The neglected vitamin for Immunity
Updated: May 11
Vitamin D is a bit of a neglected nutrient when it comes to immunity. We all go for Vitamin C for our immune system, or perhaps some zinc or Olive Leaf extract. We tend to think that Vitamin D just looks after itself given we get it from the sun and we do live in sunny Australia.
But…(and if you don’t have time to read this just head down to summary)….
Vitamin D has many roles in our body and there are over 800 genes for which there is a Vitamin D response element. Basically it is needed by a lot of things in your body. One of these roles is in the regulation of our immune system and cells in the immune system possess vitamin D receptors. Vitamin D is being increasingly recognised for its effect on both inflammation and the immune response to infection. More and more studies are showing vitamin D as an important component for the prevention and treatment of influenza and Upper Respiratory tract infection.
What we tend to overlook living in this sunny country is that vitamin D levels fluctuate over the year - as do the rate of infections where they are lowest in summer and highest in winter. Coincidence? Not really. One recent well designed study ( double blind placebo and an objective outcome) using a nasopharyngeal swab culture (basically getting a sample of nasal secretions by inserting an extra large cotton bud swab into your nostril a fair way back, twisting it around for a few rotations and then removing) and therapeutic doses of vitamin D. The results showed that Vitamin D administration resulted in a statistically significant decrease in the incidence of influenza.
A meta analysis in 2017 (an examination of lots of different studies to identify overall trends) found an apparent association between low Vitamin D levels and susceptibility to viral infections such as influenza. It also concluded that Vitamin D supplementation was safe and protected against acute respiratory tract infection overall.
Remember that Vitamin D strengthens the immune system allowing the body to combat infections more effectively AND it also suppresses inflammation responses. To combat COVID-19 (and other winter infections) we need a robust immune system. But more importantly in relation to COVID-19 we need something to counteract inflammation because it is the over activated immune system responsible for the cytokine storm in COVID-19 infections that puts people into an inflammatory condition and on a ventilator. Vitamin D may help with this.
In SUMMARY, Vitamin D is increasingly recognised in literature for its effects on both inflammation and the immune response to infection, both factors involved in COVID-19 infection. Therefore it is not unreasonable to consider Vitamin D supplementation for its effect on health and resistance to disease.
Watch this space for more Vitamin D information on how you can get this fabulous neglected vitamin.