Vitamin D and the immune system - plus the vitamin you should always supplement alongside
Vitamin D has been in the news a great deal in recent months, particularly in relation to its role in supporting the immune system. A priority for many in the current situation and especially as we enter these winter months.
The beneficial role vitamin D plays in musculoskeletal health and function is well known - and studies demonstrating it to be supportive of the immune system are now also stacking up.
The role of Vitamin D in the immune system
The beneficial effects of vitamin D on protective immunity are due in part to its effects on the innate immune system. Vitamin D has numerous effects on cells within the immune system (B cells, T cells and dendritic cells) and plays an important role in the activation of the T cells which, without sufficient vitamin D available, become dormant and cannot respond to any foreign pathogens that it detects. Furthermore, it affects T cell maturation with a skewing away from the inflammatory promoting cells and facilitates the induction of T regulatory cells. This results in decreased production of inflammatory cytokines (IL-17, IL-21) with increased production of anti-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-10.
Vitamin D and Covid-19
Studies observing the role of vitamin D in the immune system are not new but in recent months, we are seeing a greater focus on its role in relation to Covid-19 and the severity of the outcome. There are now numerous studies which show a positive correlation between adequate vitamin D levels and a better outcome.
Another study discovered a strong correlation between vitamin D levels and a cytokine storm, a hyper-inflammatory condition that can severely damage lungs and lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome and death in patients.
One report studied almost 19,000 subjects between 1988 and 1994. Individuals with lower vitamin D levels (<30 ng/ml) were more likely to self-report a recent upper respiratory tract infection than those with sufficient levels.
A further study showed that older adults who tested positive for the virus were more likely to have worse morbidity outcomes if they were vitamin D deficient (less than 30nmol/L)
The role of Vitamin K
As briefly mentioned above, vitamin D plays a crucial role in musculoskeletal health and function. One of the ways it does this is by aiding in the body’s effective absorption of calcium and phosphorus and by ensuring that your blood levels of calcium are sufficient to meet your body’s demands. However, vitamin D does not fully control where the calcium in your body ends up. That’s where vitamin K2 steps in and plays a very important role.
There are 2 forms of vitamin K. In this article we’ll be focusing on K2 as it’s this form that has the synergistic role with vitamin D. Vitamin K1 is more connected with blood clotting but K2 in the regulation of vitamin D, essentially preventing it from accumulating in soft tissues, such as the blood vessels and kidneys.
It does this by activating the hormone osteocalcin. Osteoblasts (the cells that form new bone) produce osteocalcin, which helps take calcium from the blood circulation and bind it to the bone matrix. In part, osteocalcin influences bone mineralization through its ability to bind to the mineral component of bone, hydroxyapatite, which in turn makes the skeleton stronger and less susceptible to fracture. The newly made osteocalcin, however, is inactive, and it needs vitamin K2 to become fully activated and bind calcium.
Studies show possible mechanisms by which vitamin K may inhibit calcification of vessels (implicated in the development of chronic diseases, such as heart and kidney disease) while promoting the accumulation of calcium in your bones and teeth and supporting bone mineralization.
People who are taking higher doses of vitamin D can end up with kidney stones and stiff arthritic joints because the calcium is being stored in the wrong place. This is why it’s crucial to ensure that if you’re supplementing with vitamin D, you also supplement with vitamin K2 as well.
How to get enough D & K
Vitamin D, whilst available in some foods, is far from optimally achieved via diet. Synthetisation from the sun’s rays is by far the preferential source, allowing our bodies to create this prohormone itself.
In winter, it is certainly wise to supplement with vitamin D, but foods with higher levels of D are:
- cod liver
- tinned tuna
Vitamin K from food
Very little vitamin K2 can be stored in the body so it’s important to have this coming into the diet via food or supplementation regularly. Foods with the highest levels of vitamin K2 are:
- fermented legumes and vegetables
- natto (fermented soya)
- egg yolk
- hard cheeses
Effective Supplementation - Which forms to take
Vitamin DVitamin D comes in two forms: D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). Vitamin D2 is manufactured by the UV irradiation of ergosterol in yeast, and vitamin D3 is made by the irradiation of 7-dehydrocholesterol from lanolin and the conversion of cholesterol.
As mentioned above, it’s the K2 version of this vitamin that you need to ensure is at adequate levels, especially when supplementing with vitamin D.
MK-7 is the most bioavailable and effective form of vitamin K2, showing higher serum levels in tests, it also has a much longer half life (3 days) than the other form. A longer half-life means it stays in your body for a longer period of time and has a greater chance of building up a consistent blood level.
A synergistic formula
At Nature Provides, we have developed a high-strength, highly bioavailable liquid Vitamin D3+k2. Using cholecalciferol from lanolin only sourced from live, healthy sheep and MK-7. We then go one step further and use organic, cold pressed black seed oil (nigella sativa) as the carrier oil. This unique and superior oil comes with many of its own health benefits, making this D3+K2 a very pure and health supporting supplement. No sweeteners or ‘natural’ flavourings and bottled in Miron violet glass, your vitamins are protected from UV damage and leaching of plastics, naturally.
Discover how the syergistic blend of D3+K2 can help you during the winter months, purchase your Nature Provides Vitamin D3+K2 here.