The world waits with bated breath for the widespread distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. In the meantime, there are natural remedies that may decrease one’s chances of becoming infected or developing severe symptoms. Several research studies provide strong evidence that vitamin D is one such natural remedy.
What Does Vitamin D Do For The Body?
Before looking at how vitamin D may reduce Covid infection, let’s take a look at the general roles it plays in the body…
Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These two minerals play an important part in bone health, which is why having enough circulating vitamin D in the blood prevents osteoporosis. The nutrient also helps regulate mood. Researchers aren’t sure if having depression causes low vitamin D levels or if it’s the other way around. But either way, getting enough vitamin D seems to boost happiness.
There’s also some research showing that it prevents certain types of cancer and helps regulate metabolism.
Vitamin D For Immune Support
It’s been known for many years that vitamin D can help maintain a balanced immune system. The coronavirus pandemic has made an overactive immune response called “cytokine storm” a household name. In the presence of a new virus like SARS-COv-2, the immune system can mount such a fierce attack against the virus that the immune system destroys everything in sight. Research studies suggest that people who experienced a cytokine storm are more likely to have vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D controls the inflammation pathways in the immune system. And in doing so, helps prevent hyper immune responses such as cytokine storms. A review of 40 studies suggests that having sufficient vitamin D levels protects against respiratory infections.
White blood cells (also called leukocytes) help fight infections. Every single one of your white blood cells contain receptors for vitamin D and enzymes that help activate vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D can cause not just a hyper-immune response, it can also result in a weak response, resulting in chronic infections.
According to PharmacyTimes.com, vitamin D reduces the odds of developing a respiratory infection by approximately 42% in people with low baseline levels of the hormone-like nutrient.
How To Get Vitamin D In Winter
Interestingly, 42% is the same number of adults in the U.S. who are thought to be deficient in vitamin D. That number may be twice as much in African Americans. People with dark melanin need more vitamin D than people with lighter skin tones.
The body’s preferred source of vitamin D is sunlight. In this regard, vitamin D acts more like a hormone than a vitamin. But in the winter, for most people in the U.S., the sun’s UV rays are too weak to raise circulating vitamin D levels in the body.
Because of this, eating vitamin D-rich foods is necessary. Unfortunately, there are very few foods that are great sources. The best ones are cold-water oily fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel. Perhaps the best food source is cod liver oil, which supplies over 1,000 IUs of vitamin D.
Liver also contains a high amount of vitamin D. That’s because the organ is a storage house of the vitamin. But relatively few people eat liver, and that may actually be a good thing because the liver also stores toxins. Since most meat in the U.S. comes from industrial, factory farms, where animals are administered antibiotics, eating liver could itself be toxic.
Vitamin D Supplements
If you’re not taking cod liver oil or eating lots of fish, the next best thing to do in winter is take a vitamin D supplement. The daily value for D is 400-800 IUs. But this amount may not be enough for someone with a very low baseline.
However, the only way to know for sure if you need a supplement is to get a blood test. These days, however, as hospitals and health clinics are becoming more crowded because of Covid and the usual seasonal colds and flus, many people are reluctant to visit a medical center unless absolutely necessary. In this case, you can order a vitamin D test online, which gets delivered to your home and you can send in a blood sample to a lab.
If you have high blood calcium levels, you shouldn’t take a vitamin D supplement. But if that’s not the case, studies suggest that up to 10,000 IUs a day is safe. Vitamin D non-profits and research organizations suggest a daily supplement that provides 4,000 to 5,000 IUs.
However, research suggests high doses of vitamin D supplementation are associated with negative outcomes, particularly in elderly individuals. Therefore, taking a low or medium dose, and eating foods rich in vitamin D may be better than mega-dosing.
It’s important to note that if you do experience Covid symptoms, taking a vitamin D supplement is unlikely to help. That’s because it takes time for circulating (active) vitamin D3 to build up in your blood.
If you can, get your vitamin D level tested by your doctor or order a home test. If the test reveals your levels are low, take a vitamin D supplement and eat foods rich in vitamin D. The amount of this immune-supporting hormone/vitamin is also expressed in micrograms (μg). One microgram is equal to 40 IUs.
A serving of salmon, one of the best sources of vitamin D contains almost 18 micrograms, or approximately 700 IUs. Again, the daily recommended value is up to 800 IUs, however, if you have a low baseline, you may need more. In which case, a supplement may help raise your blood levels. And this in turn, may decrease your risk for contracting Covid or developing severe symptoms.