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Vitamin D and Covid-19

Blog post written by NH Hawes, author of Nature Cures: Recovery from Injury, Surgery and Infection

Many studies have concluded that low levels of the ‘sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D, in the body could play a part in reducing the immune system’s ability to fight off the Covid-19 virus. Vitamin D is manufactured in the skin from the sun’s rays and then stored in the liver for up to 60 days. It only takes 15 minutes of sunshine on the skin, a few days a week, to produce the vitamin D the body requires. Low levels will affect the immune system and can be caused by various factors, as follows:• Working or staying inside buildings during daylight hours.
• Covering the skin when going outside.
• Using sunscreen on all exposed skin before venturing outside.
• Being over the age of 60 as the body’s ability to manufacture and store vitamin D begins to deplete.
• Consuming too much alcohol.
• Having a compromised or damaged liver.
• Kidney disease.
• Gastrointestinal conditions such as Crohn’s, coeliac and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity or IBS.
• Skin disorders.
• Some medications.

Also, in the northern hemisphere of planet Earth, where most human beings reside, the sun’s rays are too weak to allow this process to take place from 1st October until 1st April every year. As the body’s stores of this vitamin become depleted, after 30-60 days, humans become prone to infections in the winter, especially viral and bacterial infections of the respiratory and sinus tracts. Therefore, there are far more outbreaks of viral colds, influenzas and pneumonia from November until April.

Vitamin D deficiency is on the rise because people have become aware of the risks of skin cancer caused by exposure to the sun’s harmful rays and either use sunscreens or cover up or avoid the sun completely. Sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 8 or more appear to block vitamin D-producing UV rays, although, in practice, people do not apply sufficient amounts, cover all sun-exposed skin or reapply sunscreen regularly. Therefore, skin likely synthesises some vitamin D even when it is protected by sunscreen as typically applied.

Those with dark skin have less ability to produce vitamin D as over 90% of the sun’s rays cannot penetrate the skin This is also applicable to those who maintain a deep suntan over a period of time. This may explain why BAME people have been hardest hit by the Covid-19 virus.

Fifteen minutes of midday sunshine on bare skin can provide all the body needs. It is not the same as sunbathing; the skin simply needs to be exposed to sunlight a few days a week. UVB radiation does not penetrate glass, so exposure to sunshine indoors through a closed window does not produce vitamin D. Over-exposure to the sun’s rays can be dangerous for the skin but no exposure at all can be equally detrimental to our health. Complete cloud cover reduces UV energy by 50%; shade (including that produced by severe pollution) reduces it by 60%. This may also explain why the Covid-19 virus seemed to be especially prevalent and dangerous in polluted areas.

Vitamin D also protects against vascular disease via several different mechanisms, including reducing chronic inflammatory reactions that contribute to the pathology of the disease. Vitamin D also improves blood circulation throughout the body, which is essential for the heart to function properly. This helps reduce the risk of blood clots causing heart attacks, heart failure, strokes and other problems. Therefore, deficiency of vitamin D may also be the cause of these outcomes in the more serious Covid-19 cases.

Levels of vitamin D can be replenished marginally by consumption of vitamin D-rich foods such as:
o Krill oil
o Eel
o Maitake mushrooms
o Rainbow trout
o Cod liver oil
o Mackerel
o Salmon
o Halibut
o Tuna
o Sardines
o Chanterelle mushrooms
o Raw milk
o Egg yolk
o Caviar
o Hemp seeds
o Portabella mushrooms

However, often vitamin D levels drop too low and enough of these foods cannot be consumed to correct it. It is then that vitamin D supplements are required. It must be vitamin D3 that is consumed as the body cannot absorb vitamin D2. Plus, as it is a fat-soluble nutrient, it can only be absorbed into the body with some oil; consequently, vitamin D3 in oil capsules is the best way to ensure absorption.

The optimum level of vitamin D in the blood should be 50-70 ng/ml and up to 100 ng/ml to treat cancer and heart disease.

It is particularly important to have a blood test to determine vitamin D levels, especially if any of the following health issues are present:
• Abdominal pain
• Age-related macular degeneration
• Anorexia
• Autoimmune disease
• Bacterial infections
• Bone disorders
• Burning sensation in the mouth and throat
• Cancer
• Chronic fatigue
• Colds and coughs
• Confusion
• Constipation and diarrhoea
• Dehydration
• Dementia
• Depression
• Diabetes mellitus
• Dry eye syndrome
• Fibromyalgia
• Fungal infections
• Hypertension (high blood pressure)
• Influenza
• Irritable bowel syndrome • Insomnia
• Kidney disorders
• Liver disorders
• Loss of appetite
• Lower back pain
• Multiple sclerosis (MS)
• Muscle weakness or pain
• Nausea and vomiting
• Obesity
• Osteoarthritis
• Osteomalacia
• Parasite infections
• Peripheral neuropathy
• Polyuria (producing large amounts of diluted urine)
• Polydipsia (abnormally high thirst)
• Poor appetite or loss of appetite
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Seizures – can be fatal
• Skin disorders (eczema and psoriasis)
• Systemic lupus erythematosus
• Tetanus
• Viral infections including Covid-19
• Visual problems
• Weakened immune system

In conclusion, the evidence that vitamin D may have an influence on the Covid-19 pandemic and should be tested for is as follows:
• Covid-19 became prevalent from November 2019 to April 2020, peaking in March 2019 when levels would be particularly low.
• Became more prevalent in polluted areas.
• Higher numbers of the BAME community had serious, and often fatal, outcomes.
• Persons over 60 were hardest hit.
• Persons with underlying health issues, often made worse by vitamin D deficiency, were hit harder.

