Scotland has one of the world’s highest rates of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and within Scotland, the further north you travel, the more likely you are to have a child born with MS. Girls are 3 times more affected than boys. A contributing factor to this is pregnant mothers and children not having sufficient Vitamin D in their bodies .
MS is an autoimmune disease affecting the nerves and muscles. It starts usually in adult life, occasionally in children, and it develops gradually, sometimes hitting a person in their twenties, sometimes in their fifties. Symptoms might include walking difficulties, tiredness, disturbed sensitivity, pain, visual problems, and issues with bladder control, speech and other systems. Eventually many sufferers might have to use a wheelchair, or become bed bound. Sometimes it comes in bouts with long quiet spells between them.
There is an increased risk of developing MS if someone in the family has it, but most people with MS appear to be the only one in the family. Your child is more likely than average to have MS if you have a relative that has suffered from it. Interestingly though, this ‘genetic clustering’ doesn’t explain the spread of the disease. It is known that multiple sclerosis is more common in countries further away from the equator. It is also known that in both, the northern and southern hemispheres, there are more cases of multiple sclerosis in people born from winter pregnancies, and fewer from summer pregnancies.
This means that apart from the genetic make-up our children inherit, there are also ‘environmental’ factors which contribute to the risk of getting MS. We know of 3 of those factors so far: smoking, infection with glandular fever, and the supply of Vitamin D. A group of French researchers wrote in a detailed overview in 2013:
“…there are now innumerable experimental, epidemiological, immunological, genetic and clinical arguments in support of the notion that Vitamin D insufficiency is one of the risk factors for MS…”
With our well documented low Vitamin D levels in Scotland, we urge people, particularly pregnant mothers, children and teenagers, to make sure they receive enough Vitamin D and reduce the risk of developing MS.
Fighting MS For Sufferers
Once a person has MS, many clinicians today recommended making sure Vitamin D is provided. Taking Vitamin D has not yet shown MS to reverse, although some studies are taking place. The Brazilian Academy of Neurology issued the following guidelines in March 2014 for those diagnosed with MS:
“Patients should be prescribed their own Vitamin D regimen based on their individual needs to reach Vitamin D levels between 40 ng/ml and 100 ng/ml (= 100 – 250 nmol/l)”
Quality of life appears to be better in people with MS when taking vitamin D or living further south.