Vitamin D deficiency is shockingly common in the United States, with experts reporting that up to 50 percent of the population may be low in this important hormone (commonly referred to as a vitamin). Unfortunately, the consequences of vitamin D shortfalls can be grave, with deficiencies associated with increased susceptibility to life-threatening conditions such as pneumonia, sepsis and cancer.
For example, research has shown that low levels of vitamin D are strongly linked with yet another potentially deadly condition: ARDS, or acute respiratory distress syndrome.
As COVID-19 continues to rage across the nation, doctors have identified ARDS as a potentially deadly complication of the virus. But, it’s important to remember that most COVID-19 patients will make a full recovery. The key to all of this … is the health of the immune system.
Vitamin D deficiency linked to all acute respiratory distress syndrome patients, research reveals
The research, published in the peer-reviewed journal Critical Care, involved three different aspects of study: human participants in clinical settings, animal studies and laboratory studies using lung epithelial cells.
Animal research attested to the damaging effects of vitamin D deficiency, with the researchers finding that dietary-induced vitamin D deficiency caused lung inflammation and damage to alveolar epithelial cells. Also known as squamous epithelial cells, AE cells make up the alveolar wall, which is composed of tiny sacs in the lungs through which dissolved gasses pass during respiration.
In the clinical study, the scientists found that vitamin D deficiency (blood levels under 50 nmol/L) was “ubiquitous” in patients with ARDS. In other words, 100 percent of the patients suffering from this serious respiratory condition were deficient in vitamin D!
Keep in mind, 50 nmol/L can also be expressed as 20 ng/mL – the level recognized by most doctors as the threshold for vitamin D deficiency. In addition, 96 percent of patients at risk for developing ARDS after a procedure known as esophagectomy were deficient as well.
The team also found that patients with very low vitamin D levels (8 ng/mL) were a stunning 3.5 times more likely to develop ARDS than those with levels over 8. But, there was encouraging news, as well.
The team found that correcting vitamin D levels prior to esophagectomy reduced the lung damage commonly seen in patients with low vitamin D levels. The scientists also cited an Austrian study showing that correcting vitamin D deficiencies in ARDS patients led to better survival rates.
Obviously, vitamin D can play an important, even lifesaving, role in the treatment of ARDS. But how, exactly, does the “sunshine vitamin” provide relief?
Vitamin D helps to quench dangerous lung inflammation
ARDS is characterized by an explosive acute inflammatory response in the lungs. But, by modulating cytokine responses, vitamin D works to reduce both local and body-wide inflammation.
In addition, vitamin D appears to have protective effects on human alveolar epithelial cells – and has the ability to stimulate wound repair and cellular proliferation while reducing cell death. Finally, vitamin D has proven immune system-boosting effects.
The researchers concluded that vitamin D levels should be corrected in patients at risk for ARDS – and noted that the micronutrient could even have a role in treatment.
Health WARNING: Vitamin D deficiency linked to pneumonia and cancer
As integrative healthcare providers have long maintained, vitamin D deficiency can raise risk of bacterial and viral infections. In addition, it is associated with poor outcomes in critically ill patients – and has been shown to increase the risk of mortality in patients with pneumonia.
And, there is evidence that vitamin D shortfalls increase the risk of developing pneumonia in the first place.
A new University of Eastern Finland study conducted on aging volunteers revealed that subjects with the lowest vitamin D levels had 2.5 times the risk of pneumonia, when compared with those with the highest levels. In addition, peer-reviewed research shows that women who are deficient in vitamin D have a greater risk of developing breast cancer.
The good news: optimal levels can reduce risk. In fact, vitamin D levels of 55 ng/ml and above can cause the risk of all cancers to plunge by an impressive 35 percent!
In light of these peer-reviewed studies, the evidence for the ability of optimal vitamin D levels to protect against serious diseases certainly appears to be a “slam dunk.”
How can I boost my levels of vitamin D?
Obviously, having optimal levels of vitamin D can pay huge health dividends. But what constitutes optimal levels?
Most conventionally trained doctors view any vitamin D concentration over 20 ng/mL as “adequate.” But integrative physicians maintain that levels of 50 ng/mL and even higher are needed to protect against disease.
And recent research supports that belief.
In an important study conducted at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, results suggest that the minimum vitamin D blood level for protective health benefits is 60 ng/mL. Incidentally, this is exactly three times the amount of 20 ng/mL recommended in 2010 by the National Academy of Medicine!
Because vitamin D is produced in the skin in response to sunshine, the best way to ramp up levels is through exposure to direct sunlight – with natural health experts recommending 20 minutes of exposure two or three times a week. To avoid a painful sunburn, of course, caution and common sense should prevail. You may need to start out with shorter exposures at first.
You can increase your dietary levels with vitamin D-rich foods such as free-range eggs, wild-caught cold-water fish and organic soy and mushrooms.
However, supplementation may be needed in order to maintain optimal disease-preventing levels.
Confusingly, recommendations tend to vary.
For example, the Vitamin D Council advises 5,000 IU a day, while some integrative doctors recommend dosages in the area of 8,000 IU a day. Meanwhile, the Institute of Medicine lists 4,000 IU a day as the tolerable upper level of intake.
One area on which everyone seems to agree is that vitamin D3 – or cholecalciferol – is preferable to vitamin D2, also known as ergocalciferol. The truth is: individual vitamin D needs vary according to body mass, age, health status – and even the latitude in which you live.
Bottom line: always check with your integrative doctor before supplementing.
Given the protective and therapeutic aspects of vitamin D, it only makes sense to safeguard your health by maintaining healthy levels – especially during these challenging times.
» Source » By Lori Alton