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17 February 2020

Coimbra Protocol: Vitamin D & MS

The Coimbra Protocol promotes the use of very high doses of vitamin D to treat MS and claims to have shown good results. Vitamin D has been linked to MS prevention and disease activity, and is known to offer many general health benefits. However, although some people with MS use the Coimbra Protocol treatment (which should be given by a healthcare professional), there is currently no published medical evidence to back it up.

If you have MS it is important that you know about the connection between vitamin D and your health. We include it as a key component of the Overcoming MS Program and we want as many people to benefit from this information as possible. This is because research has shown that people with MS have lower levels of vitamin D, that vitamin D levels are lower during MS relapses, and that higher vitamin D levels are associated with reduced MS activity.

The Benefits of Vitamin D for MS

Overcoming MS recommends that your vitamin D level should be between 150 – 225 nmol/L (60 – 90 ng/mL in the USA). 

Overcoming MS recommends that people with MS may need to take a daily vitamin D3 supplementdepending on the amount of sun they receive. For those with low levels at first testing, a one-off high dose of vitamin D (such as 600,000 IU), prescribed by a doctor, is recommended and considered to be safe. 

What is the Coimbra Protocol?

The Coimbra Protocol is a high dose vitamin D treatment that was first discovered by Dr Cicero Galli Coimbra, a professor of Neurology at the Federal University of São Paulo, Brazil.

It is suggested that the dosage of vitamin D is so high because people with autoimmune disorders such as MS may require higher levels of vitamin D to overcome the resistance to vitamin D that MS can be maintaining.

Coimbra Protocol Side Effects

Whilst it is used as a treatment by many people with MS, it is important to note that the recommendations within the Coimbra protocol at present are not corroborated by published medical evidence. Overcoming MS does not endorse the Coimbra vitamin D doses, and there is the potential for serious complications from taking very high doses of vitamin D. The information on this page is for reference purposes only.  If the evidence-base behind vitamin D changes, we will of course adjust our own recommendations accordingly.

How effective is the Coimbra Protocol for treating MS?

The protocol claims to have successfully suppressed disease activity in about 95% of those MS cases treated. Symptoms of MS fatigue are said to start to decline after one month of starting treatment and may continue to improve. It then takes approximately 7–9 months to stop MS progression according to Dr Coimbra’s experience with thousands of patients. Many people with MS claim to have experienced results with the Coimbra Protocol.

The treatment has to be given by a medical professional who has been trained in the Coimbra Protocol — you can’t self-treat with this protocol.

What is included in the Coimbra protocol?

While receiving treatment via the Coimbra Protocol, you need to follow strict dietary restrictions.

  • Vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium so it is important to avoid dairy foods, nuts and seeds as they are high in calcium. Too much calcium in your blood can lead to hypercalcemia which can create kidney stones, weaken your bones and cause problems with how your brain and heart function.

In addition, the Overcoming MS diet strongly recommends that people with MS avoid dairy altogether

  • The protocol says you must also drink extra fluids, with a minimum of 2.5 litres of water per day to protect your kidneys and avoid excessive calcium from accumulating in the body.
  • You must also limit your alcohol intake (one or two glasses a week is fine) as otherwise the alcohol can interfere with the vitamin D absorption.
  • You would also be prescribed other supplements that will help absorption of the vitamin D such as omega-3 DHA, vitamin B2 and magnesium.
  • The protocol encourages a positive mindset and stress reduction techniques such as meditation to promote healing.

The Coimbra protocol prescribes daily exercise. The intention behind this measure is to minimise the effects of the speeding up of the bone metabolism caused by the high dose of vitamin D and avoid loss of bones mass. Those who cannot practice aerobic exercise might be advised to consider medication, such as bisphosphonates, to prevent osteoporosis.