Vitamin D and the Immune System
I have long been interested in how we can help our own immune system become stronger to protect ourselves from the many viruses and infections that surround us daily. I have gathered information and studies that everyone can use to avail themselves of the protective power of Vitamin D. This is a long post with lots of information and resources – because this is such an important topic. Everyone can benefit from higher blood levels of Vitamin D.
Immune Resiliency & Vitamin D (a great place to start!)
COVID-19: The Link Between Low Vitamin D Levels and a Weak Immune System
by David Foreman, The Herbal Pharmacist
“In this time of heightened fear around COVID-19, it is important to do all one can to minimize exposure and improve your overall immune health. The saying “leave no stone unturned” is extremely important at times like this. Wearing masks and gloves, washing our hands, not touching our face and using sanitizers seem to be the main focus among the experts. A gap in the conversation is what we can effectively do to care of our immune system. One of my popular sayings during times like these is sick people get sick. While this may be offensive to some, there is quite a deal of truth to it. If you have a healthy and properly functioning immune system, your body will fend off some of the most ferocious infections. Having said this, there are many things we can do to help support the body’s fight against any type of infection viral or bacterial. Simple things like avoiding sugar[i], get proper amounts of sleep[ii], exercise[iii], eating healthy[iv], maintaining a healthy weight[v], using dietary supplements and maintaining a healthy vitamin D level[vi] all play a role in having a healthy immune system. Of all of these, maintaining a health vitamin D level may be the easiest place to start.
Vitamin D has an impact the two main branches of our immune system: Innate and Adaptive[vii]. Innate immunity is something you are born with and is considered the body’s first line of defense against disease. On the other hand, adaptive immunity develops as we age. As we get exposed to diseases, allergens and vaccines, we develop the antibodies to fight off disease caused by bacteria, viruses and allergens. There are numerous published clinical studies confirming that low blood levels of vitamin D are associated with an increased risk of infections[viii]. Below are a few compelling examples of how low blood levels of vitamin D put you at risk.
Influenza (viral infection): A therapeutic dose of vitamin D showed that vitamin D administration resulted in a 42% decrease in the incidence of influenza infection[ix].
Upper respiratory infections: Individuals with lower vitamin D levels (<30 ng/ml) were more likely to self-report a recent upper respiratory tract infection than those with sufficient levels[x]. Recruits (soldiers) with lower vitamin D levels lost significantly more days from active duty due to upper respiratory infections than recruits with higher vitamin D levels (above 40nmol (16ng/ml)[xi].
Vitamin D levels linked to seasonal daylight hours: Vitamin D levels fluctuate throughout the year primarily due to the amount of sun we are exposed to. There appears to be an association between the number of infections and the seasons, i.e. more infections in the shorter daylight times of the year[xii]. Getting vitamin D is especially crucial now since the majority of the population is staying inside due to COVID-19 and potentially not getting any sunlight.
In this time of global concern over the COVID-19 pandemic and a flourishing flu season, knowing something as simple as your vitamin D level may mean the difference between a weak or strong immune system. Several years ago, the non-profit, Organic and Natural Health Association launched a campaign to help educate consumers on the importance of knowing their vitamin D levels and to help gather more scientific information on the health benefits of vitamin D. Because of their hard work and efforts, you too can now know your vitamin D levels and have a baseline comparison on where you stand with other people around the world. Your vitamin D level needs to be between 40-60 ng/ml and the only way to know that is to test your levels. A simple home test kit with a finger-stick blood test is an easy way to learn how much vitamin D supplementation you need. Vitamin D supplements are readily available and very inexpensive to buy. Nearly 90% of all Americans are deficient in vitamin D. Wouldn’t it be sad if something as simple as not knowing your vitamin D level and not taking an inexpensive vitamin D supplement each day stood between you and being able to have a healthy immune system? The first step is to educate yourself about vitamin D and www.nutrientpower.org is an excellent place to start.”
Please see the linked article for the author’s bio and the footnotes.
Vitamin D, other everyday vitamins could counter coronavirus effects: report
by Jack Durschlag quoting Dr. Peter Osborne of Origins Nutrition Center
Using simple, everyday medicines available in your medicine cabinet or in your kitchen could counter the effects of coronavirus, a report said Thursday. For instance, dozens of recent studies have shown taking Vitamin D is an easy way to fight COVID-19 and your doctor can request a blood test to check your overall vitamin levels, Dr. Peter Osborne with Origins Nutrition Center in Sugar Land, Texas, told FOX 26 of Houston.
“I think that’s probably one of the smartest things that a person could do right now, with an unpredictable role of a relatively unknown illness,” Osborne told the TV station. “What we do know at this point about vitamin therapy, particularly about vitamin D, a new study has come out and a new analysis has come out on what we know about vitamin D and COVID.”
