still, you can overdo it on vitamin D. “People should keep in mind that taking too much vitamin D can possibly cause toxicity so it would not be recommended to take higher than 2000 IU daily on a regular basis,” Ozlem Pala, MD, a rheumatologist at the University of Miami Health System, tells Health. In excess, vitamin D can cause nausea and vomiting, muscle weakness, and kidney stones, among other issues very high levels in the blood can lead to kidney failure or even death. It can also interact with certain medications, like statins and steroids.
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Who Should Take A Take A Vitamin D Or Fish Oil Supplement And What Dosage
Although these findings make Bradley want to recommend supplements to almost everyone, she does think its a good idea to get your levels checked first. Research indicates that people whose vitamin D levels place them in the lowest quartile would likely get the most benefit from taking a supplement, she says.
To reduce the risk of autoimmune disease in women age 55 years and older and men 50 years and older, Costenbader recommends 2,000 international units of vitamin D a day and 1,000 milligrams a day of marine omega-3 fatty acids the doses used in VITAL.
Its a good idea to check in with your doctor before taking supplements, says Bradley. We do have to be careful with vitamin D supplementation because it is stored in our fat and can accumulate in the body, she says. Though it isnt very common, taking very large doses could result in toxicity, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Fish oil supplements can vary in quality, says Bradley. Your provider may have suggestions on what to look for in labeling, or you can research different brands at independent websites such as ConsumerLab.com, which reviews and rates supplements.
More Than 25000 Participants Took Part In The Trial
While vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids derived from seafood are known to have a beneficial effect of inflammation and immunity, no large randomised trials have tested whether these supplements can lower the risk of autoimmune disease.
So, researchers set out to test the effects of these supplements on rates of autoimmune disease in 25,871 adults living in the USA.
The average age of the participants was 67 years old, 51% were women and 71% were non-Hispanic white.
As well as details about their age and ethnicity, participants also provided details about their income, education, lifestyle, weight, medical history, diet and supplement use.
Participants were then randomly allocated to receive either Vitamin D and fish oil supplements or placebos, and were asked to report any diagnosed autoimmune disease during the five-year follow-up period.
These included rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica , thyroid disease, and psoriasis.
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Supplements For Your Autoimmune Disease
Weve talked about the dietary and lifestyle changes to address your autoimmune disease, but which supplements are best to give your body the extra support it needs to quell autoimmune processes?
As previously mentioned in our three-part autoimmune disease series , autoimmune diseases are on the rise, and at the core of all autoimmunity there is a glitch in the immune system. Environmental risk factors such as toxins, infection, stress, poor diet and a leaky gut all can cause your immune system to attack your own tissues. You could be experiencing joints on fire, skin rashes, your thyroid attacking itself or your intestines in severe pain no matter what tissue its your immune system is doing the firing. So, in supporting your immune system you will have the ability to decrease your symptoms, possibly for good!
Whether if you have Lupus, Hashimotos, Multiple Sclerosis, Celiac or another autoimmune disease, these five supplements work together to support your immune system, decrease inflammation and calm your system to allow for better, brighter days ahead!
Whats An Autoimmune Disease
When you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system misidentifies healthy tissues and organs as being foreign. This causes the body to produce antibodies that attack your bodys own tissues.
Your symptoms might come on quickly or gradually. You may feel overwhelming fatigue, crippling pain, and debilitating weakness. Or you may feel dizzy and have brain fog.
You may feel miserable like youre on a roller coaster of good days and bad days with no end in sight. These diseases can be frustrating and isolating, but each experience is unique.
All autoimmune diseases share one common theme: an out-of-sync immune system that has turned inward, attacking parts of the body as if they were foreign invaders.
In fact, autoimmune diseases can show up in at least 80 different ways in all areas of the body.
But all autoimmune diseases share one common theme: an out-of-sync immune system that has turned inward, attacking parts of the body as if they were foreign invaders.
Your immune system is crucially important, serving the purpose of protecting your body from infections and bacteria. But when its functions are out of balance, your immune system can become dangerous.
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What Does A Closer Look At The Study Tell Us
The researchers reported that
- 123 people taking vitamin D developed autoimmune disease, compared with 155 people in the placebo group. This represents a 22% reduction. That sounds like a lot, but the actual decrease in risk for developing an autoimmune disease fell from about 12 people in 1,000 to 9.5 people in 1,000.
- Rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica, and psoriasis were the most common conditions. No single autoimmune disease was reliably prevented by vitamin D supplementation. Only when the numbers of all the autoimmune diseases were combined did researchers see a benefit.
- The benefit of vitamin D was more obvious when only the final three years of the study were analyzed. This suggests that it takes a while to benefit from a daily supplement.
- Those assigned to receive omega-3 fatty acids did not have a lower risk for confirmed autoimmune disease.
- Side effects were minor and similar in those taking supplements and those taking placebo.
This randomized study is among the best to explore the impact of vitamin D supplementation on the risk of developing autoimmune disease. Yet the study relied on self-reported cases, later confirmed by medical record review. So its possible that some cases of autoimmune disease were overlooked.
Which Supplements Should I Avoid If I Have Lupus
Some herbal supplements are thought to have immune-stimulating properties. Itâs common for people to try these products when they have a cold or other illness. But some herbs might trigger a flare if you have an autoimmune condition like lupus.
Talk to your doctor before you take any dietary supplements. Some that are associated with lupus-like flares include the following:
BMJ: âVitamin D and marine omega 3 fatty acid supplementation and incident autoimmune disease: VITAL randomized controlled trial.â
Lupus Foundation of America: âDiet and nutrition with lupus,â âThe Expert Series: Diet and lupus,â âLupus nutrition FAQs.â
Autoimmunity Highlights: âRole of vitamin D deficiency in systemic lupus erythematosus incidence and aggravation.â
Bulletin of the NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases: âVitamin D in Lupus: New Kid on the Block?â
BMC Rheumatology: âVitamin D supplementation in systemic lupus erythematosus: relationship to disease activity, fatigue and the interferon signature gene expression.â
Journal of Clinical Rheumatology: âOmega-3 Fatty Acids in Rheumatic Diseases – A Critical Review.â
Toxicologic Pathology: âLupus, Silica, and Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acid Interventions.â
Frontiers in Immunology: âImmunomodulatory Effects of Diet and Nutrients in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus : A Systematic Review,â âRequisite Omega-3 HUFA Biomarker Thresholds for Preventing Murine Lupus Flaring.â
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Add Some Spice To Your Life
Certain spices are particularly beneficial when it comes to minimizing inflammation and boosting your bodys healthy immune response.
Super-flavorful options include ginger, cayenne pepper, cloves, garlic, cinnamon, and turmeric.
Turmeric, in particular, is a powerful anti-inflammatory.
A 2007 study in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology noted that curcumin has been shown to help with multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel disease.
According to the Journal of Alternative Medicine Review: Curcumin supplementation can result in up to a 60% reduction in pain and a 73% reduction in joint stiffness.
The Study Authors Are Continuing With Their Research
The researchers say that further research should now be conducted to test these interventions in younger populations, and those with high autoimmune disease risk. They are also continuing with their research to see the effect of supplementation over time.
They write: We are continuing to follow participants for two years in an extension study to test the time course of this autoimmune disease reduction effect.”
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Support Your Immune System With Autoimmune Supplements
As I explain in The Autoimmune Solution, if you are dealing with autoimmunity, the source of your condition is a glitch in your immune system. Environmental risk factors such as diet, a leaky gut, toxins, infections, and stress lead your immune system to attack your own tissues.
It could be your thyroid being attacked, or your joints under fire, or symptoms associated with your skin. No matter what particular organ or tissue is attacked, your immune system is doing the firing. By supporting rather than suppressing your immune system with the help of autoimmune supplements, you are able to eliminate symptoms and reverse your condition.
Herbal Supplements For Autoimmune Conditions
Rupal Patel Mansukhani, PharmDPharmacy Times
Patients with celiac disease are known to be deficient in the amino acid L-carnitine, a nutrient essential for muscle energy production.
CASE 1: DHEA FOR TREATING DRY MOUTH
LJ is a 42-year-old woman seeking an herbal supplement for treating dry mouth. LJ has Sjögrens syndrome and is trying to alleviate her symptoms by using a natural remedy in conjunction with OTC saliva replacement and lubricant eyedrop products. She found information on the use of herbal dehydroepiandrosterone for this condition and would like to know your thoughts about its use. LJ has no significant medical history and no known medication allergies she takes an oral hormonal contraceptive tablet once daily. What recommendations can you provide?
