Des Moines University Clinic | Health Topics: Vitamin D and Covid-19

Catch some rays: The role of Vitamin D in a healthy lifestyle

Summer sun is here, and as we lather on the sunscreen to keep our skin safe, we can also reap the benefits of giving ourselves a little more Vitamin D.

Why is Vitamin D important for your health?

Vitamin D can play an important role in your health. The sun’s ultraviolet B rays hit cholesterol in the skin cells and provide the energy for the synthesis of vitamin D to occur– but of course, always remember to put on sunscreen to protect your skin during prolonged outings. Emerging from COVID-19, most individuals haven’t been consuming or absorbing enough vitamin D needed for optimal physical or mental health. Foods with the highest vitamin D concentration include the fatty fish like salmon and trout, eggs and fortified milk, orange juice or cereals. Steve Harder, D.O., FAAFP, a family medicine physician and assistant professor of osteopathic medicine at DMU, utilizes the Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference Report as a guide.

Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference Intakes for calcium and vitamin D. Graph courtesy of

He recommends getting at least 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D each day through dietary intake and/or a supplement, safely up to 4000 IU per day for most people over the age of 9 years old. People age older than 70 and those at risk of Vitamin D deficiency—such as older persons confined indoors—should plan for a higher dietary intake of 600-800 IU per day. It’s appropriate to measure Vitamin D levels in these high-risk people, as Vitamin D deficiency can put people at risk for fractures and falls due to brittle bones and muscle weakness. The relationship between Vitamin D deficiency and nearly all other major diseases has not been clearly established, but no matter your age, from infant to elderly, it is essential for ideal health.

COVID-19 and Vitamin D deficiency

Evidence supports that the outbreak of the coronavirus occurred in the winter, whenever vitamin D levels were the lowest. It has also been found that vitamin D deficiency can be a contributing factor in acute respiratory distress syndrome, similar to the coronavirus. Vitamin D also works to stimulate T cells in your body, which work to kill foreign pathogens. This works as an added defense against unwanted sickness. It’s also no coincidence that the case fatality rates of coronavirus increase with age and the amount of vitamin D absorbed decreases with age. With supporting evidence like this, who knew soaking up the sunshine vitamin could potentially be the difference between health and infection?

How to get enough Vitamin D

Getting outside for at least 15 minutes per day can combat depression, improve brain function, build strong bones, and protect against disease. The length of time required for sufficient intake can vary due to geographical location, age, skin pigmentation, and percent body fat. Consuming and absorbing vitamin D can help improve our overall well-being.

While the world slowly opens back up, let us take advantage of all the health benefits that are readily available to us. Be more conscious of the food we are choosing to fuel our bodies with; go outside and take a walk; sit outside and read a book. There are endless possibilities for increasing your vitamin D intake.

Our exceptional physical therapists at the Des Moines University Clinic are here for you. We are currently offering virtual appointments for patients, and are sharing our special classes and programs on our Facebook page. Visit the DMU Clinic website or call 515-271-1717 to learn more.

Disclaimer: This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Danae Holtman

Danae is a first year DPT student at Des Moines University. She is from a small town in Missouri. In her free time, Danae enjoys spending time with her family, crafting, and being active.

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