If you feel you may have low levels of vitamin D, get a blood test done by your doctor as soon as possible. Also make sure that in November 2020 you get your levels checked again. This is important to help you fight off all viral infections, including colds and influenzas and especially the Covid-19 virus.

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Eating the rainbow part 2: The health benefits of the nutrients that colour foods

health-benefits-of-the-nurtients-that-colour-food

The following list of nutrients in foods, that produce their colours, is by no means complete as more are being discovered all the time.  However, it provides the reader with some reasons why the consumption of colourful foods is vital for ultimate health.

Anthocyanins (blue to black)
Anthocyanins are a water-soluble bioflavonoid pigment and the colour will depend on the pH of the solution they are in. They are red when the pH is below three (highly acid), blue at pH ghihger than 11 (very alkali) and violet a neutral pH 7.
Bioflavoniods have been found to help slow down age-related motor changes, such as those seen in Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, prevent the oxidisation of certain compounds and fight attacks on the body from harmful chemicals.
They also increase vitamin C levels within cells, decrease the breakage of small blood vessels, protect against free-radical damage and help prevent destruction of collagen by helping the collagen fibres link together in a way that strengthens the connective tissue matrix. They also reduce blood glucose levels and improve insulin sensitivity due to the reduction of retinol-binding-protein-4 so are useful in preventing diabetes and can help with treating obesity.

Anthoxanthins (cream and white)
Anthoxanthins are water-soluble pigments which range from white or colourless to a creamy yellow and red, often in the petals of flowers. These pigments are generally whiter in an acid medium and yellower in an alkaline medium. Consuming foods rich in anthoxanthins has been found to reduce stroke risk, promote heart health, prevent cancer and reduce inflammation.

  • Those undergoing treatment for complex corneal diseases, whose underlying eye health condition is caused or aggravated by inflammation, might find increased symptom relief by including more anthoxanthin-rich foods in their diets.

Astaxanthin (red)
Astaxanthin is the most powerful antioxidant to man and is capable of crossing the blood/brain barrier to protect the brain cells from free radicals. It also increases the activity of the liver enzymes that detoxify carcinogens and stimulates and enhances the immune system.

Betalains (orange and yellow and blue to black)
Betalains are found in the petals of flowers, but may colour the fruits, leaves, stems and roots of plants that contain them. Betalains are aromatic indole derivatives synthesised from the amino acid (building block of proteins) tyrosine. There are two categories, Betacyanins (red to violet) and Betaxanthins (yellow to orange). Betalains provide a higher antioxidant value than most other vegetables containing beta-carotene and have anti-inflammatory anti-cancer and detoxifying properties and support the making of red blood cells.

Health benefits of betaxanthins

  • Stop the spread of cancerous tumours
  • Prevent diseases of liver, kidney and pancreas
  • Help reduce ulcers in the stomach
  • Strengthen the lungs and immune system
  • Improve vision and are good for treating eye redness
  • Reduce pain after intense physical training and also menstrual pain
  • Eliminate hard stools and prevent constipation
  • Positively affect the colon
  • Regulate high blood pressure
  • Eliminate bad breath
  • Help to treat acne and create healthy skin.

Health benefits of betaxanthins

  • Can cross the blood-brain, eye and spinal barriers to help arrest free-radical damage in cell membranes, mitochondria and DNA
  • Enhance immune cell strength and antibody activity
  • Improve gastrointestinal health
  • Improve cognitive function
  • Help to maintain peak performance in athletes
  • Protect the heart.

Carotenoids (deep green, yellow, orange and red)
The carotenoids are a group of more than 700 fat-soluble nutrients. Many are proving to be very important for health. They are categorised as either xanthophylls or carotenes according to their chemical composition. These compounds have the ability to inhibit the growth of many pre-cancerous tumours.

  • Carotenoids act as antioxidants. Alphacarotene, betacarotene and cryptoxanthin are types of carotenoids, and the body can convert all of these to vitamin A which helps keep the immune system working properly and it is needed for eye health.
  • Other types of carotenoids are lutein and zeaxanthin and, when consumed regularly, protect the retina from damage caused by the sun’s harmful UV rays and high-energy visible light. Lutein and zeaxanthin can also reduce the risk of cataracts later in life.
  • These antioxidants also have the ability to protect cells and other structures in the body from the harmful effects of free radicals.
  • Lutein can also help to reduce the risk of breast cancer and heart disease and supports healthy skin, tissue, blood and the immune system.
  • Lycopene is the bright red carotenoid that is found in fruits and vegetables. Consuming lycopene regularly helps to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, cancers of the prostate, stomach, lungs and breast, and osteoporosis, and protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation, which prevents heart disease.

Chalcones (yellow), Chlorophyll (green), Curcumin (yellow), and Flavins (pale-yellow and green fluorescent) are further nutrients founds in foods that produce their colours. For more information on these nutrients, you can purchase the book here.

This extract was taken from “Nature’s Colour Codes” from the Nature Cures pocketbook series by Nat H Hawes.