With no vaccine approved for complete use so far, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to give everyone a tough time, impacting not just their physical but also mental health. Amid this chaos, most people are looking for ways to boost their immunity to increase their chances of battling COVID-19 better, if they get infected sooner or later. A lot has been spoken about vitamin C and other vitamins & supplements in this regard. One of them is vitamin D — a very essential vitamin to bolster your immune system and boost your overall health.
Sources of vitamin D & recommended dosage
Popularly known as the ‘sunshine vitamin,’ the natural and most powerful source of vitamin D is sunlight. Fundamentally, there are two forms of vitamin D: vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. When you expose yourself to sunlight, the UV rays from the sun convert the cholesterol in your skin into vitamin D3. Other than natural sunlight, vitamin D3 can also be found in some plant-based foods like mushrooms. On the other hand, the best sources of vitamin D2 are animal-based foods like egg yolks, cod, and salmon.
The recommended dosage of vitamin D as per the current guidelines is 10 to 20 mcg in an average healthy adult. However, many argue that this is far too low. We must also take into consideration the fact that your vitamin D needs depend on a list of factors like your age, location, sun exposure, current blood vitamin D levels, skin colour, and more. So, it’s extremely important to consult with a doctor first before taking any vitamin D supplements to boost your vitamin D intake.
Vitamin D medicine routes
When it comes to non-natural ways of vitamin D intake, supplements are available in the form of oral chewable tablets, capsules, sachets that need to be mixed with water, and lastly, injections. It will be totally your doctor’s discretion to prescribe you a medicinal route of vitamin D based on your vitamin D test results.
Vitamin D functions
Primarily, vitamin D helps in managing the blood levels of calcium and phosphorus in the body. These minerals are extremely essential for healthy bones. They help in the prevention of bone diseases like rickets in kids, and in older adults, it can also significantly prevent osteoporosis.
The other functions of vitamin D include reducing inflammation in the body, modulating cell growth as well as glucose metabolism. Vitamin D also boosts your immune system and may play a key role in reducing the possibility of certain cancers and heart disease.
Vitamin D & immunity
While a lot of people may think only ‘vitamin C’ is linked with immunity, they may be surprised to know that vitamin D also has a pivotal role to play when we talk about immunity.
The key role that vitamin D manages, in this case, is keeping our immune system well-balanced. To put it in simple words, the soldiers in our bodies, called white blood cells, contain vitamin D receptors and activating enzymes on their surfaces. Now if there’s too much stimulation in our immune system, the risk of autoimmune diseases kicks in. On the other hand, if the immune system is underactive, the risk of frequent infections becomes higher. Hence, it’s crucial for the immune system to have a balance between these two scenarios — that’s where vitamin D saves the day.
Having a vitamin D deficiency has been linked to both these extreme scenarios. While low vitamin D levels can not necessarily cause an autoimmune disease, it can certainly make an existing autoimmune disease worse. Similarly, people with vitamin D deficiency are also subjected to frequent cold and flu infections, as per studies. Hence, it becomes all the more important to make sure your vitamin D needs are adequately fulfilled.
Vitamin D and COVID-19
Initial studies have revealed that vitamin D may help in reducing the chance of several respiratory infections including COVID-19. Currently, more research studies have revealed that a person deficient in vitamin D may have an increased chance of COVID-19 infection’s severity. While there’s a need for more research to establish that as a fact, it has been observed that even if vitamin D has little to no role in preventing a COVID-19 infection, it can surely help in reducing the adversities of the symptoms to a significant extent.
So, it can be safe to say that just like vitamin C doesn’t actually prevent one from getting a coronavirus infection but helps exponentially in boosting the immune system to fight the virus, vitamin D too has a key role to play in strengthening the immune system to fight the virus better.
How much vitamin D is too much?
When the vitamin D levels in the body are so high that they pose a threat, the scenario is known as vitamin D toxicity. While this is extremely rare, overdosage of vitamin D can actually make it happen. By and large, all cases of vitamin D overdose happen due to an over-intake of supplements. This is because it’s practically impossible to get an overdose of vitamin D through its natural sources, which are sunlight and some foods.
The consequences of overdosing on vitamin D supplements include hypervitaminosis D — a condition wherein too much of vitamin D in the blood results in abnormally high levels of calcium in the blood, which can impact your bone health, tissues, as well as other organs.
How are you getting your daily dose of vitamin D? Let us know in the comments below.