Being a tropical country, we never really worried about Vitamin D deficiency. Our daily requirements were met generously via sun exposure and certain foods. Grandmas always emphasised on sun bathing the newborn everyday post bath. Kids were encouraged to play outside during holidays, men and women working in fields. As we adapted to the new world, which took us indoors, we simply forgot that we needed the sun!
Though we consumed better quality foods, the ancestral wisdom in eating habits was lost. And in a couple of decades we are facing Vitamin D deficiency of epidemic proportions.
Vitamin D Significance
Vitamin D is significant in maintaining hormonal balance, important for healthy heart and blood vessels, reducing cholesterol, maintaining blood pressure, regulating blood sugar levels, and helps elevate mood. While the studies are ambiguous about its role in cancer prevention and treatment, the results are unanimous about the part Vit D plays in elevating the quality of life.
Even though the role of vitamin D in maintaining bone and muscle health is well known, its role in immunity is less talked about. Vit D can modulate immune responses, its deficiency is associated with increased susceptibility to infections and uncontrolled inflammatory response to initial pathogenic stimuli.
As we all know by now, COVID 19 infections have 2 phases - initial infectious phase and a delayed inflammatory phase. It’s the delayed inflammatory response that leads to complications like pneumonia, severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (SARS-CoV-2), myocarditis, microvascular thrombosis and/or cytokine storms which has a direct association with increased morbidity and mortality.
Role of vitamin D in immunity
The white blood cells i.e. lymphocytes are of 2 types : B cells & T cells. Each of them have further subtypes. However, I will keep it simple here. A subtype of T cells and B cells are essential for eliminating the virus, while a subtype of T cell called T regulatory lymphocytes (Treg) are the principal defence against uncontrolled inflammation. Studies suggest that if Treg levels can be increased, it may benefit in reducing the severity of viral disease and perhaps of COVID-19.
Vitamin D is also involved in the regulation of thrombotic pathways, and vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increase in thrombotic episodes
While Vitamin D may not be very helpful in treating severe infections, in hospitalised individuals; evidence so far strongly suggests a positive outcome when used as a preventive medicine. Ensuring that blood levels are maintained within normal limits definitely boosts our immune systems, thus preventing serious illness.
It’s important to recognise that self medication with Vitamin D can lead to serious toxicity affecting bones and kidneys. Hence medical supervision is essential while taking daily supplements. Sunbathing has tremendous benefits, especially since skin regulates the production of Vitamin D, thus preventing overdose and toxicity.
Low dose daily intake provides maximum benefits, but let your doctor determine the doses and the duration of supplementation.
Let technology come to your aid. This is one health query that can be addressed via tele consultation seamlessly. There are many excellent portals available today. Eka care being one of them. Do not self medicate. Also do not take vitamin D deficiency lightly. Exercises, adequate sun exposure, right foods and supplementation if necessary are easy to follow habits that give exponential benefits.
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