TEMPLE, Texas — Some recent studies suggest having higher levels of Vitamin D can increase your chances of fighting off COVID-19. We spoke with a Temple doctor about simple and free ways you can boost Vitamin D, and possibly even boost your body's defenses against COVID-19.
With the ever changing information surrounding COVID-19, it's hard to know how to stay as healthy as possible. But Temple Doctor Ryan Fowler said many new studies are suggesting Vitamin D might be one way to do it.
"There is some relationship with Vitamin D status and the severity of COVID. We can't say there's causation, because of the way the studies are, but there are some associations and it could be directly related… it could be some indirect relationship, we're not entirely sure," Dr. Fowler said.
But what Dr. Fowler is sure of, is that most people around the world have low Vitamin D. The only way to know, is getting tested by your doctor, who will draw some blood, run labs and then give you a number.
"20 and below is deemed Vitamin D deficient, 21 to 29 is Vitamin D insufficient and then 30 and above is sufficient meaning you have enough,” Dr. Fowler said.
According to Dr Fowler, that's where you want your numbers to be, if you're trying to stay healthy right now.
"That’s what the studies are showing, that if your level is above 30 nanograms per millilitre than your chances of getting severely sick from COVID are drastically reduced," he said.
So, why are we so low in Vitamin D? Dr. Fowler said it has a lot to do with sunscreen.
"We know that Vitamin D is made from the sun hitting your skin, and you have to have the UVB hit your skin. And so, in many years we've been told all sun is bad.," he said. "Everyone uses sunscreen and so that probably has something to do with it. Also, we don't live outside like we used to."
According to Dr. Fowler, two groups often have lower Vitamin D levels: older adults and people with darker skin tones.
"The darker your skin, typically, the more sun you need to make Vitamin D. And so really dark folks might have a hard time making enough and it's well known that people of those ethnic lineages have a very low Vitamin D to begin with," he said.
The easiest way to boost Vitamin D is sunshine, but you have to get it safely. Dr. Fowler suggested getting 15 to 20 minutes of sun each day.
“You need to get some exposure to most of your body for a period of time where you might have a slight pinkish and that’s it and not get burned or overburdened or skin cancers,” he said.
You can also get Vitamin D in some foods, like eggs and fortified milk, but Dr. Fowler said the best way to add it to your diet is through supplements.
"So, you can supplement with an over-the-counter Vitamin D3 supplement. You can also get a Vitamin D two prescription from your doctor," he said. "But we don't know if the oral supplement is as beneficial as the sun. So that's what we don't know."
Dr Fowler admitted, there are conflicting thoughts from the medical community when it comes to Vitamin D and COVID -19 but in his opinion, boosting your Vitamin D probably won't hurt.
"You know, to me anything you can do that's going to make you healthier overall and help with COVID, that seems like a win-win. So, you have Vitamin D receptors in every tissue of your body," he said. "So it's a very helpful universal beneficial thing and so to me, why not even though we don't know for sure about COVID-19 just go get a check, go work on it, get some sun exposure. Don't overdo it check with your doctor. Get tested, you know all those good things."
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