Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is made up of a family of nutrients that all share a similar chemical structure. Vitamin D is produced when UV rays from the sun hit our skin to trigger Vitamin D synthesis, and can also be found in food, and dietary supplements. The most common forms of vitamin D are D3 (calcitriol) and D2 (ergocalciferol) which are found in foods such as the flesh of fatty fish.
Vitamin D turns on the anti-inflammatory mechanism, reduces neutrophil infiltration to sites of inflammation, and reduces cytokines that cause the cytokine storm which, in turn, causes rapid respiratory distress. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for immune system health, causing many people to believe that supplementing with vitamin D may help reduce the chance of contracting the novel coronavirus.
How does vitamin D help with immune health?
Your immune system is your body’s first line of defense against viral infection and disease. Vitamin D is an important element for proper functioning of the body’s immune system and plays a primary role in boosting the body’s immune response as it has anti-inflammatory, and immunoregulatory properties.
People who have low levels of vitamin D have an increased risk of getting infections, diseases, or immune-related disorders. For example, low vitamin D can be associated with an increased risk of respiratory diseases like tuberculosis, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and viral and bacterial respiratory infections.
Vitamin D and COVID-19
The severity of COVID-19 in patients is determined by the presence of pneumonia, myocarditis, microvascular thrombosis, or cytokine storm, which all involve underlying inflammation. While there are specific T cells and antibodies produced by B cells that are critical for getting rid of COVID-19, uncontrolled inflammation and cytokine release can result in injury to the lungs and other organs. The principal defense against uncontrolled inflammation, and viral infections, is provided by T regulatory lymphocytes, known as Tregs. Treg levels have been reported low in many COVID-19 patients and can be increased by taking a vitamin D supplement.
For those who are most at risk of getting sick from respiratory illnesses including COVID-19, taking vitamin D is shown to reduce mortality. Vitamin D deficiency enhances the cytokine storm which can be lethal in patients with COVID-19. Cytokines are a large group of proteins that are secreted by certain cells in our immune system. In many of the worst COVID-19 cases, those patients have high levels of cytokines which provide evidence of an immune response known as a cytokine storm. A cytokine storm is when the body starts attacking its cells and tissues rather than fighting off the virus.
Vitamin D deficiency reduces the body’s white blood cells ability to mature and produce antigens that are necessary to prevent infections. Vitamin D also enhances the expression of ACE2 (Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2) which has helped improve outcomes with COVID-19 infections. Having adequate levels of vitamin D are important in the body’s immune response to infections like the coronavirus.
While the exact relationship between COVID-19 and vitamin D is still not fully understood, the positive impacts that vitamin D has on our immune systems, as discussed above, extend far beyond the common knowledge of bone metabolism and calcium regulation.
Vitamin D plays a prominent role in promoting the health of our immune systems. Scientific research shows that when supplementing with vitamin D, you are helping protect your immune system from respiratory infections, especially for those who are vitamin D deficient.
My Next Health has created a COVID-19 application that assesses an individual’s risk profile for developing complications from the virus. The application works by analyzing a person’s genetic pathways for inflammatory responses, insulin sensitivity, and other genomic indicators.
Visit mynexthealth.com to access the COVID-19 application today.