Sore, Itchy, red, inflamed skin, usually behind the knees, the inside of the elbows, and on the face, neck and hands is characteristic of eczema. Atopic Dermatitis is the most common type of eczema. Today, up to 17% of Canadians suffer from atopic dermatitis in their lives.
Maternal history of atopic disease, lack of breastfeeding, and urban environment (vs. rural) all are known risk factors for development of atopic disease. New evidence is growing rapidly to suggest vitamin D deficiency may also increase risk of atopy.
Low vitamin D levels may increase sensitivity to allergens and may predict more severe disease due to its interaction with receptors on our skin surface. Our skin is made of up trillions of cells which contain a Vitamin D Receptor (VDR). Once Vit D binds to its receptor a cascade of signals is set off like a domino effect. This cascade then has the ability to control genes and dictate inflammation. VDR signalling is critical to the keratinocytes which are the primary cell type in our outermost layer of skin. Without the precise orchestration keratinocytes are unable to regulate skin homeostasis and epidermal barrier function. It is the breakdown of the epithelial barrier which results in the characteristic features of eczema.
A study of 83 women showed 3 weeks of topical application of vitamin D enhanced the moisturization benefit, for patients with non sufficient levels of vitamin D. These results suggest a correlation between vitamin D levels and hydration of the outer layer of skin. This is why my family not only consumes Vitamin D orally but I also add it to my homemade lotions.
Interestingly, Vitamin D receptor (VDR) signaling has also been shown to be important in creating a balanced immune system. Research shows individuals with low Vitamin D levels are more likely to develop secondary skin infections on top of their eczema. In one study, more than 80% of patients with atopic dermatitis and insufficient levels of Vitamin D developed skin infections compared with less than 20% of patients with atopic dermatitis whose vitamin D levels were above sufficient.
Due to our northern climate, sunscreen use, and limited time outdoors the average person’s Vitamin D status is suboptimal. Optimal blood vitamin D levels are between 100 and 150 nmol/L. Ideally you would want to check your blood levels then treat accordingly through increased UVB exposure, fortified foods and/or supplements. Vitamin D is not only important to atopic diseases but also osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.
So, do you get enough Vitamin D? Or are you now planning on getting more?
- J. Am. Acad. Dermatol. 2013;69:238-44
- Boschert, Sherry. “Add education, vitamin D to eczema management.” Pediatric News Feb. 2014: 15. Academic OneFile. Web. 5 May 2016.
- Hartmann, Björn et al. “Vitamin D Receptor Activation Improves Allergen-Triggered Eczema In Mice”. Journal of Investigative Dermatology 132.2 (2012): 330-336. Web.
- Barbeau, M and H Lalonde. “PES8: BURDEN OF ILLNESS OF ECZEMA IN CANADA”. Value in Health 6.3 (2003): 240. Web.
- “Vitamin D And Skin Hydration”. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 68.4 (2013): AB68. Web.