The One Vitamin You Should Be Taking to Protect Yourself From COVID-19
It's a good time to get an extra dose of immunity!
Vitamin D deficiency is extremely common, affecting approximately 42 percent of people in the US, according to research published in the National Institutes of Health database. But it’s also extremely important: D can help boost immunity and protect against illnesses, including breakthrough COVID-19 infections. With new COVID variants frequently sweeping the nation, it can’t hurt to get a little extra help in the immunity department — even if you’re fully vaccinated.
Why You Need Vitamin D
“Vitamin D acts as personal protective equipment inside us,” notes Derrick M. DeSilva Jr., MD, internist at New Jersey’s Raritan Bay Medical Center. That’s because vitamin D helps keep viruses from penetrating cells and producing severe damage. “If you’re exposed, you’ll have the armor to fight it off more effectively,” Dr. DeSilva concludes. Studies have suggested that there is a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and COVID-19 severity and mortality; meaning that if you do get infected, having adequate vitamin D levels will make you less likely to become seriously ill. (Bonus: Getting adequate D may help fight depression!)
The Best Way to Get Vitamin D
Sun exposure is the best way to boost D, since the vitamin is made naturally when UVB rays strike your skin. And getting outside midday is ideal, since UVB rays are at their highest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Michael Holick, MD, PhD, recommends spending 10 to 15 minutes (darker-skinned folks can spend up to 35 minutes) in the sunshine without sunscreen during peak hours, three times a week. According to the national Institutes of Health, between five and 30 minutes of sun exposure to your unprotected face, arms, legs or back between the aforementioned hours should be enough for your body to produce all of the vitamin D it needs.
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Experts admit it’s hard to reach infection-fighting levels of D solely through sun and dietary sources. That’s why Dr. DeSilva recommends taking 5,000 IU of D-3 daily. Also, folks with low D can boost their levels by adding 200 mg. of magnesium. Note: Check with your doctor before supplementing.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
This article was updated on December 21, 2022. It was originally published on December 21, 2021.
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