Vitamin D vs. Chronic Inflammation

by | Apr 16, 2020 | Oral Health, Periodontal health

A paper just published in the journal Nutrients suggests that vitamin D may be a good option for reducing risk of COVID-19.

Through several mechanisms, vitamin D can reduce risk of infections. Those mechanisms include inducing cathelicidins and defensins that can lower viral replication rates and reducing concentrations of pro-inflammatory cytokines that produce the inflammation that injures the lining of the lungs, leading to pneumonia, as well as increasing concentrations of anti-inflammatory cytokines.

Of course, it’s ability to reduce inflammation is also what makes it so useful in warding off gum disease – a condition consistently linked with other inflammatory conditions, from heart disease to cancer, rheumatoid arthritis to cognitive decline.

In the post below, originally published in March 2019, we take a look at the relationship between vitamin D and oral health – and how you can make sure you get enough of this essential nutrient.


Want Healthier Gums? Let the Sunshine In!

man in silhouette eating sunNo, not into your mouth, but on your skin – so it can make enough vitamin D to support good health.

Sadly, many of us don’t get enough – about 40% of us, according to a recent article by Dr. Mercola. The lack of this important nutrient can mean getting sick more often, depression, fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, bone loss, impaired wound healing, and more.

But D is also critical to your oral health, as well – gums and teeth alike, as new research reminds.

For one of these studies, published last month in the Journal of Periodontal Research, researchers deprived lab mice of vitamin D. Cells from their gum tissue were then stimulated with vitamin D3 and infected with P. gingivalis, one of the main bacteria involved in gum disease. The effects were then studied.

The authors noted an association between the lack of vitamin D and bone loss around the tooth sockets, as well as more inflammation of the soft tissue. Both of these are classic signs of periodontal disease.

But they also found that topical application of vitamin D put the brakes on the inflammatory response. Controlling inflammation is key to keeping gum disease in check.

D’s importance to periodontal health is the focus of an even newer paper in General Dentistry. Reviewing research on the potential link between vitamin D and healing after periodontal surgery, the authors found that deficiency may in fact mean worse outcomes.

Other reviews – such as this one from last winter – likewise highlight the role this nutrient plays in both oral and systemic health.

Preliminary reports suggest that vitamin D, through the maintenance of normal bone metabolism, as well as its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activity, modulates periodontal disease. A normal level of vitamin D is important in the treatment of periodontitis. More and more studies are focusing on the problem of vitamin D deficiency and its role in the human body. It is very important to maintain normal levels of vitamin D in the blood and supplement it in the case of shortfalls.

But there’s another vitamin that’s just as important in this dynamic: vitamin K.

In fact, as Dr. Mercola has noted elsewhere, “We are finding that some of vitamin D’s benefits are greatly enhanced when combined with” vitamin K.

One of the undisputed benefits vitamin D provides for you is improved bone development by helping you ABSORB calcium. This is not new….

But there is new evidence that it is the vitamin K (specifically, vitamin K2) that directs the calcium to your skeleton, while preventing it from being deposited where you don’t want it – i.e., your organs, joint spaces, and arteries. A large part of arterial plaque consists of calcium deposits (atherosclerosis), hence the term “hardening of the arteries.”

Vitamin K2 activates a protein hormone called osteocalcin, produced by osteoblasts, which is needed to bind calcium into the matrix of your bone. Osteocalcin also appears to help prevent calcium from depositing into your arteries.

You can think of vitamin D as the gatekeeper, controlling who gets in, and vitamin K as the traffic cop, directing the traffic to where it needs to go.

You can read more about this synergistic relationship here.

sunshine iconAs mentioned, your best source of vitamin D is the D your own body produces with the help of ultraviolet rays from sunlight. How much exposure you need depends on a variety of factors – your skin tone, weight, how much skin is exposed, your geographic location, weather conditions, and so on.

Fortunately, there are tools to help you determine optimal exposure, such as the free dminder app (Android/iOS) or the free calculator from the Norwegian Institute for Air Research.

If you’re not able to get much sun, D3 supplementation can be a great option – as can eating more foods naturally containing the nutrient. There aren’t a lot, but there are some good ones:

  • Seafood, particularly wild salmon, herring and sardines, oysters and shrimp.
  • Egg yolks from pastured chickens, which have 3 to 4 times the amount of D as egg yolks from caged birds.
  • Shiitake mushrooms.

Keep in mind, though, that vitamin D is no silver bullet. Good periodontal health depends on other factors, as well – things like eating a varied, nutrient-dense diet; getting enough sleep; avoiding tobacco products; keeping physically active and managing stress.

But D definitely has an important role to play – and here in Arlington, we’re blessed with a whole lot of sunshine that can help you get the D you need.

Just remember: While your skin needs sun, it also needs to be protected from getting too much. Here are some great tips from Dr. Kellyann on protecting your skin naturally.


Images by USAF, Bcjordan

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