I remember learning about rickets in grade 8 home economics. There was a drastic decrease in the incidence of this disease once Vitamin D was added to milk. Cool. I recently read a study saying that rickets was on the rise again in the past 15 years. (Of course I can't find the study, but I know I read it) My first thought about it, was that we'll probably see a rise in MS cases in the next 10-15 years; over the past several years there has been a big push on to protect children from the rays of the sun. And I didn't think much more of it.
Until this week, with the recent announcement of the discovery of another link between vitamin D and MS. We've all heard the news and read about the study by this point in time, but here it is again anyway. The recommendation is for pregnant and breastfeeding women to get plenty of Vitamin D, especially if you aren't subject to effective sunshine. In northern and extreme southern latitudes, the UV rays aren't strong enough to activate the Vitamin D building abilities of our bodies.
The study links lack of Vitamin D and genes for MS. If you have the genes for MS, Vitamin D may inactivate them.
As a child, I had a "milk belly". My mom started feeding me skim milk to get rid of that. And until a few years ago, I drank at least two glasses of milk every single day. (Now I appear to be somewhat lactose intolerant) I certainly wasn't Vitamin D deficient growing up and when I was diagnosed. Several years ago, a link was made between the month you were born and incidence of MS. Those born in November had a much lesser chance of developing MS than those born in May. This led researchers to believe that prenatal nutrition was another clue to Vitamin D's involvement in MS. It would appear that the second and third trimester exposure to Vitamin D offers a protective factor to the fetus. I was born in June and only after a pregnancy that had my mom quite sick for most of it.
This study doesn't explain all cases of MS but it is a huge piece of the MS puzzle.
Let's turn our attention to the thymus. The thymus is a little gland that sits at the top of your ribcage, just behind the top of the sternum. It is vital to the development of our immune systems as children. In fact the gland continues to grow and produce T-cells (immune cells) until we're in our teens. (T-cells are named for the thymus actually.) Some of those T-cells aren't quite right and are supposed to be "silenced" by regulator T-cells. But if they aren't silenced and get released to the bloodstream..voila! Autoimmunity occurs.
While we are still in our mother's womb, this little organ doesn't really show much capacity for anything until later in the pregnancy. That's when the precursor cells for T-cells begin to develop. Once we're born, the T-cells begin to develop at a much faster rate and our immune system begins to kick in. Thymic activity is greatest between birth and puberty.
Lack of vitamin D may be responsible for the body's inability to silence the "not quite right" T-cells.
My head has been spinning with all this information over the past couple of days, trying to make sense of it. I can only liken MS to a perfect storm. If your immune system is defective from lack of Vitamin D (or an inability to make it) and you have the genes for MS, then you can develop it. this shows how complex MS is. And it demonstrates how a simple $2. widget may be the key to preventing it.