Yes, Vitamin D!
We have always heard that adequate sunshine benefits health. People that live in more Northern Latitudes are sometimes plagued by increased infections and more inflammatory conditions like depression, obesity, diabetes and now Covid19. Could this relate to vitamin D deficiency? There is support for that to be the case.
Vitamin D and Corona
Initial evidence on Vitamin D and Corona virus seemed inconclusive with some articles demonstrating no evidence for positive benefit. However, it makes sense that Vitamin D might help us here as it has with other infections and inflammatory conditions. Over 50 articles have been published just this month of the subject! Most are demonstrating positive results from vitamin D- but the jury is still out on the details. A recent study demonstrated that there was no benefit to taking Vitamin D and catching Covid- but this did not look at the degree of illness nor the levels of Vitamin D. Therefore, the level is likely important here just as it is from previous research done on things like cancer and autoimmune disease. More is being done to look into exactly what level is the most beneficial to protect human life. It will be interesting to follow how this plays out.
Vitamin D and the Immune System
The virus, SARS-Cov2, is known to sometimes evade our innate immune system and subsequently create reflex intense adaptive immune response inflammation leading to cytokine storms. The innate immune system consists of cells like macrophages that recognize and attack invaders foreign to us before they have a chance to multiple. Adaptive immune response happens when our body begins making antibodies to create a more intense reaction if the innate immune system (our first responder) wasn’t able to detect it. Vitamin D can help improve our innate immune system AND help our adaptive immune response regulate itself to prevent over activation. It is a great immune regulator.
Cytokine storms are what causes intense lung inflammation and issues like sepsis and ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome). Recent literature is gaining traction and it looks like Vitamin D not only helps your immune system to identify viruses, but it also helps modulate your response to create less inflammation when it does. These are the exact issues that seem to cause increased mortality from not only this virus but others such as the flu and colds as well.
Initially a few articles described that Vitamin D did not help prevent Covid infections, but upon closer review of this evidence it make sense that it cannot prevent your exposure and acquisition of antibody (hence a positive test), but it can help your immune system by what is called immunomodulation. Immunomodulation helps shut down inflammation once the virus or offending agent is gone and allow healing to occur. Additionally, increased innate immune response helps to identify viruses sooner to potentially decrease replication.
Chemistry of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is made in the skin from cholesterol and converted into cholecalciferol. It is also found in foods like fish and is converted from 25-OH cholecalciferol to 1,25 dihydroxy calciferol in the liver. Eventually the kidney acts upon this vitamin to make what is the usable form of Vitamin D3. This can also be taken as a supplement. Those with kidney issues should make sure they are taking the D3 and not the sometimes commonly prescribed D2 which is inactive form of the vitamin.
Vitamin D3 has over 400 cellular actions in the body making it a technically a hormone! Yes, vitamin D is a hormone in our body! Vitamin D is a regulator of many functions in the body that promote wellness. When we are sick, our immune systems decrease vitamin D receptors to help increase inflammation to increase our adaptive immune response with T cells. When we are well, Vitamin D acts to keep immune mechanisms in check through amplification of cells called T regulatory cells which increase the healing response. Certain genetic predispositions also can lead to a decrease response to vitamin D making these individuals more susceptible to infections and inflammation (VDRtaq). You can learn more about your genetic predispositions through saliva testing with your functional medicine provider.
Vitamin D is a vitally important nutrient to have in your system to help prevent many health conditions. Make sure to have your level checked regularly as it only serves as a protector if levels are in the target range of 50-70 ng/dl. Call us today to get your levels checked and optimize your health now.