COVID-19 and Vitamin D: What is the relationship?
COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. Persons that have severe underlying medical conditions like heart, lung disease, and diabetes are noted to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.
COVID-19 affects most organs and organ systems. When these vital tissues are attacked, they are unable to perform their intended actions, this includes the transport of immunomodulators that are used to prevent infection and fight against illness. Immunomodulators are a protection to your body.
Vitamin D acts as immunomodulator, by creating an adaptive immune response. This response is apart of your body’s defense system. If your Vitamin D levels are depleted than this natural action may not protect you against illnesses like COVID-19.
Vitamin D is obtained by sunlight on the skin. The amount of time that a person must spend in the sun to receive a sufficient dose of the D vitamin is extremely small and just a few minutes a day will be sufficient and not have any adverse effects from the amount of ultra-violet light received.
There are two forms of Vitamin D. Vitamin D that is formed under the skin is known as vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol. This D vitamin is created when the ultraviolet in the sunlight reacts with a type of cholesterol that is found under the skin naturally. The D3 is converted into a more active form of the d vitamin in the liver and is then diverted to where it is needed the most. Some of the D vitamin remains in the liver and kidneys to help reabsorb the calcium from the blood. The rest of the D vitamin is dispersed to the bones to help them retain their calcium and the intestines to aid absorption of calcium from food.
Even though most of the D vitamin is formed through the exposure of the skin to sunlight there are some foods that do contain some of the vitamin naturally. This form of the D vitamin is known as vitamin D2, or ergocalciferol. This is used in the same way as the other D vitamins and is the type used to create most D vitamin supplements.
To find out what your Vitamin D levels are please have your medical provider perform a blood test to check your levels. The Vitamin D level for an average adult is 20 – 50 ng/mL, (depending on the patient).
You can get Vitamin D by eating spinach, kale, okra, collard greens, soybeans, and white beans. Some fish, like sardines, salmon, perch, and rainbow trout are good sources of Vitamin D. Foods that are calcium-fortified, such as some orange juice, oatmeal, and breakfast cereal contain Vitamin D.
Reference: Griffin G, Hewison M, Hopkin J, Kenny R, Quinton R, Rhodes J, Subramanian S, Thickett D. Vitamin D and COVID-19: evidence and recommendations for supplementation. R Soc Open Sci. 2020 Dec 1;7(12):201912. doi: 10.1098/rsos.201912. PMID: 33489300; PMCID: PMC7813231.