Obtained naturally from the Sun, Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins for our overall health. The main function of vitamin D is to maintain the amount of calcium and phosphorus, the two components required to keep the bones strong. Vitamin D helps not only building and maintaining strong bones and strengthen the immune system but also reduces the risk of acute respiratory tract infections, cancer, diabetes, blood pressure and much more.
It can be stored in our body fat, the problem is that it is not so easy to get enough of it into our body. Most of our vitamin D comes from the sun, and about 60 per cent of us have insufficient levels during winter. The amount of exposure we need to get enough of this important vitamin is generally low.
While only a few minutes of exposure during the summer can be sufficient, during the winter it might take a couple of hours of exposure in the middle of the day. Also, it is difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone.
As we are slowly emerging out of our houses, after a long period of total lockdown, we are concerned about our safety at home and the workplace. For this reason, everyone is looking for a way to strengthen their immune system to prevent the menacing COVID-19 to get past the natural defense of the body. Also, since going out is only recommended for essential chores, people are not getting the necessary amount of sunlight that is needed to produce Vitamin D in the body, says Dr Ravi Gaur, COO, Oncquest labs ltd.
Studies have shown that Vitamin D may affect different components of our immune system and its response to infection. It may help modulate our lymphocytes and inflammation-producing chemicals like cytokines that are important components of our immune response to invading viruses, adds Dr Gaur.
Researchers have discovered a strong correlation between severe vitamin D deficiency and mortality rates due to novel coronavirus (COVID-19). In one of the studies, scientists have discovered a strong correlation between vitamin D levels and cytokine storm — a hyperinflammatory condition caused by an overactive immune leading to complications and increasing mortality.
Not only does active Vitamin D hormone- Calcitriol, help regulate both the innate and adaptive immune systems, our first and second lines of defense against pathogens, but also its deficiency is associated with immune dysregulation, a breakdown or change in the control of immune system processes. Many of the ways Calcitriol affects the immune system are directly relevant to our ability to defend against viruses. This means that having healthy levels of Vitamin D does not prevent a patient from contracting the virus, but it may reduce complications and death.
How much is too much?
People should not take excessive doses of vitamin D, which might come with negative side effects. However, do not rush to the store and start hoarding Vitamin D supplements, the evidence is still in the study phase and more studies are required.
In such difficult times, when everyone is fighting against the pandemic, even a small contribution by taking care of oneself will benefit the entire world. Vitamin D levels can be easily measured by a simple blood test. Vitamin D supplementation could be especially important for older people and high-risk individuals including healthcare workers who are now mostly indoors and wearing PPEs.
So, embrace the miracle nutrient in your routine to strengthen your body response systems and keep the immunity on top shape.