How Vitamin D Boosts The Immune System
Vitamin D is involved in immunity through several mechanisms and plays a role in regulating both the innate and adaptive immune response in the body. Vitamin D impacts immune health by interacting with vitamin D receptors on innate immune cells throughout the body. The innate immune is the bodys non- specific, first line of defense against foreign pathogens.
Vitamin D builds immunity and helps fight off infection by regulating the activity of immune cells which elicit antiviral responses. Vitamin D binds to receptors on immune cells such as neutrophiles, macrophages and natural killer cells. Vitamin D stimulates these cells to produce peptides with antiviral properties that defend the body against foreign pathogens. Cathelicidins and defensins are peptides that have anti-microbial and immune modulating capabilities and act as anti-viral agents as part of the innate immune system. Multiple studies have shown that vitamin D metabolites play a role in enhancing production of the human form of cathelicidins and defensins, thus enhancing innate immune response. Studies have shown that vitamin D plays a role in both the activation of these cells for helping the body fight off infections, and also in suppressing immune response in cases of over inflammation.
Best Vitamin D Supplements
California Gold Nutrition Vitamin D3 2000 IU Softgels: available at iHerb
Our take: These softgels provide vitamin D3 from lanolin. One capsule contains 2000 IU, which is enough for an adult to take each day.
What we like: Vitamin D3 is immersed in a base of fish gelatin softgels, which dissolve better than hard pills. Free from gluten, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, crustacean shellfish, GMOs and soy.
What we dislike: The potency of the pills can quickly degrade if not stored properly.
Now Foods Vitamin D3 5000 IU Softgels:availableat iHerb
Our take: An affordable pick compared to other supplement brands that still offers a high potency.
What we like: Each chewable tablet contains 5,000 IU of vitamin D3. We like that they do not contain added sugars but are instead sweetened by sugar alcohols, which have fewer calories compared to traditional sugar. Soy and GMO free.
What we dislike: May cause symptoms such as stomach upset and diarrhea if taken in large amounts.
Vitamin D Can Help Strengthen Oral Health
Because vitamin D helps our body absorb calcium, it plays a crucial role in supporting oral health, lowering the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. A 2011 review in The Journal of the Tennessee Dental Association notes that while the research is scant, there’s an “emerging hypothesis” that the vitamin is beneficial for oral health, due to its effect on bone metabolism and “its ability to function as an anti-inflammatory agent and stimulate the production of anti-microbial peptides.”
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Underlying Conditions Combined With Vitamin D Deficiency Could Put People Of Color At Risk
In Louisiana, African Americans account for more than 50% of COVID-19 deaths despite representing only 32% of the population.
African Americans are at greater risk for vitamin D deficiency because they have higher presence of melanin. Melanin reduces the bodys ability to produce vitamin D. People from South Asian backgrounds also may not get enough vitamin D from sunlight in the summer.
Studies also have shown that African American adults have higher rates of hypertension, which is associated with more severe cases of COVID-19.
“Vitamin D may simply correlate with some factor x, which for all we know has not been identified yet,” Backman says. “And that’s factor x which causes or prevents complications.”
Vitamin D deficiency can be caused by obesity. A body mass index greater than 30 is associated with lower vitamin D levels. The skin’s ability to make vitamin D decreases with age. People who are homebound or rarely outside may have low levels of vitamin D as a result of not being able to get sun exposure.
If your levels are within normal ranges, here are some foods that will help with maintaining daily recommended value.
Vitamin D Can Help Strengthen Muscles
Along with its bone-building abilities, vitamin D is also influential in strengthening muscles. Lack of vitamin D in the body can increase the risk of having weak muscles, which in turn increases the risk of falls, Lana Nasrallah, MPH, RD, clinical dietician at UNC Health, tells Health. This is especially important for the elderly. Vitamin D may help increase muscle strength thus preventing falls, which is a common problem that leads to substantial disability and death in older adults.
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Other Effects Of Vitamin D
Since vitamin D helps with several other functions in your body apart from immunity, vitamin D deficiency can lead to problems such as back pain, muscle pain, fatigue, depression and other issues.
However, too much vitamin D in your body can cause vitamin D toxicity, which is a buildup of calcium in your blood, according to Mayo Clinic. A buildup of calcium in your body can lead to vomiting, frequent urination and nausea. This type of toxicity is often caused by taking large doses of vitamin D supplements. However, you are unlikely to get vitamin D toxicity from spending too much time in the sun or from eating a lot of vitamin D rich foods.
Vita Is Involved In The Formation Of The Epithelial And Mucous Tissues
The epithelium lines all outer surface and most inner surfaces of organisms, and it functions as the âfront lineâ of defense against pathogen invasion. Studies from recent years have shown that VitA plays a crucial role in the morphological formation of the epithelium, epithelial keratinization, stratification, differentiation, and functional maturation of epithelial cells . As a promotor for morphology and a cell differentiation enhancer, VitA is an integral part of the mucus layer of both the respiratory tract and the intestine. Since VitA promotes mucin secretion, it improves the antigen non-specific immunity function of these tissues . Research has shown that VitA improves the mechanistic defense of the oral mucosa, increases the integrity of intestinal mucus, and maintains the morphology and amount of urothelium cells .
