Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and is stored in the body in the fat cells. When I was at school (a long time ago!), we were simply taught that excesses of Vitamin D were toxic as they would build up in the fat cells and the liver and cause a problem. Other Vitamins like the B group and C and E are water-soluble and excess amounts are just flushed out of the body in the urine. So no problem.
We are going to take a brief look at what Vitamin D does for us in some ways and what sort of levels are toxic, useful, essential.
Types of lymphocytes
There is a fatty tissue type distributed around the body in the immune system, called Lymph glands or Lymphocytes. They are little fatty clusters and they can be found in large numbers in the small intestines where they are called Peyer’s Patches.
Hanging in front of the abdominal cavity, like an apron hanging down the front, is a thin membrane called the Omentum. This membrane is dotted with yet more fatty lymph lumps.
When we store excess fat, these fat stores around the lymph nodes get bigger – they are called Perinodal Adipose Tissue (don’t worry about the name). This is like a fat store locally held ready to serve the immune system when the Peyer’s patches need more resources.
Vitamin D and the Immune system
As the Vitamin D is stored in this fatty tissue, it is therefore reasonable to suspect that there is a connection between Vitamin D and the immune system.
This is not the place to go into a detailed description of the immune system in any greater depth than just to say that certain types of immune-regulatory cells called Regulatory T cells regulate the immune response.
Short term Inflammation is the body’s response to injury and infection and is actually a vital stage in repair and healing. It sends increased blood flow, quicker cell turnover and heightened attention from the body’s scavenger and soldier cells, the white blood cells.
Vitamin D down-regulates the immune response, like a volume control – when such control is needed after the initial healing and protective reaction has taken place.
Over-Reaction from Immune System
The trouble with inflammation is that it is being triggered too often and sustained with our lifestyle choices; things like environmental toxins, chemicals in food, stress, vaccines, hormones, diet, even birth trauma – all contribute to what is termed the ‘Body Burden’. This continual triggering of the immune inflammatory response can lead to a colossal over-reaction which is termed a ‘cytokine storm’. Cytokine is just another term for immune cells and their biochemical output.
You may have heard that mentioned in terms of Covid-19 serious stages where the body can go into a cytokine storm – this is a tremendous over-reaction to the infection of the Sars-Cov 2 virus and this is the event which causes most of the harm.
This also explains that when people have an existing long term condition, they are already in an inflammatory hyper-active state; their inflammatory response is already triggered and active. in comes the Covid-19 virus and their immune system easily trips into the body-wide cytokine storm situation.
Vitamin D – the Down-Regulator, or “Calming the Storm”
The fact that Vitamin D helps to down-regulate the immune response is very important. It can help to calm the storm before it gets started.
The more inflammation you have, the more Vitamin D is needed and the more fat will be stored locally (in and around the lymphocytes) to hold it. Hence you will notice ‘apple-shaped’ people whose fat storage is all around their middle section – this is already acknowledged to be associated with bad health indicators and this is borne out by the Vitamin D and Perinodal Adipose Tissue accumulation function.
How do you know if you have enough Vitamin D? Clearly in the UK, we are denied as much sunshine as we would like and it is sunshine acting on the skin which helps us to create Vitamin D. In the winter we need extra Vitamin D.
Can we get enough Vitamin D in foods? Well, not with the way a lot of us currently eat!
High carbohydrate diets are particularly unhelpful. Sugar is pro-inflammatory and will fan the flames of inflammation (pun intended).
Ideally follow a genuinely Paleo-Ketogenic diet with low-GI (Glycaemic Index) foods. Don’t trigger your insulin response, keep your blood sugars steady and on the low side. We talked about the dangers of triggering insulin in the last blog.
Eat animal fat (organic), full-fat organic foods, fish livers, oily fish, butter, green leafy vegetables, organic egg yolks and good quality artisan organic meats. Nuts, seeds and nut milks are great for making desserts (like coconut yogurts and plant milk kefir) and go for berries instead of the more sugary fruits.
Your personal Vitamin D Levels
Your Vitamin D level should be in the range of 60-80 ng/ml. If you are fighting an infection, this level needs to be much higher. A daily supplement can be taken but you do need to make sure it is strong enough to do any good. Most RDA (Recommended Daily Amounts) are just set high enough to prevent a serious deficiency disease. You can safely take a daily dose of 5,000 – 10,000 International Units (iu) and if you are fighting that infection, you can go higher than this – seek the advice of a nutritional therapist or naturopath to guide you in such circumstances.
If you are unsure about your personal health status with regards to Vitamin D, you can take a blood test to establish your personal level of Vitamin D. Taymount clinic offers a service to have this test – just call 0330 222 1622 and ask for a Vitamin D blood test. The blood tests cost between £75 and £130 depending on what level of analysis you opt for. You can also book a consultation with our nutritional therapists, again just call to ask for an appointment.
Vitamin D Supplements
Taymount Clinic also offer a Vitamin D liquid supplement – beware of low dose supplements; we recently obtained a stock of Vitamin D drops only to find that to ingest 5,000 iu in a single dose, we needed to take almost 1/3rd of the bottle (50 drops) in one go! Very poor economy!
In these days of infection awareness, it makes sense to take whatever simple measures we can to help shore up our defences.