Strengthening your immune system is one of the best things you can do because it is your body's key defense when it comes to fighting a virus. Even if you are exposed to a virus, theor others, you have a better chance of not getting sick with a strong immune system. Vitamin C is a popular choice to support immunity, but another important nutrient for your immune system is vitamin D. Vitamin D, once a vitamin for strong bones, does a lot more for your body – including supporting your immune system.
Studies suggest that vitamin D can help prevent respiratory infections or reduce their severity, especially if you are deficient. The jury is not sure how exactly it can protect you from the corona virus. However, some medical experts recommend taking a vitamin D supplement to boost your immune system.
Jacyln Tolentino, a doctor at Parsley Health in Los Angeles, explains how vitamin D works, how to get enough of what happens when you have a deficiency and whether it can help protect your immune system.
Why is vitamin D important?
Vitamin D is unique in that it is one of only two vitamins your body can produce itself (the other is Vitamin K), and you can get it from other sources such as foods or supplements. It is also technically a hormone that regulates how much calcium is in your blood. Unlike other vitamins, it requires conversion in the liver and kidneys to make it an active hormone. "Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that our bodies use to maintain and maintain healthy levels of calcium and phosphorus, which are essential for the growth and maintenance of our bones," says Tolentino.
You have probably heard that vitamin D is important for your bones, but it also supports your body in other ways. "While we generally associate vitamin D with musculoskeletal health, it actually has several functions in the body, including the role it plays in immune function and in reducing inflammation," says Tolentino.
Vitamin D and Immune Health
Research shows that vitamin D plays an important role in immune function and that a lack of vitamin D increases your susceptibility to infections. "Some studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency is even associated with a higher risk of self-reported upper respiratory infections," says Tolentino. "Low serum calcidiol levels [a form of vitamin D] are also associated with a higher susceptibility to infections such as tuberculosis, influenza and viral infections of the upper respiratory tract," says Tolentino.
One of the main functions of vitamin D is the activation of T cells, also known as "killer cells" in the body. T cells actually recognize and destroy foreign pathogens – like viruses. "This makes vitamin D particularly important for maintaining a functioning immune system that is able to ward off foreign pathogens," says Tolentino.
It is important to know that although the coronavirus affects the airways, researchers and doctors know little about it this time. The best way to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection is to follow the CDC and WHO guidelines, what your local authorities say, and take care of your health as much as possible. Vitamin D is known to support the immune system, which is promising to protect you from many different types of diseases.
How To Get Enough Vitamin D
As of 2014, experts predicted that around 1 billion people worldwide have low vitamin D levels or deficiencies, making it one of the most common vitamin deficiencies. If you suspect that you have low vitamin D, you should ask your doctor for a test. This way you can ensure that you add the right levels when you need more. Always ask your doctor before starting a new supplement.
The recommendation for vitamin D for adults is between 600 and 800 IU, although this number is under debate in science and medicine.
There are three options for vitamin D: through food (as it occurs naturally in some foods), through direct sunlight on your skin and through food supplements.
Food sources for vitamin D
"Vitamin D occurs naturally in egg yolk, beef liver, fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, swordfish or sardines and fish liver oils. Unfortunately, vitamin D does not occur naturally in many foods, which is why some foods contain vitamin D. Vitamin D is added to cereals, dairy products and dairy products, plant milk and orange juice, "says Tolentino.
Although you can get vitamin D from food, it is difficult to get enough from this source on your own because the amount of vitamin D in most foods is quite low. "It's not so easy to get the recommended daily intake of vitamin D from food. We just don't eat large amounts of most of these foods. How much beef liver or sardines do you realistically eat each day?" Tolentino says.
Sun exposure and vitamin D
Vitamin D is associated with the sun for a reason – your body can produce its own vitamin D if you expose your skin to the sun for a period of time. According to many experts, around 15 minutes of sun exposure per day are sufficient to produce vitamin D. This means that you want to have a good amount of skin exposed through clothing or sunscreen (like your arms and legs) as these things inhibit vitamin D production, according to Tolentino.
How much sun you should get is a little complicated. "UVB radiation from the sun triggers vitamin D synthesis in our body, but there are many factors to take into account," says Tolentino
. She continues: "Where you live (your geographic location), use and coverage of sunscreens, and the amount of melanin in your skin can affect vitamin D absorption. This makes it really difficult to follow general guidelines for the appropriate ones Amount ofWhat can be a sufficient or healthy time in the sun? Sun protection may not be advisable for another person. "
Vitamin D supplements
Because getting enough vitamin D from food is difficult, and you may be spending most of your time indoors, many people need to supplement to get enough vitamin D.
"Vitamin D supplementation can be the most practical solution for many people, especially if they live in the northern half of the country (latitudes above the 37th parallel north). It is recommended not to sunbathe for long periods of time to venture – especially without sun protection due to the risk of skin cancer or a diet that lacks the foods listed above, "says Tolentino.
Vitamin D is contained in many different types of nutritional supplements, including multivitamins and vitamin D capsules. "Vitamin D supplements generally come in two forms – D3 and D2. D2 is a form that comes from plants and is found frequently in fortified foods. D3 is the vitamin D that our bodies naturally produce and that in animal sources, "says Tolentino.
Tolentino prefers D3 with vitamin K2 because she says K2 works synergistically with D3. "Research suggests that vitamin D3 – the type of vitamin D that is naturally produced in the human body – tends to increase blood levels and maintain these levels over time." She also says that a liquid vitamin D in a tincture form that contains fat (like coconut oil or MCT) can be helpful because a liquid supplement can be put under the tongue, which speeds up absorption. Since vitamin D is fat-soluble, taking it with a source of fat helps the body to absorb it better.
What can happen if you lack vitamin D?
Vitamin D deficiency can mean that your immune system is more vulnerable. But there are also some other important conditions that you need to know about.
"A severe vitamin D deficiency can lead to rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Osteomalacia is the softening and weakening of bones. Symptoms include joint and bone pain, muscle weakness, difficulty walking and bones can be broken easily, "says Tolentino.
Another connection that scientists are studying is the connection between mood disorders and vitamin D deficiency. Many studies have focused specifically on the risk of depression, such as this, which found a link between vitamin D deficiency and the risk of depression in older adults. In another study, adults with depression received vitamin D supplementation, which helped many of them improve symptoms.
Too much of a good thing: Exaggerating vitamin D
It is important not to exaggerate vitamin D supplements because they are unsafe , a toxic condition where there is too much calcium in the blood. In general, taking more than 4,000 IU a day is considered too much.
It is therefore important to speak to your doctor before taking a supplement and to request a test. If you think you're getting a decent amount of sun, eating vitamin D foods regularly, and your level is healthy, your doctor will likely say that you don't need any extra.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a doctor or other qualified healthcare provider if you have any questions about an illness or health goals.