When infection fighting T cells fail to find vitamin D in the bloodstream they do nothing. Scientists now understand just how important vitamin D is for immunity. T-cells that are part of the body’s defense system against autoimmune diseases, infection, viruses and perhaps other chronic illnesses need vitamin D to become activated. Without vitamin D the immune system remains dormant.
A group of scientists from Copenhagen found the crucial link between vitamin D and immunity. "Scientists have known for a long time that vitamin D is important for calcium absorption and the vitamin has also been implicated in diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis, but what we didn't realize is how crucial vitamin D is for actually activating the immune system – which we know now.”
T-cells look for foreign invaders – it’s their job. When the infection fighters find bacteria or other foreign substances in the body they send out a signal from vitamin D receptors that the researchers say act like an “antenna”. Professor Carsten Geisler from the Department of International Health, Immunology and Microbiology explains, “If the T cells cannot find enough vitamin D in the blood, they won't even begin to mobilize.”
Exposure to sunlight naturally activates vitamin D in the body, but fears of skin cancer, time spent indoors working, and inadequate dietary intake of vitamin D is implicated for deficiency of the vitamin in a large portion of the population.
Fatty fish contain vitamin D. Many consumers shun eating too much fish out of fears of contamination. Salmon is a good source of vitamin D but most is farm raised. According to the Environmental Working Group,” farmed salmon have 16 times the dioxin-like PCBs found in wild salmon, 4 times the levels in beef, and 3.4 times the dioxin-like PCBs found in other seafood.” Eggs are high in cholesterol and millions of Americans with heart disease are told to avoid high cholesterol foods.
The only natural way to get vitamin D is from sunshine. Keeping our immune systems healthy becomes no easy task. The only other solution is consuming food products fortified with vitamin D or by taking vitamin D supplements, but no one has established a minimum daily requirement for optimal health.
Vitamin D deficiency has become a global problem and implicated in a variety of diseases. Based on the new findings, researchers are interested in a vaccine to modulate the immune system that could have several applications. We now understand why vitamin D is essential for immunity. Low levels keep infection fighting T cells from becoming activated.