Vitamin D is not only a nutrient, but also and an important hormone our bodies make. Since very few foods naturally contain vitamin D, a variety of products have been fortified with this nutrient. However, the best source of vitamin D is made in your skin when exposed to the sun, hence its name “the sunshine vitamin”. Unfortunately, most North Americans are vitamin D deficient and this deficiency is linked with close to one hundred health concerns. This nutrient may also be helpful in managing herpes virus, by boosting the immune system and reducing the body’s inflammatory reactions to herpes virus infections.
Vitamin D Boosts Immune System
Many research studies involving vitamin D indicate that this nutrient plays a key role in optimizing the function of the immune system. A strong and healthy immune system helps fight not only herpes virus, but also many other infections including colds and flu and chronic diseases like diabetes, heart diseases and cancer. Vitamin D appears to stimulate the production of certain blood cells with a key role in the health of the immune system and it also coordinates the expression of several genes not previously believed to be part of the vitamin D pathway. These genes may be involved in additional infection fighting pathways.
Vitamin D and Herpes Virus Infections
Vitamin D3 improves herpes virus infection and inflammation in animal subjects, is the result of a study featured in the July 2011 issue of “Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology”. The scientists from Ajou University Institute for Medical Sciences, Korea further noted that vitamin D worked against herpes virus by down regulating the expression of some receptors called TLR and cytokines, which are 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. The virus reactivation can be triggered by diseases, stress or any other condition that weakens the immune system. Post-herpetic neuralgia is those most common symptom as shingles. Post-herpetic neuralgia is defined as pain that lasts for more than a month, and sometimes months, after a shingles infection has occurred. Post-herpetic neuralgia may benefit from vitamin D, according to a study published in December 2009 in “Medical Hypothesis’. In this study, researchers used high doses of vitamin D applied topically, although they suggest that vitamin D in oral form may work as well.
If you expose your skin to sun for half an hour, roughly 10,000 IU of vitamin D will be produced in your body, and this will help optimize your vitamin D status. However, sun can also trigger the reactivation of herpes virus and using sunscreen will block 90% of the vitamin D production. In order to avoid a herpes outbreak caused by sun exposure, you should consider increasing your vitamin D levels by using supplements, either in tablet, liquid or topical form. Generally speaking, you should not take more than 10,000 IU vitamin D per day because its safety has not been researched for doses above this level. Talk to your healthcare provider to find out more about the optimal dose needed to prevent or manage herpes virus infections.