One study found that insufficient levels of Vitamin D have been reported in 36% of healthy adolescents and 57% of adults in the U.S.
Other studies estimate that one billion people worldwide have insufficient Vitamin D levels. The rate of true Vitamin D deficiency is likely even higher, because new research indicates that the previous recommended levels of Vitamin D were actually WAY too low.
The widespread deficiency of Vitamin D is concerning because it plays an important role in many areas of our health. It contributes to bone strength, heart health, and cancer prevention. And, it plays a hugely important role in your immune system and can be a determining factor in whether or not you develop an autoimmune disease.
How Vitamin D Impacts Your Immune System
Now that we understand why so many people are deficient, what are the consequences of Vitamin D deficiency, specifically on our immune system?
Vitamin D works as a kind of lightswitch in your body, turning on or off genes and processes that your body needs to maintain health. Active Vitamin D is sent to many different areas of your body, including your bones, intestines, colon, brain, and immune cells, which all have Vitamin D Receptors. The active Vitamin D binds with these receptors and promotes Vitamin D responsive genes, essentially turning them on.
Vitamin D and Protective Immunity
Sufficient levels of Vitamin D reduce your risk of infectious disease by strengthening your innate immune system. Vitamin D turns on key peptides in your immune system that trigger a strong anti-microbial response, allowing you to quickly and effectively fight off invaders before they can develop into a full-blown infection.
Vitamin D and Autoimmune Disease
Autoimmune diseases arise when your immune system is confused or overly stressed and begins attacking your own tissues instead of outside pathogens. Vitamin D prevents this by promoting regulatory T cells, which are responsible for accurately differentiating between outside invaders and “self” cells. When active Vitamin D promotes them, it essentially makes your immune system smarter, teaching it to not attack itself and preventing the development of an autoimmune disease.
Research in this area is relatively recent, but there are a number of studies demonstrating higher rates of autoimmune disease, as well as a greater rate of autoimmune disease progression, among people with Vitamin D deficiency. Studies have linked Vitamin D deficiency with Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis, and Type 1 Diabetes.
How to Increase Your Vitamin D
Clearly Vitamin D plays a huge role in your body and it is important to maintain sufficient levels to prevent infectious disease and autoimmune disease. So how do you ensure that your Vitamin D levels are high enough?
Your Vitamin D3 levels should be around 60-90 ng/mL and you HAVE to test yours.
I would recommend taking 5,000 - 10,000 daily IU of a high quality Vitamin D3 supplement, for adults and 2,000 - 4,000 daily IU for children.
If you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, it is possible that low Vitamin D levels may be playing a role in your condition, so be sure to have your doctor check your levels and aim for 60-90 ng/mL .