Project 101 – Resilience is aimed at developing a strong immune system and a body that can fight off disease at any age. One of the key factors in achieving that level of robust health is being a healthy weight. There have been a number of risk factors identified that put certain groups of the population at a higher risk of a critical outcome from being infected with Covid- 19 – one of these is a deficiency of Vitamin D.
It was initially thought to be more common in those living in the Northern Hemisphere. However, there is also evidence that shows that middle-aged women in countries such as Greece and Italy also suffer from Vitamin D deficiency, largely due to the fact that they tend to cover up and avoid the sunshine. Many countries now fortify dairy products and other foods and that does appear to help the deficiency status of the population.
There have been a number of studies to determine if in fact having sufficient Vitamin D levels offers protection or minimises the severity of Covid-19, and this is obviously going to be ongoing and interesting to follow.
Researchers from the U.K. evaluated the average vitamin D levels and the number of COVID-19 cases, as well as the death rates, across 20 European countries. Countries with low average vitamin D blood levels in the population had higher numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths, says study leader Petre Cristian Ilie, MD, PhD, research and innovation director at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Foundation Trust in King’s Lynn, U.K.: Web MD
Vitamin D levels appear to play role in COVID-19 mortality rates: Patients with severe deficiency are twice as likely to experience major complications : Science Daily May 7th 2020
Researchers analyzed patient data from 10 countries. The team found a correlation between low vitamin D levels and hyperactive immune systems. Vitamin D strengthens innate immunity and prevents overactive immune responses. The finding could explain several mysteries, including why children are unlikely to die from COVID-19.
How Vitamin D works with out immune system.
Vitamin D is a bit like a health and safety consultant, constantly on the look out for areas that are unbalanced in the structure of our body and operating systems. I will look at the structure and bone density later in the post, but first a look at why the vitamin is being identified as playing a vital role in the strength of our immune system and in particular respiratory infections and auto-immune diseases such as arthritis. You can read more about the Immune System and how it works
Our white blood cells have receptors and activating enzymes for Vitamin D on their surface. It is a difficult role managing all the complexities involved in maintaining an efficient immune system without upsetting the balance… too much interference results in the immune system becoming overactive and attacking the cells of the body resulting in autoimmune diseases such as arthritis.. Too little interference is as bad, because dampening the immune system’s responses, leads to frequent infections.
Both these scenarios can occur if there is insufficient Vitamin D absorbed or ingested by the body, and whilst reduced levels of the vitamin do not cause an autoimmune disease, it can make matters worse.
Low levels of Vitamin D were identified in resulting in frequent colds and flu ten years ago, and with the pandemic, this line of research is going to be more closely monitored.
Supplementation – Pharmacy News
In 2017, a large analyses of prospective clinical trials showed that taking vitamin D reduces the odds of developing a respiratory infection by approximately 42% in people with low baseline levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D; below 25 ng/mL.3
The analysis suggests that taking vitamin D daily or weekly was more effective than larger doses taken in single or monthly boluses. The most common daily dose used was vitamin D3 300-4,000 IU.
N.B. I take 3000 IU daily during the months October to May and have a break if I have sufficient sunshine during the warmer months.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that our bodies are designed to produce after exposure to the ultraviolet rays from the sun. When it is manufactured in the body it takes on a number of different forms, each of which have a different function to perform.
Whilst we are designed to produce our own Vitamin D from the interaction of sunlight on our skin, there are two forms of the vitamin found in foods D2 (ergocalciferol) is the one activated by sunlight in the plants that we eat plants and D3 (cholecalciferol) is found in animal foods. D3 is the one that is most commonly used in supplementation usually in combination with calcium as it is the most biologically usable and effective for humans.
One of the vitamin’s main function, apart from monitoring the immune system, is to maintain the correct balance of calcium and phosphorus in the blood and then to ensure that calcium is absorbed efficiently so that new bone is formed and maintained throughout our lifetime.
This link to calcium resulted in the first major nutritional breakthrough nearly 100 years ago when it was identified that children with rickets, usually from poor and industrial areas suffered from Vitamin D deficiency and were supplemented with fish liver oils resulting in a virtual eradication of the disease.
There is a worrying increase in the numbers of children being diagnosed with this condition which is why recently the health service has suggested giving all children of 5 and upwards Vitamin D supplementation.
That is because most of our children are no longer exposed to sunlight which is the most efficient way for our bodies to produce the essential Vitamin D it needs. Consider these accumulative factors – less PE at school – increased traffic so no more playing in the streets, more apartment living without gardens, fear of child abuse and abductions so children are kept inside, more television, video games and computer time, both parents working so the children are kept after school or inside and finally when out in the rare holiday sun, children are covered in factor 40. Anything over factor 8 and our skin cannot absorb enough sunshine to produce vitamin D.
To illustrate how important Vitamin D is to our skeleton here is a brief overview of how it works.
