Lyme disease can cause a multitude of health issues. Once the Borrelia bacteria enters the body, it can hide out in tissues, evading detection from the antibiotics meant to treat the infection. Chronic Lyme disease can be debilitating, and many people with the condition experience coinfections caused by immune suppression, inflammation, and vitamin deficiencies.
Vitamin D deficiency and Lyme disease often go hand in hand for a few reasons. One possible reason is that people with Lyme disease may be ill to the point where they aren’t able to get outside as much, thus lowering their opportunity to gather vitamin D from the sun. But can Lyme disease cause low vitamin D? Let’s investigate.
What does vitamin D do?
Vitamin D is often called the “sunshine vitamin” because one of the main ways it is absorbed is through sunlight. It can also be found in supplement form, as well as in foods such as fatty fish, fortified cereals, and cheese.
Its main role in the body is to aid in the regulation and absorption of other nutrients such as calcium and phosphate, both of which are vital in the proper formation and health of bones and teeth. Vitamin D has also been shown to help the body ward off conditions such as heart disease and multiple sclerosis, and it may reduce susceptibility to catching a seasonal flu or cold.
Other health conditions that can benefit from adequate levels of vitamin D include:
- Depression and other mood disorders
- High blood pressure
- Autoimmune diseases
- Some cancers
One of the most common ailments in people who suffer from chronic Lyme disease includes a weakened immune system. Since vitamin D is a crucial part of immune function, lowered levels could have a detrimental impact on those with Lyme.
How does vitamin D deficiency effect overall health?
Deficiency in any vitamin or nutrient can cause a myriad of health issues, but not having vitamin D is especially bad for overall health. In children with inadequate levels of the nutrient, rickets can occur. This condition involves weaking of the bones, and if left untreated will advance further, leading to bone deformities, growth issues, and spinal curvature. The adult version of rickets is known as osteomalacia, and causes the bones to become weak and easily breakable.
Other health issues that can arise in people who suffer from a vitamin D deficiency include:
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Cognitive impairment in older people
- Some cancers
- Higher risk for frequent infections
- General fatigue
- Slowed healing of wounds
Even a subtle vitamin D deficiency can create health issues; however, it may be hard to pin down, due to the symptoms being so common.
Vitamin D3 and Lyme disease
For those who suffer from Lyme disease, getting enough vitamin D can be a challenge, even with supplementation, because of how depleted levels may become. Some studies suggest that it’s difficult for the body of a Lyme disease patient to store a proper amount of vitamin D because the Borrelia bacteria can actually reduce the abilities of vitamin D receptors. It does this so that it can continue to thrive in the body.
Another vitamin that can become depleted in patients with Lyme disease is magnesium, and that can be detrimental for vitamin D levels because of how it’s metabolized. For the body to use the vitamin D it gets, magnesium levels need to be adequate. This makes things even more difficult for Lyme disease patients who have both deficiencies.
Can a vitamin D deficiency exacerbate Lyme disease symptoms?
As mentioned, Lyme disease disables the immune function. Whether it does so in a mild or serious way depends on a case by case basis. Since vitamin D is an important part of overall immunity, having low levels can reduce a Lyme patient’s ability to ward off infection. This leads to less absorption of vitamin D over the course of the disease, resulting in overall depleted levels that may continue to get worse if not addressed.
A vitamin D deficiency can also be hard to treat in Lyme patients because when the immune system isn’t functioning as it should, nutrients are not being utilized as well, and all the processes in the body are essentially thrown off.
Getting enough vitamin D if you suffer from Lyme disease
As previously mentioned, one of the best ways patients with Lyme disease to encourage the proper levels of vitamin D is to introduce higher levels of magnesium. Since one relies on the other to be synthesized, both magnesium and vitamin D are needed for optimal health.
Supplementation and a healthy diet could help increase levels of both, and when the nutrients in the body are back at their ideal levels, a patient has a better chance at recovering from Lyme disease alongside proper treatment.