Sunshine – Vitamin D and Immune Health
The recent global outbreak of covid-19 (aka Coronavirus) has the public on edge, and rightly so since at present there isn’t an effective vaccine available to prevent it or as yet an anti-viral medication to kill it, although the Coronavirus Task Force assures us those are being fast-tracked on the way. More than 80,000 people have been infected worldwide and over 2800 people have died, granted most of them, as is often the case with viral ‘flu-like’ illnesses, are the very young, the very old, and the medically infirm. And that’s the usually case we confront annually with influenza, the difference, of course, being a reasonably effective anti-viral medication exists for the flu.
It brings to mind the physiologic truth that the best offense against infection is a good defense — i.e., a strong and responsive immune system. And while we might not yet have a targeted covid-19 killing medication, we do have our own targeted built in defense system that we can bolster with the miracle drug known as [1,25(OH)2D3] or as you probably know it better, Vitamin D.
Here’s an interesting article about the importance of maintaining adequate vitamin D levels, especially in winter.
The article tells us that vitamin D upregulates the production of immune modulating peptides in the respiratory tract, making it especially important to fend off getting a cold, the flu, or in this case covid-19. Adequate levels of Vitamin D help to make your immune system more bulletproof against viral assault.
A major reason there is a winter ‘flu season’ in North America is because we humans rely on the sun’s rays to naturally convert cholesterol in our skin to this critical vitamin/hormone that famously protects our bones and teeth but equally importantly also bolsters our immune function. We make less of it in winter, especially in northern climes, because it’s cold and we’re bundled up and the sun’s rays are weakened because they’re coming in at a shallower angle–lower in the sky–passing through a lot more atmosphere on the way to us. Ideally, during the summer months, we would restore our vitamin D levels depleted by winter through regular skin exposure, but today’s sun-phobic recommendations to block sun exposure every time we walk outside means we end up blocking our vitamin D conversion as well.
Still, weak sun is better than no sun, so we’d encourage getting outdoors to receive as much unblocked sun exposure on face and arms as is possible every day the weather cooperates with sunny skies and less frigid temps. But remember that even a low-SPF sunscreen will block the rays that are responsible for this conversion, so a northern winter is no time to use it!
What you eat can make a difference as well. Vitamin D is found abundantly in mackerel and salmon and to a smaller degree in tuna, sardines, and anchovies. It’s plentiful in liver, too, and especially in cod liver oil. Rich food sources of Vitamin D according to the USDA are:
For instance, we had sous-vide cooked salmon for dinner and made a delicious omelet for lunch the next day of fresh eggs, left over sous-vide cooked salmon, and cheese.
And, to be doubly on the safe side, in fall and winter we take a daily Vitamin D3/K2 supplement to boost blood levels. (Because I know someone will ask, we take Bio-Tech D3/K2 or their D3Plus product ourselves.)
In short, your best defense against respiratory illness (including covid-19) is to:
- wash your hands often with soap and water
- keep your hands away from nose or eyes (viruses enter through these mucus membranes)
- get some unblocked sun on your skin as often as you can
- eat foods high in vitamin D regularly
- take a vitamin D3/K2 supplement daily in fall and winter
And remember, if you get a respiratory infection, strive to keep your viruses to yourself. Respiratory illnesses, including covid-19, spread through ‘droplets’ sprayed out during coughing or sneezing and through respiratory secretions (aka snot) ferried from nose, eyes, and mouth via your hands to other people’s hands or doorknobs or handles or pencils or table tops, or… You get the idea. Stay home if you can; give a wide berth to others if you can’t stay home; cough or sneeze into a tissue (preferably an anti-viral tissue if you have them) and throw it away immediately and wash your hands or use anti-microbial hand sanitizer before you touch anything else.
Stay well! Spring is almost here.