Why Everyone Should Be Thinking About Vitamin D During the PandemicNov 22, 2021
A few weeks ago I ran a LIVE Masterclass on Vaccines & COVID - Supporting A Healthy Immune Response. If you missed it, we’ve turned the (3-hour!) Masterclass into a course, which you can purchase from our website. It is your essential pandemic toolkit, and I want every parent & family to have access to this!
We covered a lot of natural ways you can improve your immune system in general, as well as specifics around promoting a healthy response to vaccines, and extra holistic tools you can use to protect against covid (in addition to medical advice and reducing exposure precautions).
It may be no surprise that VITAMIN D came up in the convo!
Little side note...this is quite a ‘technical’ article, so if you just want to know what to “do” to support your immune system scroll to the bottom!
Link Between COVID-19 & Vitamin D Deficiency
COVID-19 symptom severity has been linked to Vitamin D deficiency, as seen in this article. Interestingly, a study looking at Vitamin D & COVID-19, identified that covid outbreaks occurred in winter in the northern hemisphere at a time when vitamin D levels are lowest in resident populations and that blacks and minority ethnic individuals (who are known to have lower levels of vitamin D) appear to be disproportionately affected and have more severe complications from covid. Also, Vitamin D deficiency is seen commonly in the elderly, as well as in those suffering from diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease, all of which are considered high-risk for covid.
Vitamin D - Protection Against COVID?
There have been quite a few studies exploring the potential of Vitamin D to protect against covid. This research paper showed that Vitamin D plays a key role in defending against SARS-CoV-2 through a complex mechanism through interactions between the modulation of innate and adaptive immune reactions, ACE2 expression, and inhibition of the renin-angiotensin system (RAS). Furthermore, Vitamin D has been shown to increase soluble ACE2 (sACE2), which maintains the enzyme activity of ACE2 and may bind to the covid spike protein, essentially blocking spike proteins from entering the cells.
Vitamin D has also been shown to be immune-modulating, which means it can attenuate the release of proinflammatory cytokines, which helps to combat the ‘cytokine storm’ that leads to COVID-19 severity and deaths.
In one study, high dose vitamin D supplementation significantly reduced the need for ICU treatment of patients requiring hospitalisation due to COVID-19. Another study demonstrated that Vitamin D supplementation, taken either regularly over the preceding year or after diagnosis with COVID-19, improved survival among hospitalised elderly COVID-19 patients. And another paper revealed that Asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic COVID-19 patients given short-term, high-dose Vitamin D supplementation were more likely to be SARS-CoV-2 PCR-negative by day 21 with lower levels of the inflammatory marker, fibrinogen.
Vitamin D & COVID-19 Vaccines
There is less research around Vitamin D and covid vaccines, however this research paper looks into the putative role of Vitamin D & COVID-19 vaccines. It states that Vitamin D supplementation may contribute to the effectiveness of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, by supporting immune signaling pathways which can support vaccine efficacy, and mitigate any potential inflammatory effects of the COVID-19 vaccines.
What’s a Healthy Vitamin D Level?
So you might be wondering by now - are my Vitamin D levels sufficient to protect me during the pandemic?
Great question! Without assessing, you are really just guessing. It is best practice to have your vitamin D levels tested by blood. I do this in my practice, but it is also a routine GP test.
Standard medical reference ranges for sufficient Vitamin D status in Australia is >49nmol/L (with mild Deficiency being between 30-49nmol/L, moderate Deficiency being between 12.5 - 29nmol/L & severe deficiency between <12.5nmol/L).
Functional Medicine is not concerned with what is ‘sufficient’ or ‘normal’, however, rather with what is OPTIMAL. While there is no clear consensus on ideal Vitamin D levels, the best clinical evidence from systematic research suggests that optimal levels are GREATER than 75nmol/L. And from clinical experience, many functional medicine experts say that patients do better with Vitamin D levels even higher than that.
I can’t remember how many times I have had clients give me their GP test results, thinking everything was ‘fine’, when upon analysis they are sitting subclinically low in vitamin D. And more often than not, their GP has never flagged it.
Many, many people are walking around thinking they have ‘fine’ vitamin D levels, when in reality it is dysfunctional.
Best Sources of Vitamin D
So what can you do to improve your Vitamin D levels?
GET SOME SUN! Sunlight is the best source of Vitamin D. Try to get sunshine daily.
Vitamin D can come from food as well. Good food sources include:
- Cod liver oil
- Sardines, salmon, fatty fish
- Cow’s milk & dairy products, if you’re not sensitive (avoid when sick)
And finally, sometimes Vitamin D supplementation is needed, especially if you are showing up deficient in blood tests, Vegan, or if you are using it to boost immunity before/after vaccinations or to reduce risk of covid infection. I go over specific protocols around this, in our Vaccine & COVID Course - Supporting a Healthy Immune Response. You can get this course HERE.
Think You Get Enough Sun & Vit D Foods, But Vit D Is Still Low?
I see this ALL THE TIME. So many new clients are trying to improve their nutrient levels with sun and food, yet nothing budges on blood tests. There can be many reasons for this. A few functional medicine things to think about:
- Weight - Fat tissue sops up Vitamin D and may prevent your body’s ability to actually use it.
- Gut Health - The Vitamin D that is consumed in food or as a supplement is absorbed in the small intestine. Stomach juices, pancreatic secretions, bile from the liver, the integrity of the wall of the intestine — all have some influence on how much of the vitamin is absorbed. Poor gut health can, then, reduce Vitamin D absorption.
- Detox Health - detox issues can reduce the absorption of Vitamin D because the ailing liver isn't producing normal amounts of bile. Without bile, Vitamin D metabolism can't occur — or occur incompletely.
If you want to learn more about improving your immune system during the pandemic using complementary support, like Vitamin D, feel free to grab our Vaccines & COVID course HERE.
Or if you want some more personal support around your immune health & nutritional status, I would be honoured to catch up with you for a “Connect The Dots” Initial Consult to do a deep dive into your health. You can book in for this HERE.
Filipa Bellette is Co-Founder of Chris & Filly Functional Medicine. She is an accredited Clinical Nutritionist & Functional Medicine Practitioner. She is also a Ph.D. thought-leader, award-winning writer, and regularly published as a guest blogger & in the media. Together with her husband Chris Bellette, Filipa has worked with over 2,000+ busy, burnout clients in the last 10+ years, and specialises in producing healthy, balanced, and happy Mums & Dads...or as she calls it, a Power Parent! Filipa’s own passion for producing high-performance Power Parents came from her own personal experience of Mummy Burnout, after having babies and juggling the demands of business, family, and her failing health.
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