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Vitamin D and Hidradenitis Suppurativa: Can Supplements Help?

Posted on October 17, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Diane M. Horowitz, M.D.
Article written by
Anika Brahmbhatt

If you live with hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) — also known as acne inversa — you may wonder if taking vitamin D supplements could help reduce symptom flare-ups and improve your quality of life.

The short answer is, people with HS may benefit from vitamin D supplements. Additionally, vitamin D intake is just one of many factors that can contribute to your health and well-being. However, it’s important to check with your doctor before adding any supplements to your daily regimen and to remember that people react differently to dietary or supplemental interventions.

One myHSteam member shared, “I have been having a wonderful few weeks, and it is due to many reasons. Stress has been down, exercise is up, love is in the air, hobbies all day, work is going well, diet is on point, and I have begun some great supplements.”

If you are considering adding a vitamin D supplement to your symptom-management strategy, the following information can help you have a knowledgeable discussion with your health care provider.

What Is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a nutrient that your body needs to make your muscles move, help your nerves send signals between your brain and body, and allow your immune system to fight off bacteria and viruses that can make you sick. Vitamin D also helps your body absorb the calcium needed for strong, healthy bones.

There are two kinds of vitamin D: D2 and D3. Vitamin D2 is found mostly in plants, mushrooms, and yeast. Vitamin D3 can be found in oily fish and is also made by your body during sun exposure. The body converts both types of vitamin D to 25-hydroxyvitamin D, which is what blood tests for vitamin D measure. Also known as calcitriol and available as a supplement, this active form of vitamin D can affect the cells involved in the immune system.

According to Cleveland Clinic, some good food sources of vitamin D include:

  • Beef liver
  • Fortified cereal
  • Fish (such as salmon, sardines, swordfish, and cod liver oil)
  • Egg yolks
  • Fortified milk and orange juice

Vitamin D and Hidradenitis Suppurativa

Many people with HS seek nonmedical approaches to go along with their traditional HS treatment, especially those who experience painful lesions or nodules, even when using topical, antibiotic, and biologic therapies. Additional measures to control symptoms of HS may include dietary changes, like avoiding dairy products and brewer’s yeast.

Some risk factors for HS, such as obesity, are known, but research suggests that people with HS might be more likely than those without HS to have vitamin D deficiency. The authors of a 2022 study recommended that people with HS take vitamin D supplements, as well as stop smoking and lose weight.

Because HS is an inflammatory skin disease, researchers believe that adding vitamin D could help manage the condition. Additionally, vitamin D has been found to decrease disease severity in psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and other dermatological conditions. This provides some hope that vitamin D supplementation could help with HS as well.

Finding the Right Supplement for You

There is a debate over whether vitamin D2 or D3 supplements are more effective at raising blood levels of vitamin D. Some experts believe that D3 might be the better choice because this type of vitamin D, cholecalciferol, is the kind naturally produced in your body.

Findings have also shown that higher vitamin D levels lasted longer when people took vitamin D3 as opposed to D2. However, your health care provider can help you best understand what kind of supplement might work the best for your specific needs.

Can You Have Too Much Vitamin D?

Vitamin D toxicity is rare but serious. Usually, toxicity occurs from taking too large a dose of supplements, rather than eating too many vitamin D-rich foods or spending too much time in the sun. The main sign of vitamin D toxicity is an excessive buildup of calcium in the bloodstream, which causes symptoms of nausea and vomiting, weakness, and frequent urination.

In severe cases, vitamin D toxicity could lead to kidney problems or bone pain. Always talk to your doctor before modifying an aspect of your HS treatment regimen.

Talk With People Who Understand

On myHSteam, the social network and online support group for people with HS and their loved ones, members discuss the chronic nature of the disease. Here, more than 28,000 members from across the world come together to ask questions, offer advice and support, and share stories with others who understand life with breast cancer.

Have you investigated your vitamin D levels? Do you take steps to make sure you get enough vitamin D? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation on myHSteam.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Diane M. Horowitz, M.D. is an internal medicine and rheumatology specialist. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about her here.
Anika Brahmbhatt is an undergraduate student at Boston University, where she is pursuing a dual degree in media science and psychology. Learn more about her here.

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