Supporting your immune system with Vitamin D

By David Sauro

How can you boost your immune system to protect against catching COVID or the flu, and any other disease? Recent research and studies conclude that vitamin D can reduce your risk of catching these infections as well as decrease the severity of the illness. The best way to get vitamin D into your system is through sunshine and healthy meals. Supplements can also be used.

What is Vitamin D? Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that’s involved in many essential body functions. There are two forms of vitamin D in the diet and supplements:

Vitamin D2 is found in some mushrooms. Vitamin D3 is found in oily fish, fish liver oil, and egg yolks. D3 is the more powerful of the two types and raises vitamin D levels almost twice as much as D2.

A recent article published in reports that a study at the University of Chicago Medicine, led by Dr. David Meltzer, found a relationship between vitamin D deficiency and COVID risk. Dr. Meltzer said, that getting adequate vitamin D in the diet ranked ‘below masks and hygiene’ for COVID prevention but he feels that ‘it should be near the top of everyone’s list. There is a lot of evidence that we should be taking vitamin D deficiency very seriously,’ he says. If you are taking a reasonable dose of vitamin D, it’s hard to see how it hurts and it could help a lot.’

It is reported that more than 42% of the U.S. population is deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D requires exposure to sunlight for it to benefit the body. This is a unique characteristic of vitamin D and why it is so important to get sunshine! The latest research links vitamin D deficiency to mood swings, depression, lack of energy, chronic skin conditions, and other chronic diseases.

So, how much vitamin D do you need? Recommendations from the US Institute of Medicine suggest that an average daily intake of 400-800 IU, or 10-20 micrograms, is adequate for 97.5% of individuals. It can be hard to get enough vitamin D each day through sun exposure and food alone, so taking vitamin D supplements can help. ‘Although research in this area is ongoing, it’s important to understand that taking supplemental vitamin D alone can’t protect you from developing COVID or the flu. However, being deficient in vitamin D may increase your susceptibility to overall infection and disease by harming your immune function,’ said Jillian Kubala, MS, RD.

Personally, I take a D3 with coconut oil supplement daily.

It is possible, although rare, for this vitamin to build up and reach toxic levels in your body. Vitamin D toxicity is usually caused by large doses of vitamin D supplements, not by diet or sun exposure. As always, talk to your doctor before taking vitamin and mineral supplements.

Now is the time to get sunshine as often as you can, along with eating foods and taking supplements that provide a strong dose of vitamin D. Boosting your immune system can be done by incorporating practical lifestyle changes as mentioned above, along with diet, exercise, and taking care of your emotional well-being. Always listen to your body and consult a physician or healthcare professional when considering making major health and wellness changes. Be Well!

This is the second of a three-part miniseries on having a Strong Immune System. We want to hear from you, whether it is about this article, COVID-19, or anything else health-related.
Originally published in The Barnstable Patriot 1/28/22