Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble nutrient that has powerful immune support benefits. It is consistently associated with better recovery from chronic disease and acute illness.
Recent studies show that patients with healthy vitamin D levels have better outcomes and recover more quickly from the coronavirus than those with lower levels.
How Vitamin D Provides Supports For Your Immune System
Vitamin D raises immune cells that attack invading pathogens and helps moderate inflammation to avoid damage to cells and tissue (1). This is noteworthy because one of the complications that can arise from COVID-19 is a cytokine storm in which the body’s immune system goes overboard, attacking respiratory tissue and causing lasting damage.
A newly published study found that patients hospitalized with COVID-19 with sufficient vitamin D levels had a decreased risk of adverse outcomes and death (2). A second study from Spain found that people who were hospitalized with COVID-19 were much more likely to be deficient in vitamin D than those who did not need to be hospitalized (3).
Vitamin D Works With "Helper" Nutrients For Immune Support
Vitamin D works together with other nutrients for optimal health. Along with vitamin D, three other fat-soluble nutrients, vitamins A, E, and K, play an important role in “immune-nutrition.” According to a recent review on vitamins that may help fight COVID-19, researchers highlight the following benefits of these three fat-soluble nutrients (4):
Vitamin A acts as an antioxidant and helps maintain your body’s physical barriers against pathogens. It also improves immune cells and is important for several diseases that affect the lungs, including HIV and tuberculosis.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that improves activity of various immune cells, including natural killer cells and B and T cells. Studies show vitamin E confers improved resistance to infection in people with poor health: Nursing home patients who took 200 IUs a day of vitamin E for a year had fewer cases of upper respiratory infection (5).
Vitamin K has anti-inflammatory action that suppresses immune-damaging cells. It is especially important in reducing the onset of cardiovascular and age-related diseases (6).
Am I At Risk of A Deficiency?
Deficiencies in vitamin D are widespread due to lack of sun exposure, regular sunscreen use, obesity, pharmaceutical drug use, and chronic illness. Additionally, dietary vitamin D is rarely adequate to achieve a healthy level. Vitamins A, E, and K are also lacking in the average diet.
Insufficiency in these nutrients can result from a lack of intake of animal products and is more common in those with gastrointestinal disorders, chronic illness, or following a round of antibiotics. Deficiencies in fat-soluble vitamins are also common in people with low sex hormones (low testosterone or estrogen), chronic inflammation, high cortisol and stress, and diabetes (7).
How To Take Immune Support Nutrients
If you are healthy, regularly eat a variety of high-quality animal products, and get sun exposure (for vitamin D), you may not need to supplement. For everyone else, a blended A, D, E, and K supplement can support absorption of these vitamins to aid the immune system. Individuals who are deficient in vitamin D and need to bring their levels up require higher intake than those who are supplementing as a maintenance dose. In this situation, doses of 5,000 or 10,000 IUs of vitamin D are often recommended.