Vitamin D Regulates the Immune System

I am an herbalist, and that is where I turn first, in most cases.  But Vitamin D is an exception.  It is a hormone used by most of our cells in over 2000 functions,.  As humans ranged north of the African savannah where we evolved and started wearing more clothing, we started lowering our D levels.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D

Vitamin D has the ability to kill off bacteria and that property has been so important that we have retained that property as primates for over 60 million years

Vitamin D  also prevents the over stimulation of our immune system which could cause it to attack ourselves.  This is important for the Swine Flu which can be dangerous if there is an excessive inflammatory response, called a cytokine storm.

Most deaths in the 1918 flu pandemic and more recently from SARS, happened when young healthy people who had a strong immune response provoked a cytokine storm which allowed an excessive response that quickly killed them off.  We speculate that with higher levels of Vitamin D, the regulatory function that caused the excessive inflammation might not have occurred.

This article tells how the process works, but the takeaway is to keep your Vitamin D levels high (blood level around 60) which may require 10,000 iu or more daily and if you get the flu increase it. 

Aug 19 2009, 10:20 AM EST

Regulation of Antimicrobial Peptide by Vitamin D Found to Have Been

Conserved for 60M Years

GEN News Highlights

A new study has concluded that one part of the immune system, the
ability of vitamin D to regulate antibactericidal peptides
cathelicidin, is so important that it is has been conserved through
almost 60 million years of evolution
and is shared only by primates.
The cathelicidin peptide has several different biological activities
in addition to killing pathogens, and it is not yet clear which one or
combination of them makes vitamin D so essential to its regulation.

Researchers from Oregon State University (OSU) and the Cedars-Sinai
Medical Center describe the presence of a genetic element that is
specific to primates and involved in the innate immune response
in a paper published in BMC Genomics. The genetic material called an Alu
short interspersed element is part of what used to be thought of as
junk DNA but is believed to have important roles in regulating and
turning on the expression of other genes.

It has been known that in primates this action of turning on an
optimal response to microbial attack only works properly in the
presence of adequate vitamin D. Additionally, researchers understand that vitamin D prevents the adaptive immune response from overreacting and reduces inflammation.

In the current study the scientists specifically discovered that Alu
allows vitamin D to boost the innate immune response by turning on
cathelicidin. The scientists thus suggest that the overall effect of
this action is likely to help prevent the immune system from

“It’s essential that we have both an innate immune response that
provides an immediate and front line of defense, but we also have
protection against an overreaction by the immune system, which is what you see in sepsis and some autoimmune or degenerative diseases
,” explains Adrian Gombart, Ph.D., an associate professor of biochemistry and a principal investigator with the Linus Pauling Institute at OSU.

“This is a very delicate balancing act, and without sufficient levels
of vitamin D you may not have an optimal response with either aspect
of the immune system.

“The antimicrobial peptide that we’re studying seems to be involved
not just in killing bacteria, but has other biological roles,” Dr.
Gombart continues. “It recruits other immune cells and sort of sounds
the alarm that something is wrong. It helps promote development of
blood vessels, cell growth, and healing of wounds
. And it seems to
have important roles in barrier tissues such as skin and the digestive
system. Vitamin D is very important for the health of the skin and
digestive system, and putting the cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide
gene under its regulation may be important in this function.”

Any one or some combination of those biological roles may be why
vitamin D-mediated regulation of the antimicrobial peptide has been conserved in every primate species ever examined for its presence, researchers say, and did not disappear long ago through evolutionary variation and mutation. The evolution of primates into many different families and hundreds of species has been carefully tracked through genetic, molecular sequence, and fossil studies, but the presence of
this regulatory element in primates is still largely the same as it’s been for more than 50 million years.

The evolutionary survival of this genetic element and the placement of
the cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide gene under the regulation of
the vitamin D pathway “may enable suppression of inflammation while
potentiating innate immunity, thus maximizing the overall immune
response to a pathogen and minimizing damage to the host,” according
to the scientists.

See Related Posts:

Vitamin D Regulates the Immune System

Nursing Mothers, Infants and Vitamin D

How to Get Vitamin D from the Sun

And More On Vitamin D

Vitamin D Prevents Cancer, Type 1 Diabetes, MS, Heart Attack and Pain

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