NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- Asthma affects more than 23 million people in the United States, and while the condition is treatable, it still causes 4,000 deaths every year. CBS 2HD's Dr. Max Gomez report there's evidence that something in your food or maybe even in your medicine cabinet, could be part of the problem.
It's something in milk, in your own body makes if you sit out in the sun, and it's the hottest new supplement many doctors and their patients are taking.
It's Vitamin D, and areas in the northern hemisphere where millions of people are Vitamin D-deficient are the same areas where asthma is most common.
If you have asthma or ever had a lung problem, you know what a spirometer is. Bailey Irwin used one in a pulmonary function test, a way to tell how he's doing with the asthma he's had since he was a child.
"It's very scary," he said. "There's not much that's more frightening than not being able to breathe. I mean you suck in air as hard as you can and you're not getting as much oxygen in your lungs."
Like Bailey, David Laufer's asthma is pretty well controlled with medication, but now we're learning that lack of a simple Vitamin D could be making their asthma worse and may even have a role in treatment.
"Vitamin D deficiency, not getting enough Vitamin D in the diet can affect asthma. And there are studies now looking at asthma control. Lung function will suffer with low levels of Vitamin D," said Dr. Clifford Bassett of the Long Island College Hospital.
That comes from a recent study in the annals of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology that suggests that there may be a cause-and-effect relationship between Vitamin D deficiency and uncontrolled asthma.
"It's probably true. Coincidentally or not I have a Vitamin D deficiency. I've been diagnosed with that," said Dr. Clifford Bassett of Long Island College Hospital. "Simple blood test to check a Vitamin D level. And we can determine pretty easily whether there a deficiency in Vitamin D."
The main source of Vitamin D in the American diet is milk, which is fortified with Vitamin D by law. But most people who are deficient will need supplements which are readily available over the counter.
And while the study didn't address whether taking Vitamin D would make asthma better, Bailey said"I'm taking a very sizeable Vitamin D supplement, and sure enough actually this Spring was probably the best spring I've had for allergies or asthema in 10 years."
Now if you have asthma, do not stop taking your medications just because you start taking Vitamin D. Talk it over with your doctor, have the simple blood test to check your levels and then decide on how much of the vitamin you need. Either way, a couple thousand international units a day of Vitamin D has very little risk and may help your asthma.
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