While your immune system relies on adequate levels of nutrients to keep it functioning at its best, advice on taking vitamin D and C as a preventative treatment for COVID-19 has been remarkably absent from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during the pandemic. Why? Functional Medicine Registered Dietitian, Brigid Titgemeier breaks it all down with us below…
Vitamin D Deficiency & COVID-19
The CDC treatment guidelines state: “there are insufficient data to recommend either for or against the use of vitamin D for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.”
However, vitamin D gained traction recently after Dr. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told Jennifer Garner in an Instagram Live that he personally supplements with both vitamin D and vitamin C.
So what does that mean for you and your family during the pandemic and as we approach flu season?
While the CDC cannot state that vitamin D can treat COVID-19, there is strong research to show that adequate levels of vitamin D are important for improving how the immune system works to fight off infections such as acute respiratory infections.
In the last six months there has been additional research published to examine the link between vitamin D and COVID-19. In August 2020, there was a randomized clinical trial published that also explored this link. They had two groups: one group that was admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 and given vitamin D and the other group that was admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 and was not given vitamin D. The study demonstrated that those who were given vitamin D had a significantly lower risk of needing ICU treatment and a lower risk of mortality from COVID-19.
Take Your Health into Your Own Hands By Getting Tested
Most Americans are vitamin D deficient and low levels of vitamin D have been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and hypertension, diabetes, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, fractures and certain cancers. Symptoms of deficiency may include fatigue, muscle weakness and depression, but physical signs of deficiency are rare. While most people are walking around deficient in vitamin D without even knowing it, low levels will lead to health effects that are more significant. This is why getting your vitamin D levels checked routinely by your doctor is so important!
Based on data collected from a national nutrition survey, the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency is about 41.6%, with the highest rates seen in Black (82.1%) and Hispanic (69.2%) populations. The higher the melanin count in your skin, the lower a person’s vitamin D absorption, which is why it’s especially important to have your levels checked if you have darker skin. Other groups of people that would have a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency include:
- Those that do not get outside for a minimum of 15 minutes per day without sunscreen. This does not mean to avoid using sunscreen but since sunscreen can block vitamin D absorption, try to set aside 15 minutes that you consider not wearing it.
- Anyone that carries excess weight, which can decrease absorption.
- People on medications that have been shown to lower vitamin D concentrations such as laxatives, steroids, anticonvulsants, HIV medication and more. Those with a medical condition such as celiac disease or Crohn’s Disease that can lead to poor fat absorption, which impacts vitamin D because it is a fat-soluble nutrient.
- Those who live in cities that are not close to the equator since it lowers exposure to UV-B, which will lower your skin’s ability to make vitamin D.
- Older adults who need more vitamin D because they experience a 75% reduction in skin production of vitamin D by age 70.
From a public health standpoint, there is a real concern for many people that are on Medicare since a vitamin D test does not qualify for coverage in many instances. In some cases, you will likely need to advocate for yourself to get your vitamin D levels checked.
Ask your doctor to order a serum 25-hydroxy vitamin D test to ensure you are in a good place going into flu season. According to the CDC vitamin D guidelines, anything less than 30 is deficient, levels between 30-50 are generally considered inadequate, and anything greater than or equal to 50 is considered generally adequate. They state that anything greater than 125 is linked to adverse effects. Many guidelines will not recommend going above 80 ng/mL. A general range to aim for is 50-80 ng/mL. But always work with your doctor or registered dietitian to determine what is best for you.
Support Optimal Vitamin D Levels
The clients in my nutrition practice, @beingbrigid, will tell you my first line of defense is to try to get 15 minutes of natural sunlight exposure and increase vitamin D rich foods in your diet. These foods include: wild sockeye salmon, canned sardines, oysters, herring, mushrooms, egg yolk and some fortified milk products.
After evaluating lab results, I also explore adding a vitamin D supplementation. I recommend Metagenics D3 5,000 + K because it is a high quality, third party tested brand of vitamin D3. For some, 5,000 IUs will be too much vitamin D. For others that are on blood thinning medications, the vitamin K combination in this supplement may make this particular formulation not the first choice. This is why it’s always best to check with your doctor or registered dietitian for what is best for you.
The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programs.