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What Is the Connection between Vitamin D and the Immune System?

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  • Written By: Erik J.J. Goserud
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2016
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Vitamin D and the immune system are known to have close ties. The nutrient can be obtained from food, vitamins, or by sunlight. By building a strong immune system with exercise, diet, and sufficient vitamin D, the body will fight off disease, stimulate bacteria-fighting cells, and improve general quality of life.

It is important to get enough sunlight for sufficient vitamin D in the immune system. Exercising outside is a great way to get natural vitamin D — most vitamin D is produced naturally by sunlight intake. In the colder winter months, multivitamins or supplements may be a good idea for sufficient intake. Once sufficient vitamin D is routinely in the body, the immune system can begin to adapt to battle viruses and bacteria. Vitamin D is also important in calcium absorption.

Vitamin D and the immune system rely on T cells to detect and kill foreign pathogens. The nutrient stimulates these cells into action and helps immune system deficiencies. Without sufficient vitamin D, the body has difficulty motivating these T cells and makes a person more prone to bacteria-driven illnesses and viruses. T cells must be stimulated to target invading bacteria.

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Two types of immune cells tie Vitamin D and the immune system together. Successfully activated T cells can become either killer cells that destroy all cells carrying foreign pathogens, or they can become helper cells assisting in the immune system’s acquisition of memory. T cells must have vitamin D for activation to take place. Immune response can greatly improve when T cells are stimulated.

Identifying this role of vitamin D in the activation of T cells is a major breakthrough. Recent findings on vitamin D’s extensive role in boosting the immune system may also play a key role in developing new vaccines, which work by training the immune system to react against the body’s deficiencies. It also provides a better understanding of autoimmune disorders like Type 1 diabetes. Researchers can now determine the chemical steps necessary to transform a cell from active to inactive. Doctors may eventually be able to commence this process based on each patient's vitamin D and the immune system.

A person can consult his or her doctor for an analysis of vitamin D and the immune system. Health food stores carry quality vitamin D supplements, which people can take on a daily basis to ensure the sufficient amount of vitamin D. Cod liver oil, many types of seafood, soy, and eggs are all foods that are high in vitamin D.

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