Through the years, vitamin D has most been correlated with strong bones due to its help in preventing Rickets, but this vitamin (which is more like a hormone) has a lot of functions in our bodies and has recently been noticed to help improve the outcomes of patients infected with coronavirus.
Vitamin Ds Myriad Uses
Vitamin D, along with regulating bone remineralization and health, has receptors for its absorption in the intestines, kidney, bone, cardiac, muscle, brain, skin, liver and immune cells; meaning the whole body uses it. It’s important for a myriad of processes including signaling the release of parathyroid hormone, involvement in the conversion of your thyroid hormones to their active form, regulation of calcium and phosphorus absorption, maintaining proper blood sugar levels, helping the gut microbiome produce vitamin B5, the influence of gene transcription, regulation of the immune response, and more.
Vitamin D levels & COVID-19
In October 2020, in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Volume 203), there was a study published outlining the effects of calcifediol (25-hydroxyvitamin vitamin D) treatment on people with COVID-19 infections2. Researchers randomly assigned 76 people with moderate to severe COVID-19 into a vitamin D dose group (50 patients) or a placebo group (26 patients) on the day they entered the hospital. In the placebo, or no vitamin-D group, 13 out of 26 patients (50%) were admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU), and two, unfortunately, died due to COVID-19 complications. In the vitamin D dose group, only 1 person out of 50 required ICU admission and there were no deaths. This means that vitamin D treatments in the hospitalized COVID-19 patients significantly reduced (by 93%!) the need for intensive care unit admissions among hospitalized patients.
In early April 2020, vitamin D serum levels and severity of COVID-19 in 212 patients in three separate hospitals was studied. According to the study1 “The results suggest that an increase in [vitamin D] in the body could either improve clinical outcomes or mitigate worst (severe to critical) outcomes, while a decrease in [vitamin D] in the body could worsen clinical outcomes of COVID-2019 patients.” Basically, those who were deficient in vitamin D had more critical cases than those who had normal vitamin D levels: 86% of all cases among patients with normal vitamin D levels (>30 ng/ml) were mild, while 73% of COVID-19 cases among patients with vitamin D deficiency (<20 ng/ml) were severe or critical.
More research is needed but these two studies show how important vitamin D is to your overall immune system health.
“Normal” Levels are not Optimal
Lab ranges for Vitamin D given by conventional doctors are from 30 to 100 ng/mL. If you are below 10, you are severely deficient, 10-30 ng/mL, the Endocrine Society and the Vitamin D Council still maintain that you are not getting enough, but the National Institute of Health sates that 30-50 mg/mL is generally considered adequate for bone and overall health. Naturopaths and functional medicine practitioners, however, recommend a level between 60 to 85 ng/mL for optimal health.
Getting your vitamin D levels tested regularly is something I recommend for all clients. When deficient I recommend supplementation. Supplements of cholecalciferol, D3, is recommended over D2, ergocalciferol, for absorption. Also, you want vitamin K with your D unless you have blood thinning considerations. Vitamin D3 and K2 work together to strengthen your bones and improve your overall health; bone and immune system. Vitamin D creates vitamin K2-dependent proteins to move calcium around, so, if you’re taking vitamin D as a standalone, you’re creating an increased demand for K2 which may decrease bone strength and cause you to be more vulnerable to infections.
Supplement with Vitamin D3/K2 at 5,000 IU per day with retesting every three months till your levels are optimal. Most doctors will readily run this test for you, or I can do it. You want to ensure your levels are optimal, not low or too high. My go to supplement is Vitamin D Supreme with Vitamin K1 & K2 from Designs for Health.
Sunshine for Health
Sunlight is best for vitamin D optimization. When your skin makes vitamin D it also makes two water soluble sulfur based chemicals that are not available when you take fat soluble vitamin D supplements; vitamin D from the sun converts at 100% (as opposed to 50% from dietary absorption).
It doesn’t take long to get the amount of vitamin D you need, and, as soon as your skin is even the slightest bit pink, you are no longer absorbing it. For me, being fair skinned, I start out in the spring with about 5 minutes of full sunshine exposure daily and work up slowly so that my skin never gets pink. In the fall/winter, because I live in a northern area (above 33 degrees latitude), I supplement, as I live too far north to get the right angle of sun exposure to absorb the UVB radiation needed for vitamin D synthesis.
- Vitamin D Supplementation Could Possibly Improve Clinical Outcomes of Patients Infected with Coronavirus-2019 (COVID-2019), April 9, 2020, by Mark Alipio – https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3571484
- Effect of calcifediol treatment and best available therapy versus best available therapy on intensive care unit admission and mortality among patients hospitalized for COVID-19: A pilot randomized clinical study , Oct 2020, Castillo et al. – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960076020302764