Vitamin D for Autoimmunity – But You Must Take it With This Super Nutrient!

Vitamin D for Autoimmunity – But You Must Take it With This Super Nutrient! post image

Yet another study has shown that Vitamin D is protective of remission of an autoimmune disease. This study showed remission from ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Just a year ago a study published in the United European Gastroenterology Journal found that vitamin D supplementation reduced intestinal permeability (leaky gut) in patients with Crohn’s disease. They also found that the supplementation extended periods of remission.

This latest study about ulcerative colitis, published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology in February 2017, studied the relationships between vitamin D levels, clinical remission and risk of relapse.

This was a physician blinded prospective study of 70 patients with UC that were in remission per surveillance colonoscopy. Vitamins D samples were collected at baseline (time of colonoscopy) with 12 month followup to determine the rate of relapse.

The researchers found that vitamin D levels lower than 35 ng/mL were associated with a risk of flareups over the 12 months, independent from findings of the baseline endoscopy.

The researchers concluded that,

Serum levels of vitamin D of 35 ng/mL or less during periods of clinical remission increase the risk of UC relapse. Clinical trials to obtain vitamin D levels higher than this threshold should be considered.

This is a surprisingly low level of vitamin D. Levels under 30 are considered below optimal and 40 – 60 optimal, although some practitioners believe levels up to 100 are acceptable.

Interestingly, the researchers in the study with Crohn’s (as mentioned above) found that serum levels above 75 ng/mL were protective of relapse. (See more about that here).

Intestinal Barrier Dysfunction (Leaky Gut) is an Underlying Cause of  Many Autoimmune Diseases

Intestinal Barrier Dysfunction is a hallmark of autoimmunity. The immune system is housed in the gastrointestinal tract. When there is inflammation present, the lining of the intestine becomes damaged and becomes leaky. This allows larger molecules of food and toxins to enter the bloodstream, become systemic and travel to extra-intestinal areas of the body. These areas include the joints, skin and other organs.

All autoimmune conditions have the common denominator of intestinal permeability. In this condition, abnormally high levels of zonulin are present. This protein regulates the permeability of the tight junctions of the intestinal barrier. Once the gut is permeable, immune responses to foods can occur, initiating a cascade of inflammatory chemicals.

Any natural substance that can reduce this cascade of inflammation is a welcome addition to a holistic regimen.

Vitamin D Inhibits LPS Inflammation

Another study published in the Journal of Immunology in 2012 demonstrated that vitamin D inhibits LPS-induced p38 activation and cytokine production (inflammation) in monocytes and macrophages. In my previous post about LPS, I explain that LPS is an indicator of intestinal inflammation and that it is used in research to induce inflammatory responses in mammals in order to study them.

Many conditions are induced in the laboratory by using LPS, such as Alzheimer’s, MS, IBD, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s, depression, autism and many other autoimmune diseases.

Which Form of Vitamin D?

Many practitioners recommend taking cod liver oil because it is a whole food and has the correct balance of vitamins A and D as well as omega 3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA). However, if you want to get your blood levels of vitamin D up to 75 nmol/L you would have to use a vitamin D supplement.

Before supplementing, be sure to get a blood level of 25-OH vitamin D as a base line. This is a measure of the level of D3 in the active form. You do not want to test or take D2 as it is the inactive form.

I like this vitamin D supplement and this brand of cod liver oil.

Of course, it is a great idea to get vitamin D from sun exposure, as long as you do it safely. It’s difficult to estimate just how much vitamin D is generated from sun exposure as this can be very individual. If you getting a lot of sun exposure then you wouldn’t need much supplementation.

Always monitor vitamin D levels with periodic blood test.

Vitamin D works in conjunction with vitamin K2 for healthy bones and teeth.

Vitamins A & D

These two critically important vitamins work in tandem with each other and with K2. Vitamins A & D work as hormones at the cellular level. They trigger our DNA to make proteins and enzymes in conjunction with cofactors to place nutrients where they are needed.

The Balancing Act

Here is where it is critical to understand the interrelationship between these fat soluble vitamins. Some people recommend large doses of vitamin D to cure many ills. Others shy away from vitamin A because it has gotten some bad press with mistaken toxicity. This has resulted in a seesaw with way too much vitamin D and way too little vitamin A. For most people vitamin K2 is also much too low.

What Happens When Vitamin D is Too High?

When vitamin D is too high, much of the calcium in the blood does not end up in the bones, which is the correct place. But rather, it ends up in the soft tissues of the joints and blood vessels where it does not belong and where it will cause problems.

Vitamins A & D regulate the activity of genes that cause cells to produce the proteins to which the minerals and water soluble vitamins will bind. Vitamin K2 is like a conductor, orchestrating the correct movement of minerals to the correct places – calcium to the bones – not the soft tissues.

You MUST Take Vitamin K2 With Vitamins A and D

According to Dr. Kate Rheaume Bleue, author of the fantastic book, Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox

When you take more of one fat soluble vitamin, you create a greater need for the others. (p.194) … It is critical to be aware that too much vitamin D on its own can demineralize your bones. Vitamin D increases the demand for vitamin K2… (105).

This is the critical point. Current doctors and nutritionists recommend a lot of vitamin D and too little vitamin A (or ignore it entirely) and many are still not aware of the importance of K2. What follows is the disaster in heart health that we have today — atherosclerosis in a high percentage of the population leading to heart attacks at an unprecedented rate.

Aside from the cholesterol debacle, this common imbalance and deficiency of the fat soluble vitamins has led to an epidemic of atherosclerosis. The calcium that so many people take as supplements or try to eat in food, is not helping the bones at all – but rather it ends up in the soft tissues like the lining of the arteries, hardening them and forming clots. This leads to narrowing of the arteries and decreased function which eventually leads to heart disease.

Food Sources of K2

The best food sources of K2 (MK-4) are in animals that have been raised on grass and green forage. As mentioned earlier, the best sources are from the butterfat of cows that have been eating the rapidly growing green grass of spring and fall. Dr. Price analyzed thousands of samples of grass and the corresponding butterfat and came to this conclusion. Therefore, butter and ghee from grassfed cows are very good sources of K2.

Goose fat and goose liver is also very high, as well as hard cheeses particularly brie and gouda. Egg yolks from pasture raised chickens are also high.

The best vegetable source of K2 is MK-7 which is found in fermented soybeans or natto. The K2 is actually synthesized by bacteria during fermentation. There may be a texture and smell issue for some, but the Japanese eat it and they have low levels of heart disease.

Click here to see a chart of selected food sources of K2.


I recommend taking cod liver oil as it has both vitamins A and D in the correct proportions and take either the butter oil with it, or a K2 supplement.

If you have an autoimmune disease I recommend additional vitamin D to bring up serum levels. If you do take vitamin D be sure to monitor serum levels every few months.

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Leave a Comment

  • dogsnoseknows March 8, 2017, 5:50 pm

    So, the critical question is: What are the “correct proportions” of A, D and K2?
    If we are to supplement them properly without causing a pathological imbalance, this is much needed information. Do you have any guidance?
    Thanks as always for bringing these important topics to our attention!

    • Dr. Jill March 9, 2017, 4:56 pm

      Hey Dogsnoseknows,
      That’s a great question. According to the Weston Price Foundation it should be 10:1 ratio of vitamin A to D. What this translates to is typically 10,000 iu vitamin A to 1000 iu vitamin D. That said, someone may need more vitamin D for a while in order to bring up levels if they are deficient.

      K2 is still not set in stone, but most agree that anywhere from 75 to 320 mcg – that is in micrograms – per day.

      As mentioned above, it is always best to try to get this from food.