Boost Your Immune System with Vitamin D

Feb 5, 2020

Introduction

It is like a blink of an eye that we had passed the year of 2020, whereby most of the time we were spending our time by staying at home due to covid-19. Today, covid-19 is no stranger to us anymore. Early this year, with the rises of positive covid-19 cases and new clusters, Malaysia has been put in the Movement Control Order (MCO) phase again. Since the vaccine is yet to be confirmed, other than practicing the Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) provided by the National Security Council and Ministry of Health, the best way to break the chain and protect ourselves against the contagious virus is by strengthening our immune system. Many had known that vitamin C is beneficial for our immune system. In this article, we are going to acknowledge on the other vitamin which is also needed to regulate our immune system – vitamin D.

Vitamin D – What Your Immune System Need?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient which is essential for multiple functions in our body. For instance, it has been long known that vitamin D is important for calcium absorption – to maintain bone and teeth health. However, vitamin D also plays a crucial role in activating our immune cells to fight against the invading bacteria and viruses1. Particularly, without sufficient amount of vitamin D, T-cells (the killer and helper cells of immune system) will not be able to get activated and react against the bacterial and viral infection.

Low Vitamin D and Respiratory Tract Infection

Below graph shown the linkage between low levels of vitamin D with the risk of respiratory tract infection. This study involves 19,000 participants which reported that active vitamin D (Serum 25(OH)D) level in the body is inversely associated with recent upper respiratory tract infection (URTI). As referring to the graph, the percentage of participants reported with a recent URTI incident is greater in those with lower active vitamin D level (24%) as compared to those with higher active vitamin D level (17%). This association may be even stronger in those with respiratory tract diseases2.

Graph 1: Level of vitamin D vs the incidence of URTI

Vitamin D – How It Works with Immune System in Preventing Virus Infection?
 

Once when T cells (specialized immune cells) are exposed to the traces of foreign pathogens (such as clumps of bacteria or viruses), they will be triggered into an action. Then, the ‘triggered’ T cells will extend a signaling device or ‘antenna’ known as a vitamin D receptor to search for vitamin D. With enough vitamin D, T cells will be activated and transformed into either killer or helper cells. While killer cells attack and destroy foreign pathogens, helper cells assist to acquire “memory” about the pathogens, so that the immune system can recognize and remember them on their next threats. However, insufficient amount of vitamin D will stop the activation of T cells and all these immune responses will not take place3.

Vitamin D – How Much You Need and How to Get?
 

The Recommended Nutrient Intakes (RNI) for vitamin D is depending on our age. Based on below table, the RNI are ranging from 600 IU (for adolescent age 10 – 18 years and adults age 19 – 65 years) to 800 IU (for elderly age more than 65 years) 4. However, with the emerging research which reveal the roles of vitamin D against several diseases and health conditions (including influenza), most healthcare providers suggest to take at least 1000 IU of vitamin D per day5,6.

Age Male Female Pregnancy Lactation
0-12 months  400 IU
(10µg)
 400 IU
(10µg)
   
1-9 years 600 IU
(15µg)
600 IU
(15µg)
   
10-18 years 600 IU
(15µg)
600 IU
(15µg)
600 IU
(15µg)
600 IU
(15µg)
19-50 years 600 IU
(15µg)
600 IU
(15µg)
600 IU
(15µg)
600 IU
(15µg)
51-65 years  600 IU
(15µg)
600 IU
(15µg)
   
>65 years  800 IU
(20µg)
800 IU
(20µg)
   

Table 1: RNI for Vitamin D

Vitamin D can be obtained from sun exposure, food, and supplement

To get it from the sun exposure, factors such as time, duration, cloud coverage, environmental pollution, skin tone, and sunscreen usage can affect how our body synthesize the vitamin D4. However, during this MCO period, we are spending most of our time at home, away from the crowd, which in turn keeping ourselves away from the natural sunlight. Hence, our body has less chances to synthesize the vitamin D.

To get it from food, it is quite challenging to meet the daily demand as we need to eat a huge portion of food to achieve the RNI. For instance, 1 one glass of cow’s milk contains about 100 IU of vitamin D7.

Therefore, the most convenient way to fulfill the RNI of vitamin D is through supplementation. One tablet of vitamin D can provide 1000 IU, which is equivalent to vitamin D content present in 10 glasses of milk.

Conclusion
 

Day by day, with the continuous number of cases and clusters of covid-19, it is likely that soon we might need to live with the virus like how we live with other respiratory viruses such as rhinovirus and influenza virus which respectively lead to common cold and flu. Therefore, always protect ourselves and our beloved family members especially the vulnerable ones (young children, elderly, poor immunity) from this communicable disease by any means, including by boosting up the immune system with vitamin D!

Find out more : http://Biolife.2.vu/vitad3

References
  1. National Institutes of Health, 2019. Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Consumer. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-Consumer/
  2. Ginde AA, Mansbach JM, Camargo CA. Association Between Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Level and Upper Respiratory Tract Infection in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(4):384–390.
  3. University of Copenhagen. (2010, March 8). Vitamin D crucial to activating immune defenses. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 2, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100307215534.htm
  4. National Institutes of Health, 2019. Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
  5. Nair, R., & Maseeh, A., 2012. Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin. Journal of pharmacology & pharmacotherapeutics, 3(2), 118–126
  6. Takács, I., et. al., 2017. Randomized clinical trial to comparing efficacy of daily, weekly and monthly administration of vitamin D3. Endocrine, 55(1):60-65.
  7. Recommended Nutrient Intakes Malaysia 2017
  8. World Health Organization. Q&A on coronaviruses. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses