Vitamin D Deficiency can be a big problem. Especially in these times of the Coronavirus Pandemic. A recent article in the British newspaper The Telegraph suggests that Vitamin D may be very helpful in keeping the symptoms of the Coronavirus mild. The article describes a doctor in the Philippines who examined patients who had the disease in three hospitals.
49 of the patients had mild symptoms. Of those 49, only two had low levels of Vitamin D.
104 of the patients had very severe symptoms. Of those 104, only four did not have low levels of Vitamin D.
The Sun as a Source of Vitamin D
It’s long been known that Vitamin D can cut down on colds and flus. One of the reasons people believe cold and flu season happens in the winter is because people don’t receive much sun exposure. The sun is one of the best ways for your body to manufacture Vitamin D. Without the sun exposure, the
body experiences a vitamin D deficiency.
So how does the sun make Vitamin D in your body?
The sun shines ultra-violet light on your skin. The UV light reacts with a form of cholesterol in your skin to create Vitamin D3. Officially most supplements you take are Vitamin D2 but for simplicity sakes let’s call both types ‘Vitamin D’.
Once the sun turns your skin cholesterol (or you take a supplement), the Vitamin D travels over to your liver. The liver adds an extra hydrogen and oxygen molecule to the Vitamin D and turns it into something called (you guessed it) ’25-hydroxyvitamin D’. Yeah, no. I wouldn’t have guessed that either.
What Vitamin D Does
25-hydroxyvitamin D is what they often measure in lab tests to see how your Vitamin D levels are doing. If your liver is in trouble, you may also have a vitamin D deficiency. The ‘liverfied’ Vitamin D then travels over to your kidneys, where it picks up another hydrogen and oxygen molecule. I won’t bore you with the technical name there. Ok Calcitrol if you really are curious.
After the kidneys, Vitamin D can really do its job. The main job it has is to help the body absorb calcium. A vitamin D deficiency, which is seen in seniors a lot, can mean weaker bones, fractures, falls and other yucky bone problems. Osteoporosis can be a problem with low Vitamin D.
Vitamin D also stimulates antimicrobial peptides. Yeah, I had to look up what a peptide was as well. Hence the link. Those peptides are part of your immune system. They destroy invading microbes. Especially in the respiratory tract. With low levels of Vitamin D, these Peptides don’t get their caffeine.
Those peptides seem to be effective against the Coronavirus. Studies are coming out showing more and more correlation between a vitamin D deficiency being linked to severe symptoms of the Coronavirus.
How to Tell If You Have a Vitamin D Deficiency
Besides the lab tests, other symptoms and characteristic that can indicate a vitamin D deficiency include:
- Over 50 years old – your skin doesn’t work as well to absorb and manufacture vitamin D as it used to
- Obese – Vitamin D is fat soluble. That means your fat may absorb the Vitamin D instead of letting it go to where it can do the most good
- Having Darker skin – Darker skin folks do not absorb vitamin D from the sun as well as lighter skin
- Depression and feeling down – Mood can often vary based on amount of sun exposure
- Chronic conditions – If you have gut problems, you may have trouble absorbing fat. Since Vitamin D is fat soluble, it may mean you have trouble absorbing it as well
- Your Bones Ache – Since Vitamin D is responsible for bringing calcium to your bones, it can also cause problems if there is a vitamin D deficiency. This may be misdiagnosed as Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Here is some more information about Vitamin D deficiency:
If your are concerned you might have a vitamin D deficiency, you can have a blood test to determine your level. The optimum range for vitamin D is 50-70 ng/ml (nanograms/milliliter). Both vitamin D supplements and more sun exposure without sunscreen can help raise your levels. Don’t overdo it though and get sunburn!