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Functional Medicine And Vitamin D
Integrative medicine supports the use of vitamin D in the pursuit of optimal health, and the functional benefits it provides. The growing prevalence of vitamin D deficiency affects not only patients with established risk factors, but those who have no risk factors and marginal insufficiency as well.
Timing Of Intervention And Duration Of Exposure
In vitro studies typically start with naïve immune cells, freshly isolated from immune organs or blood of healthy subjects, which are then exposed for days to vitamin D3 products. In animal models, likewise, therapy is often started before disease onset or early on in the disease. Few studies have looked at effects once disease is overt, and those that have indicate that at that stage vitamin D products by themselves, even at high doses, are not disease altering anymore . In humans however, most intervention studies are late stage and study vitamin D monotherapies. In addition, in animal models, therapy is maintained for weeks and months, often during the whole life of the animal, whereas in humans, shorter duration studies happen.
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Vitamin D Strengthens Your Bones
Vitamin D is famous for its bone-building and strengthening powers. vitamin D promotes absorption of calcium in your gut, which ultimately allows for normal mineralization of your bones,Jackie Newgent, RDN, culinary nutritionist and author of The Clean & Simple Diabetes Cookbook, tells Health. Basically, the calcium that benefits your bones wouldn’t be able to do its job without vitamin D. You need vitamin D for bone growthand to prevent bones from becoming brittle. When teamed with calcium, it can help prevent osteoporosis, a disease that signifies that the density and quality of bone are reduced, she adds.
What Is Vitamin D
The name vitamin D is kind of a misnomer. Vitamin D actually functions more like a hormone, and is produced by the kidneys. At a minimum, vitamin D primarily controls blood calcium concentration, this keeps your heart beating and blood pressure levels normal.
When vitamin D levels are optimized, it actually has dozens of other functions, including supporting the production of immune cells, and a stable mood. You can get more vitamin D by eating the right foods, with vitamin D supplements, or by spending more time in the sunlight.
Vitamin D deficiency is serious, and vitamin D deficiency symptoms include increased susceptibility to infection, as well as mood disorders, and even hair loss.
What Role Does Vitamin D Play In Supporting The Immune System
The immune system is our always on defense system, continuously carrying out surveillance to protect us from infections. Upon exposure to a pathogen, the immune system defends the body from harm via a two-pronged approach: innate immunity and adaptive immunity.
As Dr. Bruins explains, innate immunity is the immunity that humans are born with, consisting of physical barriers that protect the body from pathogen invasion and first line of cellular defenses that recognize and remove immediate infectious threats. Throughout life, we also acquire a second line of defense, the adaptive immune system.
Hear from Dr. Maaike Bruins, Lead Nutrition Scientist at DSM, as she discusses the role of vitamin D in optimizing immunity throughout life and how innovation can help overcome challenges to ensuring adequate vitamin D status worldwide.
Vitamin D plays an essential role in both the innate and adaptive immune functions. Research has shown that vitamin D is involved in the response to infections/pathogens1,2,3 and can support production of antimicrobial peptides and support dampening the overactivation of the immune response to prevent its potentially damaging effects.4 Human studies have shown that vitamin D also reduces the likelihood of acute respiratory tract infections.5
Vitamin D Can Help You Lose Weight
Dr. Boyd points out that obesity is a known risk factor for low vitamin D levelswhich means more vitamin D may help with weight loss. One 2009 study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that, in overweight or obese women with low calcium levels, those who took a daily dose of calcium paired with vitamin D were more successful shedding pounds than those who took a placebo supplement, due to an appetite-suppressing effect of the combination.
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Why Is Vitamin D Important
Vitamin D is unique because it’s one of only two vitamins that your body can produce on its own , and you can also get it from other sources like food or supplements. It’s 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 absorb and maintain healthy calcium and phosphorus levels, which are necessary to grow and maintain our bones,” Tolentino says.
You’ve probably heard that vitamin D is important for your bones, but it supports your body in other ways, too.”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 reducing inflammation,” Tolentino says.
Vitamin D And Protective Immunity
Vitamin D has been used to treat infections such as tuberculosis before the advent of effective antibiotics. Tuberculosis patients were sent to sanatoriums where treatment included exposure to sunlight which was thought to directly kill the tuberculosis. Cod liver oil, a rich source of vitamin D has also been employed as a treatment for tuberculosis as well as for general increased protection from infections.
Results of studies looking at potential benefits of administering vitamin D to decrease infection have not been consistent, most likely secondary to a number of methodologic concerns. One recent well-designed prospective, double blind placebo study using an objective outcome, nasopharyngeal swab culture , and a therapeutic dose of vitamin D showed that vitamin D administration resulted in a statistically significant decrease in the incidence of influenza infection.
