Recently, much discussion has circulated surrounding how particularly vulnerable Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) communities are to the Coronavirus. It’s true that the work many of us do puts us at an increased risk of coming into contact with the virus.
However, one of the topics rarely brought to light is the important role of Vitamin D dose for those with dark skin in protecting against the influenza virus.
We can’t all work safely from home in front of a computer screen! The search for a vaccine has received a great deal of coverage and many are hopeful that a cure will be developed soon.
Vitamin D Dosage
People with darker skin require more sun exposure than those with fair skin in order to absorb an adequate amount of Vitamin D. While people with fair skin only need about 20 minutes of sun exposure, people with very dark African skin may need up to 3 hours.
I, myself, would need approximately 90 minutes if I were to get the same amount of Vitamin D as someone with fair skin.
Vitamin D was discovered shortly after the 1918 influenza pandemic. It was originally known that a small amount of Vitamin D prevented rickets. However, we now know that we require much larger amounts of Vitamin D for full benefit.
Vitamin D Benefits
Vitamin D is important for more than just bone development and preventing rickets in children. Almost every cell in our body has Vitamin D receptors. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to severe influenza and death from influenza. Having optimal blood levels of Vitamin D can help protect against severe influenza and death from influenza.
Vitamin D improves resistance to influenza
As we breathe, viruses, bacteria, and mold come into contact with the surface of our respiratory tract. Therefore, the surface of our tract is better protected than the deeper layers.
The immune cells in our respiratory tract have Vitamin D receptors. When enough Vitamin D is present in our blood, it will bind to these receptors.
This union between Vitamin D and its corresponding receptor produces immunocompetent peptides [IP]. IPs mount a response against invading pathogens.
Sunbathing was once a common practice for treating tuberculosis patients a century ago.
The patients would be wheeled outside in their beds to get some sun exposure, which would raise their Vitamin D levels and help them resist the infection.
Vitamin D levels below 15 ng/ml can make people more susceptible to severe respiratory infections.
Between January and March, Vitamin D levels usually fall below 15 ng/mL, which happens to be the season when influenza is most common.
Vitamin D & the cytokine storm
Influenza, as we all are well aware, has the potential to be deadly. One way in which death can occur is through something called a cytokine storm, which is basically an over-reaction of the body’s immune system.
It all starts when the respiratory tract becomes infected and inflammation sets in. Although low levels of inflammation are actually beneficial as they help to prevent the spread of infection by swelling and blocking off affected areas, too much inflammation can be extremely dangerous.
This is more likely to happen if you are deficient in Vitamin D, as this vitamin plays an important role in regulating the inflammatory response. If there is too much inflammation, it is referred to as a cytokine storm.
What happens then is that immune cells go into overdrive, attacking and destroying the lining of the epithelial tract which causes suffocation.
How much Vitamin D dosage do we need?
Did you know that Vitamin D researchers have discovered a link between the influenza epidemic and vitamin D deficiency?
Influenza typically begins in winter around November and peaks in late January to March, which also happens to be when people have the lowest levels of vitamin D.
So how does vitamin D deficiency lead to the flu? Well, it all has to do with ultraviolet light (UVA and UVB radiation) and the sun. UVB radiation creates vitamin D in the cholesterol under your skin, but this only occurs when the sun is higher than 45° in the sky.
So, how can you tell if you’re making enough vitamin D? A great tip is to look at your shadow that’s being cast by the sun. If your shadow is shorter than you are tall, then that means you’re likely getting enough vitamin D.
Are you getting enough Vitamin D?
People who live in areas with northern latitudes are more likely to have a deficiency in Vitamin D, and this is especially true for those with darker skin. A study found that taking supplements to correct for very low levels of Vitamin D led to a reduction of 70% in viral and bacterial respiratory tract infections.
Although we mostly get our Vitamin D from sunlight, we also consume some from the foods we eat.
Dietary sources of Vitamin D include oily fish and liver. Vegetarians can get Vitamin D from wild mushrooms, as they’re the only plant that can produce its own Vitamin D when exposed to UV light.
Although melanin protects darker skin from sunburn, it also means that dark skin produces Vitamin D slowly.
On the other hand, lighter skin produces less melanin, so it burns more easily; however, it is also quicker at producing Vitamin D.