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Vitamin D, Human Immunity and Chest Infections

Updated on July 22, 2020
harrynielsen profile image

Science has always fascinated me. This includes not only the ecological sciences, which I studied in school, but other endeavors, as well.

Sources of Vitamin D

Fish, especially fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel and salmon are excellent sources of Vitamin D
Fish, especially fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel and salmon are excellent sources of Vitamin D | Source

Overview

The year 2020 is well on course to being defined by the Coronavirus outbreak that has gone global and has officially been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. As I write this, there have been over 350,000 cases diagnosed worldwide and 16,000 known deaths. In some countries, the spread of infection has reached exponential rates, so it is unknown how long this epidemic will last and how many people will be infected.

What is know is that among those diagnosed with the virus, approximately 80% show minimal or no symptoms at all. Of the remaining 20%, five per cent become critically ill and approximately 1% succumb to the disease. This article is written in regards to one key ingredient in keeping the human immune system healthy, so it can fight off COVID-19 and other diseases (including bacterial infections) that affect the respiratory tract

Sunlight and Vitamin D

The body produces Vitamin D from sunlight through a series of biochemical reactions
The body produces Vitamin D from sunlight through a series of biochemical reactions

Vitamin D and the Immune System

It has been known for many years that Vitamin D is important in maintaining the body's immune system. Just how this this work is quite complex and involves a basic understanding of microbiology. To put this in basic terms, when Vitamin D is synthesized by the body it enters the bloodstream and then bonds with white blood cells to strengthen the immune system.

Furthermore, it has been scientifically proved that Vitamin D deficiencies in the human body can lead to an increased rate of disease and cancer. Too much Vitamin D can be a problem, but fortunately, this condition is less common and less destructive.


The Cod Fish

Cod liver oil is a foul tasting by-product of the cod fish that contains a very high concentration of Vitamin D.
Cod liver oil is a foul tasting by-product of the cod fish that contains a very high concentration of Vitamin D. | Source

Vitamin D in the Diet

There are two ways Vitamin D becomes part of the body. One is digestion and the other is through exposure to sunlight. Since the absorption of Vitamin D through the digestive tract is straightforward, I will cover this first.

IIt is quite simple. If you consume certain foods, your body acquires Vitamin D. Foods highest in Vitamin D, include fatty fishes, shrimp, oysters, beef liver, egg yolks, mushrooms, yogurt, oatmeal, milk and ricotta cheese. Several other foods like orange juice, milk, cereal and soy milk are fortified with vitamin D. On a similar note vitamin D is also available through multi-vitamin tablets or vitamin D supplements.

Sunlight and Vitamin D

Sunbathers in Brighton Beach, UK enjoy the benefits of lying in the sun
Sunbathers in Brighton Beach, UK enjoy the benefits of lying in the sun | Source

Sunlight and Vitamin D

Another important source of vitamin D is sunlight, but the process is more complex, as sun rays do not actually contain protein strands of vitamin D. What happens here, is that sun exposure on the skin stimulates the human body to produce the vitamin. Obviously, this process will be more productive during the summer months, so it has been quite common for health professionals to recommend vitamin D supplements during the winter months, especially for people, who live in northern latitudes.

To further complicate matters, this process is more prevalent in light-skinned people than those with darker complexions. In either case, vitamin D supplements can help the immune system, especially in winter at high latitudes. Dr. John Campbell, an English medical educator, gives a more detailed explanation in his excellent video, Vitamin D and Immunity. This slightly-technical, short talk is included below.

Vitamin D and Immunity

What Dr. John Recommends

First of all, John Campbell is retired practicing nurse and nursing educator with a PHD in bioscience from the University of Bolton in Great Britain. His YouTube videos documenting the acceleration of the Coronavirus outbreak are widely viewed worldwide. In his video, Vitamin D and Immunity, he recommends taking daily doses of Vitamin D during the winter months to boost one's immune system.

