COVID, Vitamin D, and Physical Therapy

Jan 04, 2021

Emerging evidence is revealing how Vitamin D can help patients with COVID-19, commonly known as the Coronavirus.  Vitamin D is known as the "sunshine vitamin" as it is produced in the skin with sun exposure. Most Americans are deficient in Vitamin D, possibly due to the lack of optimal sun exposure and/or their poor diets. In order to get peak Vitamin D levels from sun exposure, a person must remain in direct sun with most the body exposed for 20 minutes under peak sun (usually 11am to 1pm). Vitamin D can be found as a fortification in many foods such as cereals, dairy milk, plant-based milks, while it is found naturally in some mushrooms. The specific Vitamin D in focus would be D3, also known as cholecalciferol.

So what's the data on Vitamin D and COVID-19? Well, randomized trials and cross sectional studies have shown that ~60% of patients with COVID-19 were vitamin D deficient upon hospitalization, with men in the advanced stages of COVID-19 pneumonia showing the greatest deficit. More staggering is that those with a serum Vitamin D level below 20 ng/mL had a 3.7 times more likely chance of dying from COVID. That is a serious number! More worrying is that these data are independent of comorbid status, so this shows how important Vitamin D is to proper immune function.

Physical therapists should be advocating for adult patients to be taking 4,000 IU per day of Vitamin D3 (2,000 IUs for children). The ideal mechanism for patients to reach such targets would be through supplementation or a combination of supplementation with fortified foods. Exact mechanisms of how Vitamin D may improve health function for those with COVID remains to be seen; however, some authors have suggested that Vitamin D helps to prevent severe cytokine storming, which leads to aggressive lung failure and ultimately the need for ventilatory support.

Doctors of Physical Therapy (DPTs) and Physical Therapy Assistants (PTAs) need to be up to date on such current data for optimal treatment, prevention, and collaboration with other healthcare team members. Stay tuned for more info on this an other COVID related nutrition facts. Stay safe and Happy New Year!

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Photo by: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Keywords: nutrition, diet, continuing education, COVID, online, Vitamin D, wellness, PT, physical therapy, learning, physio, supplement, rehab

Disclaimer: The above article is written as opinion piece and does not convey specific legal, medical, and/or practice act advice. 




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