It has been almost 10 months since the first documented case of COVID-19 back in December, and more and more information is coming out about the virus every day. With the United States case count, mortality rate, and recovery rate all increasing, doctors and researchers are now able to inform the public about how different people react to the virus.
The immune system is your body’s defense network that uses specific cells and tissues to protect you from germs. You can thank your immune response whenever you get over that annoying cold that sometimes pops up during the winter. This response varies from person to person, depending on how healthy your immune cells are. By taking supplements such as vitamin D3, you can help support the healthy functioning of your immune system. Vitamin D has both anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties and is crucial for the activation of immune system defenses (2).
In people who suffer from autoimmune disorders, they have been found to be deficient in vitamin D. This is because vitamin D helps produce the immune cells needed to fight off foreign germs (2). It therefore appears that vitamin D plays an important role in protecting your body from health problems.
Low vitamin D levels have been linked to increased risk of respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), viral infections and bacterial respiratory infections. Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with decreased lung function which could further affect the body’s ability to fight respiratory infections (4).
Vitamin D has been proven to strengthen your immune system’s response to infections, but can it help against coronavirus?
To be clear, there currently is no cure for COVID-19. Researchers and other professionals have been conducting study after study to observe the disease and notice patterns. At the moment, there are no direct studies proving that vitamin D supplements directly reduce the chance of contracting COVID. Vitamin D however helps the immune system to produce cytokines (proteins that help with cell signaling) to fight infections (3).
In many COVID cases, the immune response has been significantly delayed. This eventually exhausts the body and can lead to long term side-effects or death. Higher levels of vitamin D allow the immune system to have a more timely response to infections. A stronger and quicker immune response may lessen the severity of COVID symptoms or allow the immune system to produce antibodies (proteins that help identify foreign material) to prevent infection in general (5).
If you do not know if you are deficient in vitamin D, you can have your healthcare provider test your levels. Supplementing 1,000-4,000 IU of vitamin D is enough for most individuals, but those who are deficient may require more (3). There are a number of qualities that may put people more at risk of being deficient in vitamin D: if you are older than 50, if you have dark skin, if you do not spend much time out in the sun, and more. With the increased time spent indoors due to COVID-19, people are especially not getting as much vitamin D from direct sunlight.
In times like these, it is critical to look after your health and, by supplementing your diet with vitamin D, you can strengthen your immune system overall.
Blog written by Sarah Kacmarsky
1. Jacobs, L. G. (2020). What Are the Long-Term Effects of COVID-19? Hackensack Meridian Health. https://www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org/HealthU/2020/07/29/what-are-the-long-term-effects-of-covid-19/
2. Zosky, G. R. (2011). Vitamin D deficiency causes deficits in lung function and alters lung structure. National Library of Medicine. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21297070/
3. Martineau, A. R. (2016). Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data. British Medical Journal. Retrieved from https://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.i6583
4. Biesalski, H. K. (2020). Vitamin D deficiency and co-morbidities in COVID-19 patients-A fatal relationship? National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7276229/