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Vitamin D & Viral Respiratory Infections

Posted on by Evergreen Nutrition
Image Vitamin D & Viral Respiratory Infections

Research on the benefits of vitamin D is ongoing. The known and accepted mechanisms/roles of this vitamin are too numerous for this article to mention in depth, but recent research has focused on the vitamin's influence in immunity, and specifically in respiratory tract health. It has long been known that a deficiency of vitamin D is linked to respiratory infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and bronchiolitis. Pneumonia is a severe form of acute lower respiratory tract infection and is the leading cause of death in children worldwide. Acute respiratory tract infections (ARTIs), which are often caused by bacteria or viruses, are the source of roughly five million deaths around the globe each year.

Prevention of ARTIs

Recent research has shown that vitamin D supplementation can prevent acute respiratory tract infections. The results of one review found that vitamin D3 supplements did, in fact, lower the risk of developing ARTIs, with no serious side effects observed. The potential benefits were studied in people of all ages, and in both healthy individuals as well as those with respiratory conditions like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The greatest benefit was seen with daily or weekly supplementation, especially in people who had low vitamin D levels to begin with.

Viral Infections/Mechanisms

Vitamin D & Tight Junctions

In viral respiratory infections, specifically, new research has come to light showing mechanisms by which vitamin D influences respiratory tract health. One is through the vitamin's role in maintenance of tight junctions (restricting undesirable matter from passing through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream). Viruses disturb junction integrity and increase infection, including by other microorganisms. Another influence vitamin D has on viral infections is that of its enhancement of cellular immunity, and in particular its effect on the cytokine storm which occurs in response to viral and bacterial infections. 

Cytokine Storm Damage

Vitamin D & Cytokine Storm

The "cytokine storm" phenomenon refers to the exaggerated, uncontrolled release of pro-inflammatory cytokines as the end stage progression of an initially healthy immune response. Cytokines signal immune cells such as macrophages to travel to infection sites when the immune system is fighting a pathogen. More production of cells is activated by this signaling and this loop is normally managed efficiently. In some cases the process becomes unregulated, and too many immune cells are activated in a single location. These cytokine storms have the potential to cause damage to various organs and tissues. For example, in a respiratory situation, the storm may cause macrophages and fluids to accumulate in the lungs, eventually obstructing airways. Vitamin D has been shown to support/modulate the healthy expression (balance) of pro-inflammatory cytokines and anti-inflammatory cytokines. This suppression of cytokine release may improve disease conditions where these storms play a major role in mortality.

Other Factors/Benefits

It has also been found that most viral respiratory outbreaks occur in winter, when vitamin D concentrations are lowest. Along with this, cases in the Southern Hemisphere near the end of the summer are low.  Serum vitamin D concentrations tend to decrease with age. It may be prudent to raise concentrations in the elderly and especially in cases of needed additional immune support. One more benefit of vitamin D is that it enhances the expression of genes related to antioxidant status. Of particular interest is its effect on glutathione synthesis. The "master antioxidant" in the body, increased glutathione levels will have the effect of sparing ascorbate (vitamin C) use, thereby leaving more for that vitamin to exert its formidable germ-busting powers. 

All in all, it seems that vitamin D supplementation is strongly recommended in cases of viral respiratory infections. It should be stated also that the mineral magnesium helps to activate and metabolize vitamin D. Interestingly, deficiencies of both these nutrients are very common.

Evergreen Brand Vitamin D

Evergreen Nutrition carries a wide range of vitamin D supplements, with dosages and forms available for every customer's taste. The same holds true for magnesium. Evergreen Nutrition offers optimum options for healthy living.

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