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COVID-19 and Vitamins C and D

You may have seen in various news reports that vitamins C and D are now being used in the fight against COVID-19 in hospitals in China and Italy.

Vitamin C

This is a vitamin that is found in many fruit and vegetables that we consume and helps us to maintain a healthy immune system, in addition to playing an important role in enhancing our brain function, keeping bones strong and helping our wounds to heal.

When it comes to supplements, many people take these in order to help them fight off colds and the flu. The recommended daily amount of vitamin C we should be consuming is around 65 to 90mg per day, but there is an upper limit of 2,000mg per day although this higher amount could lead to unwanted side effects such as diarrhoea, nausea or even bleeding gums. As vitamin C is water-soluble (meaning that it dissolves in water), our bodies can’t store any excess so excretes this via our urine. Taking unnecessarily high doses of vitamin C means that you simply pee away the excess vitamin C our bodies don’t need (and with it the money you are spending on those high-dose supplements).

In the case of the experimental doses being given to patients who have COVID-19, these doses are extremely high in comparison to what we would be consuming by means of fruits, vegetables or even supplements. From what I have read, they could be administering 50mg per kilogram of bodyweight every six hours – for the average UK male weighing 83.6kg (13 stones), this would be over 4,000mg every six hours or 16,000mg in a 24-hour period.

Please do not attempt to do this at home. The doctors administering this vitamin C therapy also administer steroids because so much vitamin C can actually cause inflammation in such a way that the body ‘rusts’ inside. Normally, iron in our bodies is bound to protein and enzymes and therefore can’t react with vitamin C. However, when inflammation occurs, the body releases more free iron, which is highly reactive to outside elements, such as vitamin C.

The best thing you could do is to eat a varied diet that includes plenty of vegetables and fruit. Don’t resort to drinking fruit juice (or if you have to, try to only drink 50ml per day), as the natural sugars locked within the fibres of the fruit are more readily available in juice form. Basically, without the fibre, fruit juice is just sugar and calories with some vitamin C content.

Vitamin D

As opposed to vitamin C, vitamin D is fat-soluble and any excess is stored in the liver and fatty tissue. This vitamin is important as it ensures our immune system functions properly and helps to activate the body’s immune system defences; if levels are low, there would be an increased likelihood of disease and infections and symptoms could include bone pain, muscle weakness and in extreme cases, bone deformities.

Vitamin D status depends on exposure to the sun and although we can eat foods such as oily fish that contains the vitamin, it would still not provide us with enough. That is why it is important to get safe levels of exposure to the sun and in the autumns and winter months, take a daily vitamin D supplement containing 10 micrograms. Some supplements are at a higher dose but don’t exceed 100 micrograms, as this can be harmful and cause a build-up of calcium in your blood, which could progress to bone pain, kidney problems and the formation of calcium stones.

Low vitamin D levels can increase the risk of respiratory infections and supplementation can reduce the risk of this happening. If you think you could have low levels, then it may be worth testing your vitamin D levels. However, there is currently no evidence that I am aware of, that taking any supplement including vitamin D, will reduce the risk of a person developing Covid-19.

I say take advantage of sunny days, ensuring that you don't get sunburnt. Take a walk (making sure you leave two metres between yourself and anyone you don’t live with) and enjoy the fresh air and exercise.

Take care :-)


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