Several new reports suggest that people with low serum vitamin D levels may be at higher risk for having COVID-19 symptoms with acute respiratory disorder and distress, and that mortality rates are higher in these patients.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin found naturally in some foods such as fatty fish (salmon, tuna, trout, etc.), beef, pork, chicken, turkey, egg yolks, milk, cheese and some mushrooms, and can also be taken via supplement. Your body produces vitamin D when you’re exposed to the sun as UV rays trigger vitamin D synthesis in your body. Vitamin D helps promote the absorption of calcium, required to keep your bones strong and prevent your muscles from cramping and spasm.
While most people are aware of vitamin D’s role in ensuring bone health, it also plays a role in immune function, reducing inflammation and modulating cell growth. Some studies suggest that adequate D levels can reduce both the incidence and mortality rates of various cancers. Currently, it is believed that vitamin D helps reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines responsible for inflaming and injuring the lining of lungs affected by COVID-19. (Grant, et. al.) Interestingly, a recent study by Harvard Medical School suggests acupuncture is also useful at quelling a “cytokine storm” – the complicating inflammatory response of severe COVID-19.
Unfortunately, most people in the U.S. don’t get the recommended amounts of vitamin D. Worse yet, the skin’s ability to synthesize vitamin D also declines with age. People with dark skin may have reduced levels because the melanin in their skin reduces the body’s ability to produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D is metabolized in the small intestine, so people who have undergone gastric bypass surgery may not absorb enough because this portion of the small intestine has been bypassed. Because vitamin D is fat soluble, malabsorption is also associated with medical conditions such as liver disease, cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. (NIH.gov)
Believe it or not, too much vitamin D can be toxic. Because vitamin D increases calcium absorption, too much can result in a condition known as hypercalcemia, leading to nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, excessive thirst and urination, kidney stones, pain, loss of appetite and even some neuropsychiatric disturbances. In extreme cases, vitamin D toxicity can cause kidney failure, cardiac issues and even death. (NIH.gov) Patients who take statin, steroid or thiazide diuretic medications should consult their physicians prior to supplementation, as vitamin D can interact with some medications.
While the evidence that vitamin D helps prevent cancer and COVID-19, and reduce mortality is not fully conclusive, there are clearly benefits and little risk associated with ensuring proper vitamin D levels. Adults 18 years and older can safely consume 100 mcg (up to 4,000 IU) of vitamin D daily.
So get your D, couple it with acupuncture, and give your body an optimal chance at preventing disease.
Busko, M. (September 17, 2020) Low Vitamin D in COVID-19 Predicts ICU Admission, Poor Survival. Retrieved from https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/937567?src=mkm_covid_update_200917_mscpedit_&uac=251727BN&impID=2570797&faf=1
Grant, W.B.; Lahore, H.; McDonnell, S.L.; Baggerly, C.A.; French, C.B.; Aliano, J.L.; Bhattoa, H.P. Evidence that Vitamin D Supplementation Could Reduce Risk of Influenza and COVID-19 Infections and Deaths. Nutrients 2020, 12, 988.
Laird, E., Rhodes, J., Kenny, R.A. (2020) Vitamin D and Inflammation: Potential Implications for Severity of Covid-19. Irish Medical Journal, Vol 113; No. 5; P81.
Pesheva, E. (August 12, 2020) Quieting the Storm. Retrieved from https://hms.harvard.edu/news/quieting-storm#:~:text=New%20study%20shows%20acupuncture%20can,in%20mice%20with%20systemic%20inflammation
Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/