I remember a doctor mentioning to me that I had low amounts of vitamin D at different points in my life. I asked myself, “Am I kidding myself, or is vitamin D3 really all that important to my health as an alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD) patient?” I have learned to keep some vitamin D handy just in case of deficiencies, winter days, or the nearness of respiratory disease in my living or working environment.

AATD affects the liver, gastrointestinal tract, and/or the lungs. It is genetic, meaning it is not created by a lack of nutrient intake or as a result of another disease. It exists on its own, and any supplement producer has a label on their products that says their supplement is not intended to “cure” any condition.

However, I know of many reputable articles that list health benefits some AATD patients can receive from the supplement as it relates to lung health alone. Vitamin D3 has been shown to help alpha-1 patients with COVID. 

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I have talked to other patients with the same condition, and they say that they have fewer problems with asthma when they are taking the supplement. I noticed a huge difference in myself when I began taking them. This may be direct or indirect, as we know this vitamin can affect one’s mood for the better.

It’s common knowledge that respiratory diseases are characterized by undertones of anxiety and depression; pulmonologists know this because they see the same type of patients day in and day out. Labored breathing produces anxiety, and chronic anxiety produces labored breathing. Together they form a vicious cycle.

While that link may not be well-known, it may be helpful to a patient with asthma or COPD or another issue related to the genetic disorder to check their vitamin D3 bloodwork. This can help the doctor improve outcomes for any respiratory disease the patient is diagnosed with, which for someone with AATD can be numerous.

Many studies have been done on patients with weak immune systems seemingly helped by vitamin D3. Like others, I remained skeptical that something the human body already produces can be such a powerful force for me, at least until I tried it.

I felt better, stronger, and overall more even-keeled. I noticed the depression I didn’t realize I had was being kept at bay. It was as though I had slipped into a pit without knowing it. I also learned that I would easily cramp if I didn’t take magnesium at the same time. This may not be good for others, but it helped my body process the hormone that I was now ingesting in very large amounts. So if I take vitamin D3, I also take a good-sized dose of magnesium, at least 500 mg for 5,000 IU.

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At the same time, it may give the patient a sense of control over something. I can say with extreme confidence that control can seem very elusive to the patient. I remember this was true for me, especially right after my diagnosis of AATD.

This hormone, naturally produced in the body by sun exposure, has many benefits, as scientists continue to discover. It seems as if there is more to this supplement than meets the eye, which gives someone like me some extra hope.

There are, of course, more questions to answer. Are there limits to how much Vitamin D3 needs to be taken? That, I cannot say, because I am not a doctor, but like any supplement, not having a limit on it could create a degree of unanticipated risk. 

There are some who say this hormone needs to be more carefully monitored. And they may be right, but for now, I think this vitamin is a good complement with my daily magnesium, especially in the winter. Until there is proof this supplement is unsafe, I will sing its praises.

I have even noticed on the days I don’t take vitamin D3, a significant lull or “cloud”—if you will—prevents me from doing everyday tasks. So I take it with confidence, ready for the sun to shine in the dreary winter, if not on my skin, in my mind.