The beneficial effects of vitamin D on protective immunity are due in part to its effects on the innate immune system. It is known that macrophages recognize lipopolysacharide LPS, a surrogate for bacterial infection, through toll like receptors . Engagement of TLRs leads to a cascade of events that produce peptides with potent bacterialcidal activity such as cathelocidin and beta defensin 4. These peptides colocalize within phagosomes with injested bacteria where they disrupt bacterial cell membranes and have potent anti-microbacterial activity .
Can Taking Vitamin D Protect Against Covid
Currently, theres no cure or treatment for COVID-19, and few studies have investigated the effect of vitamin D supplements or vitamin D deficiency on the risk of contracting the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.
However, a recent study has determined that a blood level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D of at least 30 ng/mL seemed to help reduce the likelihood of adverse clinical outcomes and death in hospitalized patients with COVID-19.
Hospital data of 235 patients with COVID-19 were analyzed.
In patients older than age 40, those who had adequate levels of vitamin D were 51.5% less likely to have adverse outcomes, including becoming unconscious, hypoxia, and death, as compared to vitamin D-deficient patients. .
Still, other studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency may harm immune function and increase your risk of developing respiratory illnesses .
Additionally, some studies have indicated that vitamin D supplements can enhance immune response and protect against respiratory infections overall.
A recent review that included 11,321 people from 14 countries demonstrated that supplementing with vitamin D decreased the risk of acute respiratory infections in both those who had deficient and adequate levels of vitamin D.
Overall, the study showed that vitamin D supplements reduced the risk of developing at least one ARI by 12%. The protective effect was strongest in those with low vitamin D levels .
However, cytokines can also induce tissue damage under certain circumstances.
Food Sources Of Vitamin D
“Vitamin D naturally occurs in egg yolks, beef liver, fatty fish like salmon, tuna, swordfish or sardines and fish liver oils. Unfortunately, vitamin D isn’t naturally occurring in lots of foods, which is why some foods have vitamin D added to them. Vitamin D is added to cereals, dairy and plant milks and orange juice,” Tolentino says.
Even though you can get vitamin D from food, it’s difficult to get enough from that source on its own since the amount of vitamin D in most foods is pretty small. “It’s not that easy to get your daily recommended intake of vitamin D through food. We’re just not eating large quantities of most of these foods. How much beef liver or sardines are you realistically eating every day?” Tolentino says.
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Can Vitamin D Lower Your Risk Of Covid
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a number of critical roles in your body.
This nutrient is especially important for immune system health, leaving many people wondering whether supplementing with vitamin D may help reduce the risk of contracting the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
While theres currently no cure for COVID-19, preventive measures like physical distancing and proper hygiene can protect you from contracting the virus.
Also, some research shows that having healthy levels of vitamin D can help keep your immune system healthy and may protect against respiratory illnesses in general.
A recent study indicated that patients hospitalized with COVID-19 who had sufficient levels of vitamin D had a decreased risk for adverse outcomes and death .
This article explains how vitamin D affects immune health and how supplementing with this nutrient may help protect against respiratory conditions.
Simple Diet Changes Can Increase Your Vitamin D Levels
How much vitamin D you need depends on many factors, including age, race, latitude, season, sun exposure, clothing and more. The U.K.’s National Health Service recommends consuming 400 international units of vitamin D daily for adults.
“Let’s say I knew that I’m vitamin D deficient,” Backman says. “It’s something that is important for health. There are no benefits of vitamin D deficiency. So it’s really guilt-free, risk-free to expose yourself to the sun for 20 minutes, get supplementation, get your levels within the normal level.”
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Impact Of Vitamin D On Immune Function: Lessons Learned From Genome
- 1Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Orthopedic Hospital Research Center, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA
- 2Division of Dermatology, Department of Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Vitamin D Boosts Weight Loss
Consider adding vitamin D supplements to your diet if youre trying to lose weight or prevent heart disease. You can find a great selection of vitamin D supplements on .
In one study, people taking a daily calcium and vitamin D supplement were able to lose more weight than subjects taking a placebo supplement. The scientists said the extra calcium and vitamin D had an appetite-suppressing effect.
In another study, overweight people who took a daily vitamin D supplement improved their heart disease risk markers.
Many factors can affect your ability to get sufficient amounts of vitamin D through the sun alone. These factors include:
- Being in an area with high pollution
- Using sunscreen
- Spending more time indoors
- Living in big cities where buildings block sunlight
- Having darker skin.
These factors contribute to vitamin D deficiency in an increasing number of people. Thats why its important to get some of your vitamin D from sources besides sunlight.
The symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency in adults include:
- severe bone or muscle pain or weakness that may cause difficulty climbing stairs or getting up from the floor or a low chair, or cause you to walk with a waddling gait
- stress fractures, especially in your legs, pelvis, and hips
Doctors can diagnose a vitamin D deficiency by performing a simple blood test. If you have a deficiency, your doctor may order X-rays to check the strength of your bones.
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