Our bones are living tissue that grows and regenerates throughout our lifetime. It is not static and old bone is removed and replaced with new bone continuously, a process that requires the essential elements of bone to be available from our diet and from chemical reactions in the body. There are four main components that are needed on a daily basis.
Minerals – calcium, magnesium and phosphorus – Matrix – collagen fibres (gristle) – Osteoclasts – bone removing cells and Osteoblasts– bone producing cells.
If you have ever made paper mache sculptures at school you will used a chicken wire framework first of all to establish the shape that you wanted and then overlaid your strips of wet paper and allowed them to harden. The bone making process is very similar.
A network of collagen fibres forms the base and it is then overlaid with the minerals. The strength of the finished bone is dependent on the amount of mineralisation that takes place. Osteoclasts will remove old bone when needed and this results in a need to produce new collagen matrix to attract new minerals for the repair process.
Vitamin D’s role is essential, to ensure that sufficient calcium and phosphorus is attracted to the new matrix and that the new bone is strong. If you are deficient in this vitamin more bone is discarded than replaced leading to soft and malformed bones.
Vitamin D’s role in maintaining a healthy balance of calcium as the mineral plays a crucial role in other functions in the body but one of the most important as far as cancer is concerned is its ability to maintain the acid/alkaline balance within all our operating systems.
There is also a strong link between magnesium and calcium in the role of balancing hormones and are used very successfully in the treatment of PMS and menopausal symptoms.
Oestrogen the female hormone has been identified as the fuel that breast cancer cells prefer and this is why during the menopause when levels are likely to be elevated, we are more likely to develop tumours. This can therefore be linked back to a deficiency in Calcium and by definition a lack of vitamin D which enables the mineral to be absorbed and used by the body.
Vitamin D also works to promote healthy cell growth and actively prevent the formation of abnormal growth which strengthens the link between not only breast cancer and a deficiency but other cancers as well.
Incidences of breast, prostate and colon cancer in the cloudier, Northern parts of the United States are two to three times higher than in Sunnier states. A link has been established to a deficiency of Vitamin D with all these types of cancer.
Apart from working with other nutrients to provide a healthy balance, Vitamin D is also associated with a number of other chronic diseases including Osteoporosis (calcium) Diabetes, Heart disease, arthritis (immune system) Multiple sclerosis (autoimmune system) Obesity ( lowers the levels of leptin hormone produced by the fat cells which regulates weight) , PMS and infertility, chronic fatigue and depression.
Many people in countries with long wet and dark winters suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Vitamin D which has been activated in the adrenal gland regulates an enzyme called tyrosine hydroxylase which is necessary for the production of neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine and epinephrine. Not only do they regulate how we feel but also are linked to some interesting parallel conditions associated with a lack in Vitamin D namely obesity, PMS and menopausal symptoms such as migraines, and chronic pain associated with arthritis etc.
Taking a daily vitamin D supplement could cut the number of migraine attacks dramatically, according to the results of a new trial: Smorgasbord Health in the News – Migraines
Vitamin D is dubbed ‘the sunshine vitamin’ because it is produced in the skin after exposure to sunlight.
The treatment nearly halved the attacks patients suffered during a six-month trial — with those taking the daily supplement (and no other medication) going from having migraines more than six days a month to just three.
The ‘sunshine’ pill is thought to work by combatting inflammation in the tiny blood vessels in the brain that can play a part in the painful episodes.
Some studies suggest it keeps the endothelium — the layer of cells that coats the inside of all blood vessels — smooth and pliable, allowing blood to flow easily.
Migraine affects around one person in ten in the UK.
Over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, can help mild attacks. In more severe cases, patients are prescribed triptans, which work by restoring the chemical balance in the brain that is disrupted by migraines.
You can read the rest of the article here: Daily Mail: Vitamin D and Migraines
This research on the link between Vitamin D and IBS was featured in Science News – Smorgasbord Health in the News – IBS
Vitamin D supplements could help to ease painful Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms, a new study from the University of Sheffield has found.
Scientists from the University’s Department of Oncology and Metabolism reviewed and integrated all available research on vitamin D and IBS — a condition which affects two in 10 people in the UK.
The study showed a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in IBS patients — regardless of their ethnicity.
The Sheffield team also assessed the possible benefits of vitamin D supplements on IBS symptoms. Whilst they believe more research still needs to be conducted, their findings suggested supplements may help to ease symptoms which can include abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. Vitamin D was shown to have the most benefit on quality of life in IBS.
Read the rest of the article: Science Daily Vitamin D
Tomorrow I will be looking at how to obtain sufficient Vitamin D3 to boost the immune system and ensure its other functions can be carried out effectively.
©Sally Cronin – Just Food for Health – 1998 – 2020
I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-two years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.
If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2020
Your feedback is always welcome and if you do find that following any of the programmes that I have shared are beneficial then it would be great to hear about it.. you can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.