Vitamin D is an important nutrient to bone health, but did you know that it also influences our immune systems? Research has found that vitamin D may protect us against allergies. People with low blood levels of vitamin D tend to have higher rates of asthma, food allergies, and eczema, as well as higher rates of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria overgrowth on the skin and inside the nose.
Vitamin D is also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” because light stimulates its production. A common treatment for severe eczema is the controlled use of ultraviolet light, a procedure known as phototherapy, which converts vitamin D into its active form. In a study conducted in Mongolia, children with eczema had breakouts in cold weather and during the fall to winter season change. The group of children who received vitamin D supplements averaged a 29% improvement in eczema symptoms, while children who received placebos (no vitamin D) improved by 16%. Researchers theorize that vitamin D deficiencies may explain why eczema often gets worse during winter months, when people get less exposure to the sun.
Interestingly, pregnant mothers who consume more dairy products, calcium, and vitamin D during their pregnancy may help protect their children against allergic disorders, such as eczema and asthma.[4,5] Vitamin D may also play a beneficial role in restoring microbiome imbalances in the gut for people with eczema. These results suggest that vitamin D may prevent the development of eczema; however, further studies are needed to better understand the connection between vitamin D and eczema.
Several clinical studies have found that those with eczema who take vitamin D supplements are more likely to find improvements in the severity of both their long and short-term symptoms.[7-9] Another study found that low vitamin D levels are linked to the severity of eczema, but only in people who also had food or environmental allergies. Some researchers have found that both adults and children with eczema are more likely to have low blood levels of vitamin D in their blood, which is also linked to more severe eczema symptoms.[8,11] Yet another team of researchers found that vitamin D levels were low in children with eczema, although the level of vitamin D did not correlate to eczema severity. Overall, it appears that low vitamin D levels may be associated with eczema but it is still not clear if lower vitamin D levels lead to worsened eczema.
Vitamin D based research for eczema is promising. For now, vitamin D’s relationship to eczema has yet to be decided definitively, and more studies are needed to find out if vitamin D supplements can effectively treat or prevent eczema. The use of vitamin D should be discussed with a health professional before starting supplementation.
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Reinholz M, Ruzicka T, Schauber J. Vitamin D and its role in allergic disease. Clin Exp Allergy.2012;42(6):817-826; PMID: 22192170 Link to research.
Gilaberte Y, Sanmartin R, Aspiroz C, et al. Correlation Between Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D and Virulence Genes of Staphylococcus aureus Isolates Colonizing Children with Atopic Dermatitis. Pediatr Dermatol.2015;32(4):506-513; PMID: 25491017 Link to research.
Camargo CA, Jr., Ganmaa D, Sidbury R, et al. Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation for winter-related atopic dermatitis in children. J Allergy Clin Immunol.2014;134(4):831-835 e831; PMID: 25282565 Link to research.
Miyake Y, Sasaki S, Tanaka K, et al. Dairy food, calcium and vitamin D intake in pregnancy, and wheeze and eczema in infants. Eur Respir J.2010;35(6):1228-1234; PMID: 19840962 Link to research.
Miyake Y, Tanaka K, Okubo H, et al. Maternal consumption of dairy products, calcium, and vitamin D during pregnancy and infantile allergic disorders. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol.2014;113(1):82-87; PMID: 24950846 Link to research.
Ly NP, Litonjua A, Gold DR, et al. Gut microbiota, probiotics, and vitamin D: interrelated exposures influencing allergy, asthma, and obesity? J Allergy Clin Immunol.2011;127(5):1087-1094; quiz 1095-1086; PMID: 21419479 Link to research.
Kim G, Bae JH. Vitamin D and atopic dermatitis: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrition.2016;10.1016/j.nut.2016.01.023PMID: 27061361 Link to research.
Peroni DG, Piacentini GL, Cametti E, et al. Correlation between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and severity of atopic dermatitis in children. Br J Dermatol.2011;164(5):1078-1082; PMID: 21087229 Link to research.
Wang SS, Hon KL, Kong AP, et al. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with diagnosis and severity of childhood atopic dermatitis. Pediatr Allergy Immunol.2014;25(1):30-35; PMID: 24383670 Link to research.
Akan A, Azkur D, Ginis T, et al. Vitamin D level in children is correlated with severity of atopic dermatitis but only in patients with allergic sensitizations. Pediatr Dermatol.2013;30(3):359-363; PMID: 23289912 Link to research.
El Taieb MA, Fayed HM, Aly SS, et al. Assessment of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin d levels in children with atopic dermatitis: correlation with SCORAD index. Dermatitis.2013;24(6):296-301; PMID: 24201460 Link to research.
Robl R, Uber M, Abagge KT, et al. Serum Vitamin D Levels Not Associated with Atopic Dermatitis Severity. Pediatr Dermatol.2016;33(3):283-288; PMID: 26862046 Link to research.