CASE 2: VITAMIN D FOR PSORIASIS
JM is a 28-year-old man who would like some information about vitamin D supplementation to treat psoriasis. He has been suffering from mild to moderate psoriasis symptoms for as long as he can remember. He wants to avoid using any of the biologic agents because he is afraid of the side effects associated with these and other medications hes already discussed with his physician. He has no allergies to medications and currently takes only ibuprofen, as needed for symptomatic pain relief, and cetirizine, as needed for seasonal allergies. How do you respond?
CASE 3: FISH OIL FOR RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS
CASE 4: L-CARNITINE AND CELIAC DISEASE
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What About Dietary Sources Of Vitamin D
While this study found promising results, additional research is needed to show if the results are generalizable.
There are still many questions to be answered and further studies to be done, Costenbader said, adding that her team plans to continue following up with the participants to see how the results change over time.
Since the VITAL Trial only included participants aged 50 and older, the researchers want to conduct future studies with different age groups.
I would also really like to study this question in younger adults who may have a higher genetic risk of developing autoimmune disease and to test whether the supplements have a similar beneficial preventive effect, Costenbader said.
For this study, the researchers only tested one dose of each supplement . Costenbader said it would be beneficial for future studies to test different doses to determine if theres an optimal dose for autoimmune disease prevention.
Manson added that the study findings will need to be replicated before general recommendations can be made. While there may be similar benefits from dietary sources of vitamin D and omega-3, it would require a complex study to show proven results.
Plus, reaching 2,000 IU per day of vitamin D from dietary sources would be challenging. A serving of sockeye salmon, for example, has 570 IU and a glass of fortified 2% milk only contains 120 IU.
Find A Support System
Whether its family or a group of good friends, a support system is important if you are dealing with an autoimmune disorder. Having a group of people who understand the complications and side effects of your autoimmune disorder and know how to encourage you on a bad day will make a huge difference. You may need to explain to your friends or family the different nuances of the disorder and what meds you take, or how you need extra rest. Thats okay. Having a supportive community will give you peace of mind and hope.
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Give Your Gut Some Love
Gut health is a crucial component when it comes to healing, and preventing, the development of autoimmune diseases.
A 2017 study in the Frontiers of Immunology found that leaky gut when the intestinal epithelial lining loses integrity and allows the passage of bacteria and toxins into the blood can trigger the initiation and development of autoimmune disease.
Gut health is a crucial component when it comes to healing, and preventing, the development of autoimmune diseases
Another report in 2012 in the journal Nature found that when the digestive system encounters saturated fat, it breaks down the healthy bacteria in the gut.
This causes inflammation, an increased immune response, and tissue damage.
Saturated fat is primarily found in butter, cheese, red meat, and other animal-based foods.
So whats the best way to take care of your gut? Healthy probiotics can be helpful. Good sources may include fermented foods, such as kimchi and sauerkraut, unsweetened yogurts, coconut kefir, and probiotic supplements.
But its equally important to feed the good guys abundant healthy prebiotic foods that help them to increase.
The number one food that probiotics love is fiber. The particular kinds of fiber that are most beneficial are found in chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion greens, garlic, leek, onion, asparagus, jicama, apple, flaxseed, and burdock root.
Can Fish Oil Help Lupus
Fish oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids. That includes DHA and EPA . These are heart-healthy fats that you canât make on your own. You have to get them from outside sources like food or supplements.
You canât cure lupus with fish oil. But thereâs growing evidence that a diet high in DHA and EPA might lessen inflammation in people with an autoimmune disease and those without. Studies offer conflicting results, but some researchers found that fish oil might:
- Reduce lupus flares
- Boost your quality of life
- Lessen fatigue
Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil might also improve blood flow and blood vessel health. That may:
- Lower your risk of heart disease
- Regulate heart rhythm
- Improve triglycerides levels
- Prevent blood clots
Fish oil might quiet an overactive immune system. But experts arenât sure if very high doses could also affect your ability to fight off germs. More research is needed to know the long-term risks and benefits for people with lupus.
You can safely add more omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. The best way is through fatty fish. The American Heart Association recommends at least two servings a week of fish such as mackerel, wild salmon, or tuna.
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