So far, here’s what medical experts say: People with low vitamin D who get COVID have a greater tendency toward dying, have a greater tendency toward hyper-inflammation in the cytokine storm that comes with COVID, and have a greater tendency toward getting on ventilators, which is very bad because ventilators don’t work very well for COVID, Osborne said. “When a person’s on a ventilator with COVID it’s not a good thing. So, the outcomes aren’t great, so if we can keep people off of ventilators and we can keep their immune system supported really well with nutrition, that ideally that makes the most sense,” he explained.
Additional studies also revealed nine out of 10 COVID-19 deaths could have been prevented if people had adequate Vitamin D levels, the FOX 26 report said. In the winter, Vitamin D levels are reduced because fewer people are outside and not soaking it up from the sun, the report noted. People need at least 20 minutes of sunlight every day to get an adequate amount, which is why a supplement is often needed to get to a healthy level.
In fact, some hospitals nationwide are even using vitamins as a treatment for COVID-19, not just prevention. “A lot of doctors are now learning this and suggesting this as a form of treatment. At the East Virginia School of Medicine there’s a COVID protocol that includes Vitamin D, Osborne said. So if you’re hospitalized for COVID, they’re automatically putting you on between 20,000 and 60,000 units of Vitamin D. This is part of their standard of care protocol in that hospital system, he said.
Vitamin D is one of the most simple and affordable ways to help you stay healthy, Osborne told FOX 26. “Vitamin D is very inexpensive. You can buy it at the local nutrition store, and it might just save your life, should you get sick.
— Dr. Peter Osborne, Origins Nutrition Center
“With vitamin D, there’s a therapy that can be done that I recommend, and it’s 1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D per pound. So if you’re 100 pounds, you would take 100,000 international units of vitamin D for three days. After that, you don’t have to keep taking those higher doses, but three days of high dose vitamin D will elevate your serum vitamin D levels to adequate levels,” Osborne explained.
He stressed everyone should think of boosting their immune systems using four different supplements – Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Zinc and Quercetin, a natural bioflavonoid that opens up the cells in your body so zinc can get inside, the FOX 26 report said.
VIDEO: Vitamin D, Immune System & SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)
by_JJMedicine (studies referenced in 12 minute video below)
Here are the studies referenced in the above video:
1 BMJ 356,i6583 Vit D Supp to prevent acute respiratory tract infections
2 PMID-19895218 Vit D -antimicrobial peptide pathways & it’s role in protection against infection – Adrian Gombart
3 Detectable serum Sars-CoV2- viral load (RAAaemia) is closely correleated with drastically elevated interleukine
4 Anti-inflammatory effects of dietary vitamin D3 in patients with multiple sclerosis
5 Evidence that Vitamin D Supplementation Could Reduce Risk of Influenza and COVID-19 Infections and Deaths
Over 200 Scientists & Doctors Call for Increased Vitamin D Use to Combat Covid-19
An excerpt from above letter: Research shows low vitamin D levels almost certainly promote Covid-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. Given its safety, we call for immediate widespread increased vitamin D intakes. Vitamin D modulates thousands of genes and many aspects of immune function, both innate and adaptive. The scientific evidence shows that:
- Higher vitamin D blood levels are associated with lower rates of SARS-CoV-w infection.
- Higher D levels are associated with lower rish of a server case (hospitalization, ICU, or death).
- Intervention studies (including RCTs) indicate that vitamin D can be a very effective treatment.
- Many papers reveal several biological mechanisms by which vitamin D influences COVID-19.
- Causal inference modelling, Hill’s criteria, the intervention studies & the biological mechanisms indicate that vitamin D’s influence on COVID-19 is very likely causal, not just correlation.
Many factors are known to predispose individuals to higher risk from exposure to SARS-CoV-e, such as age, being male, comorbidities, etc. but inadequate Vitamin D is by far the most easily and quickly modifiable risk factor with abundant evidence to support a large effect. Vitamin D is inexpensive and has negligible risk compared to the considerable risk of COVID-19.
Vitamin D in the Prevention of COVID-19
Full Booklet (46 pages) with graphs, pictures and full details about Vitamin D and the immune system. Good resource!
18 Page Color Booklet that summarizes the information in the full booklet – also a good resource!
Moving Research into Practice
Vitamin D Graphs from grassrootshealth.net
How Long Will We Ignore the Truth About Vitamin D?
Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola
“All in all, the evidence is unmistakable: Optimizing your vitamin D can go a long way toward minimizing your chances of contracting a respiratory infection, be it the cold, seasonal influenza or COVID-19. Mounting evidence also demonstrates that if you do end up contracting COVID-19, having adequate vitamin D will lower the odds of you requiring hospitalization and intensive care as it reduces the severity of the infection. As detailed earlier, vitamin D also lowers your risk of dying from COVID-19.” Dr. John Campbell gives a great 20 minute primer below on the importance of Vit D for our immunity.