A Quick Guide to Vitamin D and Lupus

Carie ShermanBy Carie Sherman

Have you had your vitamin D levels checked recently? If not–you should.

Last summer, I learned I was severely D-deficient. And recent blood-work confirmed that because of supplementation, I’m deficient no more. (I count it as one of the reasons I say “better” when someone asks how I feel.)

Why is this vitamin so important for lupus patients? To start, there are studies that indicate a link.

Low vitamin D levels might have some bearing on the development and severity of lupus.
Our D levels are low because those of us with photosensitivity avoid the sun (vitamin D is “sunshine vitamin”).
The drugs we take (steroids and hydrochloroquine) might interfere with vitamin D levels.
SLE patients who receive supplementation may experience less disease activity.

Lupus or not, researchers estimate that 1 billion people worldwide lack proper D-levels.

What’s the Big Deal about D?

This is so cool: The Mayo Clinic outlines what the science says about vitamin D, breaking down each piece of evidence and grading the science behind it. Not surprisingly, nearly every autoimmune condition listed is given a “C,” indicating more research is necessary (support lupus research and Lupus Colorado!).

The “A” list includes:

  • Bone disease: softening, weakening
  • Kidney disease Psoriasis
  • Thyroid conditions
  • Lung disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Stomach and intestine problems
  • Heart disease

The evidence isn’t fully in on these items, but there are also some indications that improved vitamin D levels could lessen joint pain, lower risks of certain kinds of cancer, improve brain function and improve blood pressure.

Could You Be Vitamin D Deficient?

You might be at risk if…

You don’t have much sun exposure (true of most lupus patients!).
You have dark skin.
You have kidney dysfunction.
You are obese.
You don’t eat meat or dairy.
Your digestive system isn’t functioning well, as in celiac disease or Crohn’s.

There’s only one way to know for sure: Ask your doc for a blood test (she’s taking so much already, what’s another test, right?). If your levels are low, treatment is as simple as taking a pill.

I saw my energy go up and my pain levels go down soon after treatment. You’re already seeing your doc, so I think it’s worth asking about.


Attention Future Self: You’re Welcome

Carie ShermanDo you ever wonder about the type of person who might be taken over by a cult?

Me too. And I bet it’s someone like me.

I’m a searcher. I’m always looking for mechanisms for improvement. When the Tony Robbins and Zig Ziglars and Deepak Chopras of the world sleep, they dream of my face, emerging from beneath a halo of dollar signs.

I hide my addiction in a bookcase that rivals any self-help section in a big box bookstore. Even my followers on Pinterest–a treasure trove of inspirational gold–remain unaware since the advent of the “secret” board.

So what got my attention this morning? A little nugget that shined brighter than all the rest:
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Before You Complain About Your Doctor(s), Again…Please Read

Carie ShermanBy Carie Sherman

I spend a lot of time with doctors.

For more than a decade, I have written for physicians and count many as clients. In fact, earning the respect of my physician clients has been one of my greatest achievements as a writer.

And like any good lupus patient, I spend my free time in waiting rooms—a primo place for people watching that delights the writer in me.

It’s easy to recognize the regulars. They smile. They look relaxed. They knit, read, play video games, stare unapologetically and take notes (okay, maybe that’s just me). But newbies are far more fun to watch.

While I’m usually entertained by a freaking out newbie, a lady yesterday infuriated me. What began as some serious huffing and puffing ended with a fist pounding on the reception desk and followed by a…

If I treated my clients this way, I’d blah, blah <explicative> blah…!”

She went on…

Overpaid < explicative >, lazy, they’re the reason health care in America sucks…”

Her tirade ended with a resounding…

F&*% doctors!”

And to my relief, and that of my waiting room peeps, she exited the building.

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Intervention – An Update and an Intro to a Fellow Friend in Lupus

Carie ShermanBy Carie Sherman

A few weeks ago, I humiliated myself by sharing my food intake. My confession was accompanied by a vow to eat five fruits/veggies daily. I’ve stuck with it and—surprise, surprise!—I feel better. My stomach again growls, and I’m hungry for something besides high-fructose corn syrup.

Thanks to everyone who responded on Facebook, and my friends who sent me texts ranging from “REALLY?!?!” to “No wonder you sleep so much” to “You’re gonna get fat and I’m going to laugh.”

And special thanks to two people who made this dietary change much easier to swallow. First, thanks to my meat-and-potatoes-husband who has prepared and eaten more salads in one month than he did during 2006. Second, thanks to my friend Michelle, who sent me a 2,500 word email filled with crazy-good info about finding better health.

Lupus Colorado introduced me to Michelle because we had a few things in common: We were “similar” in age (bless you Debbie for thinking so), both new moms, and both had lupus (Michelle’s diagnosis definitive; mine as of last week still in limbo).

Meet Michelle. AKA, My Daily Inspiration

You know those people you meet and within 30 seconds, you’d do anything to be his or her friend? That’s Michelle. She’s bright, funny, warm, empathetic, energetic, bubbly, motivated, fun, adventurous, thoughtful, and holy crow—I honestly could go on!

Michelle lives on the western slope and drives to Denver once a month to see her doctors at University Hospital. Our first meeting was at a playground, where we shared our stories and our little girls ran around as if their watered-down Juicy Juice was swapped with Red Bull.

I felt like crap that day and did my best to hide it. Michelle was in great shape, and I learned she was a fitness instructor and a total nerd about nutrition. It was shocking to hear that less than a year before she had been fighting for her life, spending months in intensive care due to lupus complications.

lupus colorado healthy eatingShe had been so sick. And she was now so healthy.

My excuses for not taking better care of myself were weak, and I knew it. Not that she made me feel bad. Instead, she encouraged me to make small and sustainable changes. Like eating real food.

It took me a while, but my Milk Dud box mittens have come off and I’ve rediscovered proper kitchen utensils and the foods that come with them. And I owe so much of this to Michelle.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share Michelle’s encouragement and the hard-fought wisdom she earned on her journey from ICU and chemo to teaching multiple fitness classes a day. And of course, I’ll share my own experiences of trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Doctors can’t “cure” us, but we can improve our health. It might be hard, but like Michelle told me: The changes that heal you are easy to adopt for good.

What lifestyle changes have you made that help?

Until next time,

Carie

P.S. I sprained my wrist while carrying a grocery bag. I tried to avoid the doctor but it bruised, swelled and made typing miserable, which simply cannot happen in my world. My PCP is sending me to see an orthopedist today. This injury and a few others may or may not be related to my connective tissue disease—does anyone else experience such injuries? Or am I just a klutz?