Over the last few months we have all been shaken by the sudden outbreak of COVID-19. Our lives have all been changed beyond recognition. Stress and anxiety levels are at an all-time high as people all over the world live in fear of contracting the virus.
But that’s the problem. All the attention is focused on fear and the dangers of the virus.
What about prevention? What can we do to proactively boost our immune system?
While there are many ways to help prevent getting sick, there is one simple vitamin that has been shown to boost immunity and protect against infections – vitamin D.
An estimated 60% of the US population have low levels of vitamin D. Could you be one of them? Why does this matter? Should you consider supplementing with vitamin D?
This article will answer all your questions on vitamin D benefits and more, but first let’s cover the essentials.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that we can’t live without. While most vitamins come from the foods we eat, vitamin D is somewhat different. Unlike other vitamins, your body produces most of its vitamin D requirements on its own with the help of sunlight.
It’s important to note that there are two forms of vitamin D: D2 and D3.
Vitamin D2 comes from your diet and is found is oily fish, egg yolks, red meat, and liver. Eating enough foods that contain vitamin D2 is vital for good health because it cannot be synthesized by your body.
Many people simply do not eat enough foods containing vitamin D2.
Vitamin D3 is made in the skin in response to sunlight. With social and cultural changes – especially those in response to coronavirus – it’s no surprise that most people are deficient in vitamin D3.
A combination of poor diet choices and all this time we’ve spent locked up inside, no wonder so many people are vitamin D deficient. It may not be a coincidence that cold and flu cases spike during the winter months – we’re not getting enough sunlight! Not to mention, the use of sunscreen reduces sunlight absorption and the production of vitamin D3 by up to 99%.
What are the benefits of vitamin D? Let’s take a look.
Vitamin D Benefits – Does Vitamin D Deficiency Matter?
Vitamin D plays a big role in supporting the immune system and keeps viruses from penetrating cells or producing severe damage. This is due to its ability to regulate white blood cells and decrease the ability of viruses to reproduce.
“If you’re exposed, you’ll have the armor to fight it off more effectively”, says Dr. DeSilva.
Other Vitamin D Benefits:
- Promotes cardiovascular health and helps to regulate blood pressure, cholesterol and inflammation.
- Supports healthy cell replication and may help protect against autoimmune conditions.
- Prevents depression and mood disorders by keeping mood positive and energy up.
Is Vitamin D deficiency serious? Health experts tell us it can be, and it’s linked to serious health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and depression.
Deficiency has been reported to increase:
- Risk of cancers by 30-50%.
- Onset of diabetes due to insulin resistance.
- Risk of cardiovascular disease due to blood pressure problems.
- Brain degeneration and brain related issues such as Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and depression.
Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms
What are the symptoms of low vitamin D? How can you tell if you are vitamin D deficient?
- Chronic fatigue
- Sleep problems
- Weak immune system
- Inflammation and/or swelling
If you experience one or more of these conditions, we suggest you consult your doctor to be tested for deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to serious health conditions.
How Common is Vitamin D Deficiency?
50% of the world is vitamin D deficient. That’s a serious problem, but it makes sense.
Why are we all vitamin D deficient?
Social and cultural changes. Fewer people now work outside and eating habits have drastically changed.
Skin color. People with darker skin have increased amount of melanin. With higher levels of melanin you need more sunlight exposure to achieve adequate amounts of vitamin D.
Elderly people. In the United States 60% in nursing homes and 57% in hospitals are vitamin D deficient. Not only that, older people generally don’t spend as much time outside, they wear longer clothing and sometimes don’t eat as healthy.
Medical conditions. Celiac disease, lactose intolerance or crohns disease have shown to reduce absorption of vitamins in the gut.
Obesity. 42% of the US population is now obese. Obesity significantly impairs your body’s ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight.
How To Increase Vitamin D Levels
How can you increase your vitamin D level? While sunlight is the very best source of vitamin D, you may also want to consider changing up your diet or simply taking a vitamin D supplement.
Years ago, vitamin D deficiency wasn’t as much of a problem. We spent more time outdoors working, playing, doing errands or commuting to and from work. Today it’s a different situation. Countless hours are spent in front of the TV, playing video games, working out inside gyms, sitting in offices and driving around in cars.
