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January 4, 2011

Vitamin D insufficiency linked to autoimmune lung disease

Vitamin D insufficiency linked to autoimmune lung disease

The journal Chest reports the finding of researchers at the University of Cincinnati of an increased incidence of vitamin D insufficiency in patients with connective tissue disease-related interstitial lung disease (ILD), an autoimmune condition characterized by lung fibrosis.

Vitamin D insufficiency has been examined as a modifiable factor in a number of autoimmune disorders, including connective tissue diseases such as lupus, scleroderma and rheumatoid arthritis. "We wanted to see if lack of sufficient vitamin D would also be seen in patients who are diagnosed with an autoimmune interstitial lung disease (ILD) and whether it was associated with reduced lung function," stated lead researcher and pulmonologist Brent Kinder, MD, who is the director of the University of Cincinnati's Interstitial Lung Disease Center. "ILD is a group of diseases that mainly affect the tissues of the lungs instead of the airways, like asthma and emphysema do. It causes scarring of the lungs, is more difficult to diagnosis and treat than other kinds of lung diseases and is often fatal."

Dr Kinder's team compared serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels of 67 patients with connective tissue disease-related ILD to vitamin D levels measured in 51 patients with other forms of ILD. Insufficient levels of vitamin D were found in 79 percent of those with connective tissue disease-related ILD and deficiency was revealed in 52 percent, compared with 31 and 20 percent of those with other interstitial lung diseases. In subjects with connective tissue disease-related ILD, lower vitamin D levels were associated with significantly decreased lung function.

"These findings suggest that there is a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in patients with ILD, particularly those with connective tissue disease," Dr Kinder stated. "Therefore, vitamin D may have a role in the development of connective tissue disease-related ILD and patients' worsening lung function. One of the next steps is to see if supplementation will improve lung function for these patients."

"Vitamin D is known to be a critical dietary factor for bone and skin health," he added. "Now, we're learning that it could potentially be modified as a treatment to improve ILD as opposed to other, more toxic therapies.

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Health Concern Life Extension Highlight

Autoimmune diseases

Any disease in which cytotoxic cells are directed against self-antigens in the body's tissues is considered autoimmune in nature. Such diseases include, but are not limited to, celiac disease, Crohn's disease, pancreatitis, systemic lupus erythematosus, Sjogren's syndrome, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, and other endocrinopathies. Allergies and multiple sclerosis are also the result of disordered immune functioning.

Oxidative stress plays a role in autoimmune diseases. It can be compared to a piece of metal rusting and results from the action of damaging molecules known as free radicals that are a natural byproduct of the body's metabolism. The electrically charged free radicals attack healthy cells, causing them to lose their structure and function and eventually destroying them. Free radicals are not only produced by our bodies, but they are also ingested from toxins and pollution in the air we breathe.

Chronic systemic inflammation is related to several autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome, and fibromyalgia (see separate protocols on these topics). Inflammation can be traced to destructive cell-signaling chemicals known as cytokines that contribute to many degenerative diseases (Brod 2000). In rheumatoid arthritis, excess levels of proinflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin-6 (IL-6), interleukin 1(b) (IL-1b), and/or leukotriene B4 (LTB4), are known to cause or contribute to the inflammatory syndrome that ultimately destroys joint cartilage and synovial fluid. Certain nutritional supplements and low-cost prescription medications will often lower cytokine levels and control the inflammatory state.

Stress is a major risk factor in developing disease. Even prolonged low-level stress stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol, which, in excess, impairs immune function. Lack of proper rest and sleep, depression, and emotional disturbance contribute to immune dysfunction. In addition, there is a connection between the limbic system, the part of the brain that gives rise to emotion, and immune function. Therefore, to balance the immune system, one must balance the mind and emotions. Biofeedback, guided imagery, yoga, deep breathing, musical participation, positive affirmations, meditation, and prayer all help maintain balance (Hughes 1997; Long et al. 2001; Kuhn 2002; Lehrer et al. 2002; Vempati et al. 2002).

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