The Science Behind the Recommendation

Vitamin D supplements are recommended by some members of the medical profession to enhance the body;s immune system and add some protection against respiratory disease. Following is a step by step explanation of the survey and how they arrived at their conclusions.

1. The survey sampled 10,933 patients in a series of different surveys to obtain their results. Both the large number of participants and the varying ways in which they were surveyed (called meta-analysis) speaks very well for this research.

2. Used two basic groups. One was given Vitamin D supplements, while a second group received a placebo, which contained no Vitamin D. It was found that the group taking the Vitamin D had significantly less chest infections and when they came down with an infection of the lungs, it was less severe..The percentage of those experiencing fewer infections was calculated at 12% overall. Keep in mind that those receiving Vitamin D were further broken down into three groups. One group had a daily dose, another group received a weekly dose and a third just took a large dose at several different times, weeks apart. Most important, the group with the daily dose received 20% less chest infections.

3. Finally, there is a third finding that involves persons with existing Vitamin D deficiency. These people were divided into two groups, one that received Vitamin D and one that did not. The results here are even more stunning. The group receiving the Vitamin D treatment had 70% less infections than the group not taking any of the vitamin. (P.S. Vitamin D deficiency can be detected through standard blood tests)

4.. It should be pointed out the daily dose was 25 micrograms and that they were no adverse effects from the daily dose.

The Science Behind Sunbathing

The production of Vitamin D to strengthen the immune system is one benefit of sunbathing, especially among lighter skinned people.
The production of Vitamin D to strengthen the immune system is one benefit of sunbathing, especially among lighter skinned people. | Source

Vitamin D and Race

" the darker the colored skin, the more slowly you will produce vitamin D. Now one of the reasons that I am convinced that this is important...is that the only adaptive biological reason for being white .... is that white skin produces Vitamin D more quickly....because when we migrated up to Northern latitudes, we evolved white skin. ...So the original humans would've had dark colored skin from Africa to protect from the sun. But then as we migrated north, we needed to produce more Vitamin D, more quickly, in the faint sunlight, so that's why our skins went white. I don't know of any other biological advantage for being white."

First of all, Dr. John Campbell is a light-skinned Englishman, who has a long outstanding professional career of nursing patients in all areas of the world and then later on in life, he earned a P.H.D. in bioscience and became an educator for nursing students. His videos have been viewed worldwide and even featured briefly on Fox TV, NewsMax and London Real during the Coronavirus epidemic.

Even if his theories on the natural evolution of light-skinned people are over simplistic or perhaps off, his recommendations on the value of Vitamin D supplements seem spot on and are gaining traction around the world. What really is needed here, is an increase in blood tests for Vitamin D deficiency and then a plan to distribute daily oral doses of the D vitamin to bring the vitamin level up to a healthy level. Even though just a preventive measure, this could still reduce the number of people getting infected with the COVID virus.


The Beauty of Mathematics

Numbers have a language of their own.
Numbers have a language of their own.

The Numbers

In a recent interview with American TV (Newsmax), Dr. John Campbell stated that 40% of white Americans, 70% of Latin Americans and 80% of African-Americans suffer from Vitamin D deficiency. Not only does this possibly explain higher, COVID-19 infection rates among the latter two groups, but the situation also affords an opportunity for the health community to test patients for this deficiency and then apply a simple solution to the problem.

Sources

https://www.runnersworld.com/health-injuries/a20861352/how-much-vitamin-d-boosts-your-immune-system/

https://www.pharmacytimes.com/news/vitamin-d-helps-the-immune-system-during-cold-and-flu-season

https://www.hxbenefit.com/foods-high-in-vitamin-d.html

https://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.i6583


Author's Note

In no way should the taking of Vitamin D supplements be considered a cure for a chest infection, including COVID-19. It is merely an oral activity that may reduce your chance of coming down with a chest infection.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2020 Harry Nielsen

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