60% of people worldwide are either deficient or insufficient in vitamin D. So if you haven’t had your vitamin D levels checked recently, now is the time. Fortunately, replenishing your levels is an easy fix that will help lighten your load and reduce your risk of influenza and COVID-19–here’s why!
Signs You Might Be Lacking Vitamin D
Many people believe that our primary source of vitamin D comes from dairy. But the truth is, we receive only a minimal amount from the food we consume. In fact, the sun is our predominant source of vitamin D. Living at higher latitudes or during the wintertime when sunlight is sparse can lead to lower vitamin D levels. Additionally, carrying extra weight, especially in the midsection, can impact your levels since vitamin D is fat-soluble, leading to lower absorption.
Common symptoms of long-term vitamin D deficiency include fatigue, joint discomfort, brain fog, and if left unaddressed, even mild depression. This deficiency can also make you more prone to infections and frequent colds. The achiness you feel, especially in larger muscle groups, can be attributed to a lack of vitamin D, as our muscles require calcium for proper contraction. Essentially, vitamin D is one of the best vitamins to take when sick because it facilitates the delivery of calcium to where it’s needed most.
Vitamin D receptors are found in many types of cells throughout the body, especially in cells related to bone, immune function, and muscle. White blood cells, the infection fighters in our body, are one type of cell that interacts with vitamin D. When you get a complete blood count (CBC) from your doctor, it shows your white blood cell count. These white blood cells are like your body’s security team and the B cells and T cells are its special forces. B cells produce antibodies that mark invaders, and T cells are the ones that destroy them. Another type of white cell, the macrophages, act like the privates in the army, doing a lot of the initial work in response to invaders.
When a virus or bacteria invades the body, our cells spring into action, with some increasing their expression of vitamin D receptors. This boost can activate genes essential for repairing damaged DNA and other protective functions. Adequate vitamin D is vital for activating these protective genes, especially when the body encounters harmful agents like toxins. Vitamin D also plays a crucial role in apoptosis, the necessary process of programmed cell death. This process is vital for preventing cells from living longer than they should, a condition that could potentially lead to cancer.
The Connection Between Vitamin D and COVID-19
When doctors first began tackling COVID-19, we were quite honestly in the dark about what we were up against. I was fortunate to have connections with many doctors nationwide, and through our discussions, we gradually pieced it together. None of us had the answers initially, but now that we understand it, we’re better prepared and won’t be as caught off guard by this virus going forward. With this in mind, it’ll become clear why being aware of vitamin D deficiency is so beneficial.
COVID has a dual-phase impact. Initially, it might feel like mild flu, with some people showing no symptoms. About 7 to 10 days post-exposure, white cells react vigorously to the unrecognized viral load, releasing inflammatory mediators. When regulated, these mediators can help fight the infection effectively. However, an excessive response, known as a cytokine storm, can severely disrupt the body’s functioning, leading to serious COVID-19 complications. This risk is particularly high in individuals with chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes, lung infections, asthma, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), as well as the elderly due to diminished lung function.
In an October 2020 study with 191,000 patients, researchers looked into how vitamin D levels affect COVID-19 infection rates. They found that higher levels of vitamin D corresponded to lower infection rates. But what do these numbers mean for you? The optimal range is between 50 and 100. The study also revealed that upper respiratory and other severe infections decreased significantly with vitamin D levels greater than 40 in the blood. Interestingly, it turns out that if your vitamin D levels are over 55, your chances of catching COVID drop by 55%—so easy to remember!
The dosage that typically helps maintain ideal vitamin D levels is around 5,000 international units per day. If you come into my office with vitamin D levels around 10 or 20, we’ll need to boost you with much higher doses to reach the optimal 50 to 100 range. While I can keep most people steady on 5,000 units, some may need up to 10,000 units for maintenance. Rest assured, this higher dose has been studied and is considered safe.
To check your vitamin D levels, consult with your doctor to have a blood test taken.
Vitamin D’s Role in Fighting Viruses
Many of us (especially in cloudy climates) have symptoms of long-term vitamin D deficiency. Addressing this deficiency from day one of your illness can significantly prevent complications associated with upper respiratory viruses. But what if you’re already down with the flu or have tested positive for COVID and are beginning to show symptoms?
The first step is to get some vitamin D and have your levels checked. You need to aim for levels of 50 or higher. Maintaining levels between 50 to 100 is crucial to effectively combat these infections. This Vitamin D COVID regimen can slash your risk of contracting it by over 50% and the flu by 40 to 50%. If you find yourself COVID-19-positive, the best vitamins to take when sick would be a dose of 50,000 units of Vitamin D (under a doctor’s supervision) for three consecutive days to combat the virus effectively.
You can find vitamin D supplements anywhere, but when it comes to battling COVID and the flu, quality matters. We recommend the Metagenics brand, a medical-grade quality that’s available on our website. Ensuring you get a reputable brand will support your body’s fight against these illnesses more effectively.