No wonder we don’t get enough vitamin D!
Recommendation: Aim to spend 10-20 min of unexposed time in the sun each day.
What’s the first thing you do when you plan to spend time in the sun? Lather on the sunscreen. With the risk of skin cancer rising doctors strongly recommend the use of sunscreen.
But here’s the thing, using sunblock with as little as SPF 8 reduces your body’s ability to make vitamin D by 90%. And if you’re like most people you’re more likely to choose SPF 30, which reduces your body’s ability to produce vitamin D by 99%.
While you may be spending time outdoors, your sunscreen is preventing you from seeing any benefits from this wonderful sunshine vitamin.
Recommendation: Before applying sunscreen spend 10-20 min in the sun to give your body a chance to produce vitamin D.
Vitamin D Foods
Eating foods rich in vitamin D and calcium will also help you acquire more. Try adding more high-quality sources of fish, eggs, raw milk and red meat your diet. Maitake and portobello mushrooms are also great sources of vitamin D.
Keep in mind vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin meaning that it ideally needs to be consumed with fat for optimal absorption. We recommend combining it with a healthy fat source like coconut oil, ghee, olive oil, nuts, seeds or fish.
Mushrooms are fascinating and when it comes to vitamin D benefits they truly stand out. They are one of the only plant sources of vitamin D and surprisingly they act similarly to human skin – absorbing vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.
The rare and often hard-to-find mushroom maitake contains the highest levels of vitamin D. But other mushrooms such as the portobello also contain good amounts along with other amazing health benefits. The easiest way to consume functional mushrooms like maitake is in supplement form and can be found at your local health food store.
Take a Supplement – Vitamin D Dosage
The easiest way to combat vitamin D deficiency is by taking a vitamin D supplement.
The recommended daily vitamin D allowance is 600 IU per day for adults. However, to prevent getting sick and to boost immunity taking a vitamin D dosage of 5000 IU per day may be more effective. Keep in mind this is a general recommendation and without a blood test there is no way of knowing the exact amount that’s best for you.
Best Vitamin D Supplement
Like all supplement’s quality matters. When shopping for a vitamin D supplement look for a fermented, food-based source of vitamin D3 paired with fermented botanicals and probiotics. Products that meet those guidelines will be most effective and provide greater benefits.
I prefer products fermented with healthy bacteria such as L.bulgaricus.
To make it easy, here is my recommendation for the best vitamin D supplement.
Viva Naturals Vitamin D is a high potency, easy to swallow soft-gel that is made with organic coconut oil. Since vitamin D is a fat soluble nutrient it needs to be taken with a fat source -like coconut oil – to ensure optimal absorption. It’s made in the US and is certified non-GMO, gluten free, soy free, no preservatives and no artificial ingredients. If you’re looking for this best vitamin D supplement we’ve done all the heavy lifting. Give Viva Naturals vitamin D a try!
Vitamin D Side Effects
Luckily vitamin D deficiency is a much bigger problem than consuming too much. In fact, vitamin D toxicity is believed to be rare.
With that said, the most common side effects of taking too much vitamin D are skin rashes or hives. The most serious side effect is hypercalcaemia (raised calcium level) but this is very rare and is only possible when taking excessive amounts for a long period of time.
As always, we recommend consulting your doctor if you have any medical concerns, conditions or take any other medications.
Who Should Not Take Vitamin D Supplements?
Like any vitamins or supplements consult with your physician before taking something new. Do not take vitamin D supplements if you have hypercalcaemia, severe kidney disease, kidney stones, heart disease, sarcoidosis, or if you’re allergic to vitamin D.
The issue of vitamin D deficiency and COVID-19 has been recently discussed in the New York Times. They suggested that anyone who cannot consume enough vitamin D in their diet should consider taking a vitamin D supplement to boost immunity and help prevent the contraction of the virus.
It’s something we can easily do, not harmful and likely beneficial for ourselves and loved ones. Furthermore, to get through this pandemic safe and healthy, don’t miss How To Boost Immune System | 12 Ways To Fight Corona Virus