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Bridge to Health Blog
Bridge to Health Blog

Vitamin D and the Immune System

Written by Sian Smith   Posted in:Nutrition   July 2, 2020

Vitamin D and the Immune System
As osteopaths, we would naturally encourage you to maintain good levels of vitamin D for its known effects on calcium absorption and bone health. Vitamin D makes the skeletal system stronger, reducing the likelihood of osteoporosis or fracture when ageing or after menopause, as well as encouraging good posture through optimal bone integrity. It also plays a vital but less well known role in boosting the immune system. This is through its ability to prepare immune system cells to fight infection.

In recent times, we are hearing regular reports of a possible link with low levels of vitamin D and a susceptibility to upper respiratory tracts. This feels particularly relevant considering the recent high levels of mortality from Covid-19 the UK has suffered.

We obtain the majority of our Vitamin D after exposure to UVB rays – hence its moniker, the sunshine vitamin – and the rest through diet (such as seafood) and supplementation.

It seems that countries with high levels of sunshine and seafood diets have been less affected. India has a very low death rate, alongside Australia and New Zealand who were at the end of their summer season therefore with probable high vitamin D levels. There are some Northern Hemisphere countries that have also fared well, such as Norway and Iceland. Whilst the same cannot be said for their recent sunshine levels, the typical diets of these countries are rich in seafood which is a great source of vitamin D.

A consideration of vitamin D levels may also pave some way to explaining the disparate effects of Covid-19 on black and ethnic minorities compared with the white population. Those with darker skin have higher levels of melanin which absorbs UVB radiation, making it more difficult to synthesise Vitamin D as rapidly. This recent evidence has prompted various scientific groups including NICE to encourage immediate further research to establish potential links. It may transpire that this link has been purely circumstantial. But, while the jury is out, it is worthwhile topping up on your daily sunshine (15 minutes with face and arms exposed is considered enough if you are white, up to a couple of hours daily if you skin is very dark), eating plenty of oily fish and eggs or taking daily supplements.

At the very least your immune system and skeleton will benefit, and you may well reduce the symptom severity of any future respiratory infections you come into contact with.

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