Many people take vitamins and supplements for a range of reasons. Some people want to supplement their nutritional intake. Other people want to correct known deficiencies. Regardless of the reasons, millions of Americans take vitamins and supplements.
However, for many people, they would be surprised to find that specific vitamins, especially vitamin D, are related to the recent COVID-19 virus.
How exactly are vitamin D and the coronavirus related? Does vitamin D supplementation help prevent COVID-19?
Let us take a look.
Reasons for Vitamin D Supplementation
Very few foods contain vitamin D naturally. It is found in fatty fish (salmon and tuna), cheese, egg yolks, some mushrooms, and fortified foods like orange juice and cereal. Even more than food, up to 90% of vitamin D comes from direct sunlight. Just twenty minutes of sunshine daily (with much skin exposed) is enough to prevent a deficiency.
While it appears that vitamin D is pretty easy to incorporate into our lifestyles, science indicates otherwise. Research has found that 42% of Americans suffer from a vitamin D deficiency. We no longer engage in day to day activities as we used to do previously. Also, our diets do not consist of the needed intake of fatty fish.
Statistics like this have prompted many people to turn to vitamin D supplementation.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to several adverse health incomes, including chronic skin conditions, mood swings, depression, and a general lack of energy. Many people choose to take vitamin D supplements if they are not working to correct a deficiency. It has been shown to support bone health and keep the nerves and muscles healthy.
It also helps to contribute to a strong and healthy immune system. Vitamin D may help support resistance to some cancers and may reduce the risk of hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
Vitamin D and COVID-19
Vitamin D has been in the news recently—and it is suggested for use to help fight COVID-19. In one study, from researchers at the School of Medicine at Trinity College Dublin, they reported that vitamin D could support the immune system in fighting SARS COV. The studies linked countries with high rates of vitamin D deficiency with some of the highest infection and death rates in Europe.
In countries where vitamin D supplements are commonly used, those countries have tended to fare better during the current pandemic. Going even further, the authors suggest that vitamin D supplements will also reduce some of the complications arising from COVID-19. It can respond to suppress the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) response that’s associated with ventilation and death.
How does Vitamin D Keep Us Healthy?
A healthy immune system works to keep out invaders like bacteria and viruses. If a virus makes its way into the lungs, the immune system is the first defense line. This response comes from what is known as the innate immune system. It attacks any fungi, bacteria, or viruses that it cannot recognize.
The second line of defense, or the adaptive immune system, becomes activated when B cells and T cells produce antibodies. They recognize certain “enemies” like the viruses and pathogens that we are familiar with.
In the case of the novel coronavirus, our adaptive immune system doesn’t yet recognize the COVID-19 virus and, as such, doesn’t know how to get rid of it. Furthermore, if this happens, an abundance of cytokines is produced, which can also end up attacking our healthy body tissue.
So, vitamin D supports the body’s first line of defense (the innate immune system), but it also helps to reduce the release of cytokines to prevent our immune system from attacking our healthy cells.
Simply put, vitamin D supports the two levels of the immune system that keep us healthy—even amidst a global pandemic.
When we’re deficient in vitamin D, we run the risk of having our immune system attacking healthy cells. This is called autoimmunity and can, unfortunately, also increase our chances of infection.
How to Incorporate Vitamin D?
Eating natural vitamin D-containing foods and exposing yourself to natural sunlight is the best way to boost your vitamin D levels. However, this is not always possible. Do not overdo it if you do choose to incorporate a vitamin D supplement into your daily life. Too much of a good thing can be wrong. Too much supplementation for a long time can damage the kidneys and the heart and weaken bones.