By Miguel Gonzalez, MD, FACP, FCCP
Vitamin D Boosts Immune System
Using Vitamin D to prevent herpes is not a new concept. Studies involving vitamin D have shown that this nutrient plays a key role in optimizing immune system function. A healthy immune system helps fight viruses including the herpes virus, as well as many other infections including colds and flu and chronic diseases like diabetes, heart diseases and cancer. Vitamin D seems to stimulate the production of certain blood cells that play a key role in the health of the immune system. Vitamin D also coordinates the expression of several genes not previously believed to be part of the vitamin D pathway. These genes may also be involved in additional infection fighting pathways.
Prevent Herpes Outbreaks with Vitamin D
Not only is Vitamin D a nutrient, but it is also an important hormone produced by our bodies. Because only a few foods naturally contain vitamin D, a variety of foods and products have been fortified with Vitamin D. The very best source of vitamin D is from the sun, hence its name “the sunshine vitamin”. Shockingly, the far vast majority of North Americans are vitamin D deficient. This deficiency is linked with close to one hundred health concerns and more is being found about this wonder vitamin each year. Vitamin D may also be helpful in managing the herpes virus, by boosting the immune system and reducing the body’s inflammatory reactions to herpes virus infections.
Vitamin D and Herpes Virus Infections
A study featured in the July 2011 issue of “Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology”, revealed that Vitamin D3 improves herpes virus infection and inflammation in animal subjects. The scientists from Ajou University Institute for Medical Sciences, Korea also noted that vitamin D fought against herpes virus by down-regulating the expression of some receptors called TLR and cytokines, proteins that play a key role in inflammatory processes.
Vitamin D and Herpes Zoster
Shingles or herpes zoster occurs when the virus that causes chickenpox reactivates in your body. This virus reactivation can be triggered by many factors such as diseases, stress, diet or any other condition that weakens the immune system. Post-herpetic neuralgia is the most common symptom of shingles. Post-herpetic neuralgia pain that lasts for more than a month, and sometimes many months after a shingles outbreak has occurred. A study published in December 2009 in “Medical Hypothesis”, showed that post-herpetic neuralgia may benefit from vitamin D. In this study, researchers used high doses of vitamin D applied topically, although they suggested that oral vitamin D may work as well.
Skin exposed to the sun for half an hour, will produce roughly 10,000 IU of vitamin D in your body, which helps to optimize your vitamin D status. However, sun can also trigger the reactivation of the herpes virus. Using sunscreen will block 90% of the vitamin D production, so that doesn’t help. In order to avoid a herpes outbreak caused by too sun exposure or just to keep the herpes virus in check by maintaining optimal Vitamin D levels, you should consider using Vitamin D supplements, either in tablet, liquid or topical form. Generally speaking, you should not take more than 10,000 IU vitamin D per day. Also, be sure to take Vitamin D that also has Vitamin K1 and K2 for better absorption. Talk to your healthcare provider to find out more about the optimal dose needed to prevent or manage herpes virus infections.
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