Inadequate levels of vitamin D may raise your asthma risk

November 11, 2016 Providence Health Team

Researchers say they have found more evidence that low levels of vitamin D appear to increase your risk of asthma.

In a study of the health records of nearly 35,000 adults and children collected between 2001 and 2010, investigators found children who had low levels of vitamin D were 1.35 times more likely to have asthma than children with sufficient vitamin D in their systems.

Adults with inadequate vitamin D were more likely than other adults to say they had experienced wheezing in the past year.

Researchers believe vitamin D helps reduce inflammation in the body. It’s also possible vitamin D helps improve the body’s response to asthma drugs, according to Yueh-Ying Han, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine who discussed the findings at a health conference. 

Asthma prevalence and symptoms

Asthma is a disease that causes inflammation or spasms in the lungs or tightening of the bronchial tubes. It is characterized by:

  • Breathlessness
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Coughing at morning or at bedtime

The disease is usually treated with medicine, often delivered via inhaler. People with asthma should limit their exposure to the kinds of triggers, such as pollen, tobacco smoke and animal dander, that can cause an asthma attack.

About 24 million Americans, or roughly 7.7 percent of the population, have asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It causes hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and kills 3,651 people every year.

Ways to get vitamin D

Besides its association with a lowered risk of asthma, vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, which is essential in building and maintaining strong bones. You absorb vitamin D from the sunlight that falls on your skin, from your diet and from over-the-counter supplements. Leading sources of vitamin D in food include:

  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna and mackerel
  • Fish oil
  • Egg yolks
  • Liver
  • Mushrooms
  • Fortified milk

If you eat a vegan diet, have milk allergies or have limited exposure to sunlight, you may have a low level of vitamin D. Talk to your health care provider if you have asthma symptoms or if you’re concerned about your level of vitamin D. To find a Providence provider, use our geographic directory.

To learn more

We wrote previously about the way vitamin D can provide relief from asthma symptoms. You can also read more about asthma in our Health Library.

You can read and see videos about asthma at the CDC’s asthma site. It includes statistical data and advice about managing the disease.

The National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements published a fact sheet on vitamin D describing what it does and how you can take it in.

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