Supplemental Vitamins: The Importance of Vitamin C and D
By Dr. Erik Fleischman, Executive Medical Director, Bangkok Anti-aging Center (BAAC)
Vitamin sales worldwide were over 48.5 Billion US dollars just a few years ago and this is projected to increase twofold by year 2025. This is likely due to a few reasons including increased marketing of vitamin products around the world and a greater interest in Anti-Aging, Regenerative Medicine and personal health and wellness.
Vitamins have previously been used as a “one size fits all” type of product so there is little detail on what specific reasons specific vitamins should be used for specific diseases or health issues. I will try to explain smart, targeted vitamin use in this blog based on current science, biology and physiology. We should also keep in mind that too much of anything (even vitamins) can cause a potentially bad response.
There is too much information on vitamins to include in a single article so let’s discuss the importance of Vitamin C and D:
- Improved energy
- Improved immune response to colds and infections
- Improved heart health
- Improved bone strength
Importance of Vitamin C
The most popular vitamin consumed in the world is likely Vitamin C – also known as Ascorbic Acid. We know that the main natural source is fruits and vegetables. It is important for building Collagen which is part of all connective tissues in the body – skin, muscle, joints, and cartilage. We frequently read that Vitamin C is also important in promoting a strong immune system, but we rarely hear specifically why. Here is the theory.
There are 2 important parts to the immune system:
- Innate Immunity – existing cells in your body that attack any foreign substance, virus or bacteria
- Adaptive Immunity – cells called B cells and T cells that “read” a foreign invader, virus, bacteria or other infection and produce a specific immune response to destroy the invader
Vitamin C is a key element in both of these important immune responses. This would relate to your body’s ability to fight infections. This is the reason why large doses of intravenous Vitamin C were used to try to treat severe COVID-19 infections by doctors in both Asia and North America – with reported anecdotal success.
Another important aspect of this type of immunity is the body’s ability to recognize early forming Cancer cells and destroy them before they can develop into full Cancer disease and tumors. Vitamin C has been touted as anti-Cancer, but let’s see if there’s a scientific basis for this claim. Cancer cells have low levels of an important enzyme called catalase. Catalase is key toward cancer cells DNA reproduction and growth. In theory, this low level of enzyme makes Cancer cells vulnerable to high doses of Vitamin C (there are many clinics around the world using high dose Vitamin C as supplemental and sole cancer therapy with limited definitive data). Another scientific theory is that Vitamin C breaks down to generate Hydrogen Peroxide which can directly kill tissue and DNA of Cancer tumors. To know if this is clinically significant we will need to see good studies and clinical trials in the future.
Another phrase we hear often is that Vitamin C is the “stress control” vitamin. This has a scientific basis as well. When your body is under stress it releases Stress Hormones that try to protect the body, but these hormones can also increase the tendency for Diabetes, Obesity and Anxiety. High doses of Vitamin C have been shown to limit the over-production of these Stress Hormones which maintains the normal body functions of natural hormone production. These normal functions are proper sugar metabolism, healthy sleep and normal sex hormone production.
Importance of Vitamin D
The recent findings regarding Vitamin D over the last decade have changed the approach to many chronic diseases – Including several cancers. We know that we get Vitamin D from the Sun, but that is only the first part of the process in its development. What actually occurs is that sunlight (morning sunlight) activates a sterol in your skin. This sterol then goes to the liver and is converted to the various Vitamin D forms which are actually hormones, not vitamins!
Most people know Vitamin D as being key to the formation of strong bones, but it is a vital part of many other major body and organ functions. In fact, one Biochemist in California found Vitamin D present in 36 organ tissues of the body.+
Important Functions of Vitamin D
Immune Function: Vitamin D is found in many of the cells of the innate immune system. Remember, these are the immune cells that are always working to fight infections. These are the first line of defense for your body while it develops specific defenses (antibodies) which kill viruses and bacteria more precisely. Equally important is Vitamin D’s role in controlling autoimmune diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. This vitamin helps to limit the inflammation caused by an overactive immune system and lessen symptoms and severity of these diseases.
Lung Function: Vitamin D deficiencies in humans results in lower air volumes of the lungs. Less volume results in less oxygen to your organs. Vitamin D also regulates the inflammatory reaction of the lungs. When the lungs become inflamed by bacteria and viruses, bronchitis and pneumonia can develop. Low Vitamin D levels have been found to be a major factor in patients with COVID-19 who require ventilators and who do not survive the Coronavirus. People who smoke or have asthma or who live with very polluted air should be especially concerned with keeping high levels of Vitamin D.
Heart Disease: One of the early researchers on Vitamin D (Fleck, et al.) found that people who lived further from the equator (and further from regular sunlight) had higher rates of heart disease including hypertension, heart attacks and congestive heart failure (CHF). This developed into prospective studies that showed higher rates of these cardiac diseases in patients with low Vitamin D levels. Though not all studies agree, there is a trend toward showing that patients with higher, normal Vitamin D levels have less cardiac deaths than those with low levels.
In summary, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the importance of these two essential vitamins in the health, disease prevention and healing processes of the human body beyond surviving Coronavirus infection. We should take these lessons and see where they apply to the risks in our own lives depending on where we live, what environmental stresses we are exposed to and pertaining to our own concerns about longevity and good health.
If you would like more information or help with any of your health issues please go to the contact page and send us an email or call one of our three clinics, we will be happy to set up an appointment to discuss your personal needs.
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