The Vitamin D Connection
As fall approaches, there are a number of suggestions that I begin to make to patients, friends and family alike to help them minimize individual susceptibility or increase their resilience during the onslaught of cold and flu season.
Among the many proposed instructions I give them, is a list of nutrients that includes increasing Vitamin D into their diet regimen either through foods or supplementation.
Unless you have been living under a rock or lost on a deserted island, cold and flu season has kind of taken a back seat to the modern day pandemic we are all navigating. The culprit of this pandemic is called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome 2 (SARS 2) - Novel Coronavirus 19, or more commonly, Covid-19. It has the propensity to affect the respiratory tract and lungs in addition to a whole slew of other organ systems of the body.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I immediately made recommendations to concerned patients to begin a regime of Vitamin C, Zinc and of course Vitamin D. Just like the majority of medical experts at the time, my knowledge of this virus was extremely limited. Therefore, my recommendations were based on building individual resilience until more information could be learned.
As time passed, I discovered that many other functional medicine and alternative health care practitioners were also suggesting the same triad of nutrients. Additionally, as more has been learned, medical practitioners have begun to experiment outside the scope of traditional avenues and discover that the element zinc was proven to be effective in combination with various drugs.
A few weeks back, I was presented with an article titled, “A Supercomputer Analyzed Covid-19—and An Interesting New Theory has Emerged.”
According to the article, the virus enters the body via the nose and immediately searches out receptors (similar to locks on a door awaiting the right key). The specific receptors are known as ACE2 receptors or locks. At this point, by fooling the receptors into thinking it is the right key, the virus gains access to the inside of the cells workings which is essential to the virus for replication or reproduction.
The article states it this way:
“But once Covid-19 has established itself in the body, things start getting really interesting. According to Jacobson’s group (primary researcher & chief scientist for computational systems biology), the data Summit analyzed shows that CoVid-19 isn’t content to simply infect cells that already express lots of ACE2 receptors. Instead, it actively hijacks the body’s own systems, tricking it into upregulating ACE2 receptors in places where they’re usually expressed at low or medium levels, including the lungs.”
The importance of this is that ACE2 helps keep in check a specific cytokine, bradykinin. When there is less ACE2, it allows for bradykinin to roam unhindered and accumulating, and that is what is referred to as a cytokine storm, or run away inflammation. The article goes on to state, “As bradykinin builds up in the body, it dramatically increases vascular permeability. In short, it makes your blood vessels leaky. This aligns with recent clinical data, which increasingly view Covid-19 primarily as a vascular disease, rather than a respiratory one. But, Covid-19 still has a massive effect on the lungs. As blood vessels start to leak due to a bradykinin storm, researchers say, the lungs can fill with fluid. Immune cells also leak out into the lung, Jacobson’s team found, causing inflammation.”
This explains why individuals with other chronic health conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity are so much more susceptible to this new virus. All of these chronic lifestyle conditions are well known for their pro-inflammatory nature, and why they are so closely linked together. They are all associated with inflammation of the blood vessels.
This brings us back to why I started speaking out about Vitamin D.
The generation in which I grew up in, Vitamin D was primarily associated with strong bones and teeth. Research in the past two decades has discovered Vitamin D is vastly more important. It is valuable in certain hormonal imbalances, immune system pathways, metabolic pathways, and even the health of our digestive systems.
The reason I began to strongly recommended it for improving resilience during cold and flu season was due to two separate studies reporting a significant implication involved between Vitamin D and the respiratory tract, including and especially the lungs. And, the good news is that both sides of medicine agree that adequate Vitamin D levels can help enormously with resilience to Covid-19.
“Interestingly, Jacobson’s team also suggests Vitamin D as a potentially useful CoVid-19 drug (nutrient, not a drug). The vitamin is involved in the RAS (rennin angiotensin system) system and could prove helpful by reducing levels of another compound known as REN. Again, this could stop potentially deadly bradykinin storms (runaway inflammation) from forming. The researchers note that Vitamin D has already been shown to help those with Covid-19. The vitamin is readily available over the counter (does not require prescription dosage) and around 20% of the population is deficient (research has demonstrated it is closer to 70-80%, 20% are severely deficient). If indeed the vitamin proves effective at reducing the severity of the bradykinin storms, it could be an easy, relatively safe way to reduce the severity of the virus.”
In my functional medicine work with patients, it is not unusual to find their Vitamin D levels below ideal range. Those who are dealing with challenging health issues are more likely the ones with the lowest numbers.
We are now at the time of year, when I begin urging others to get their nutritional statuses checked, particularly Vitamin D levels.
Besides increasing your Vitamin D, my other suggestions for optimal resilience during cold and flu season are:
1. Minimize junk foods, high calories and high carbohydrate foods and excessive alcohol consumption. Instead, choose healthy proteins and fats, and 3-4 helpings of vegetables per day.
2. Stay hydrated. Water is nature’s elixir. Coffee, tea, sodas and alcohol tend to be dehydrating. Plus, most of us don’t drink enough water daily.
3. Get plenty of rest. There is a reason nature takes breaks during the winter months. We should too!
4. Get plenty of fresh air.
5. Get at least 7-9 hours of sleep. This is the time our bodies use to rest, recover and rebuild.
6. Key nutrients to supplement ourselves are Vitamin C, Vitamin D and small levels of zinc. Additionally, zinc has been found to be extremely helpful in building resilience against Covid-19, as well as significantly aiding recovery for those who have contracted it.
You may have noticed that I purposely emphasized the word resilience throughout this newsletter. It is because, if there is possibly one single thing that this pandemic has brought to light it is our general lack of resilience in health, body and mind. Good nutritional health is just one small part of good resilience. Now, there is better than good evidence of the things we can do for our personal resilience. And when we are each resilient, our communities will be more resilient. In turn, that makes the nation and world a better and easier place to live.
Be healthy. Be positive. Be resilient.
Yours in health,
Dr. Curtis Baird
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