In the worldwide fight against COVID-19, magnesium and vitamin D may be powerful tools for boosting immunity and keeping the most severe coronavirus symptoms at bay.
COVID-19 has infected over 4 million people in Canada, and has led to over 40,000 deaths in our country. But recent research suggests that increasing levels of vitamin D and magnesium may help COVID patients successfully fight off the virus.
In this article, you’ll learn how magnesium and vitamin D support your immune system, what the relationship is between these nutrients, and what recent studies say about how magnesium and vitamin D can positively impact COVID treatment.
How Magnesium Helps Boost Your Immune System
Magnesium is a critical nutrient that enables hundreds of processes in the human body. Every cell in your system needs magnesium to function properly.
In the immune system, magnesium is a natural immune system booster that improves your white blood cells’ ability to find and destroy germs and disease-causing pathogens, which improves your ability to fight illness and infection.
Magnesium also reduces inflammation. Inflammation can increase the risk of disease and lead to chronic health conditions.
Tumour necrosis factor (TNF) plays a pivotal role in the natural healing process by helping your body fight off infection. However, high levels of TNF in the blood can cause out-of-control inflammation, resulting in painful symptoms and a less effective immune response.
In a recent study in the Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) Journal, rats that were fed a magnesium-deficient diet had higher TNF alpha plasma values, indicating an increased level of inflammation. The rats that received magnesium supplementation had increased survival rates when faced with an endotoxin challenge.
One scientific study shows that magnesium, delivered intravenously, can reduce hospital admissions and improve lung function in adults that have acute asthma. Another study in Health Technology Assessment reported that nebulized magnesium improved outcomes for children who were experiencing acute asthma symptoms.
“This study supports the use of nebulized isotonic MgSO4 at the dose of 151 mg given three times in the first hour of treatment as an adjuvant to standard treatment when a child presents with an acute episode of severe asthma,” the researchers say. “No harm is done by adding magnesium to salbutamol and ipratropium bromide, and in some individuals it may be clinically helpful.”
These results for asthma patients may indicate the clinical benefits of using magnesium in treating the lung inflammation of COVID-19 patients. We’ll explore that topic in more depth below.
Another scientific review illustrated that higher magnesium levels can lead to a reduction of C-reactive protein (CRP) levels. CRP levels are one of the most widely-used biomarkers to measure inflammation, and higher CRP markers indicate high inflammation in the body. This review’s results suggest that magnesium has the potential to reduce inflammation. Researchers said:
“This meta-analysis and systematic review indicates that dietary Mg intake is significantly and inversely associated with serum CRP levels. The potential beneficial effect of Mg intake on chronic diseases may be, at least in part, explained by inhibiting inflammation.”
What Is the Relationship Between Magnesium and Vitamin D?
You already know that magnesium and vitamin D are both vital for your health, but you may not know that there is a close relationship between the two nutrients in your body.
Vitamin D helps you build strong bones and maintain a healthy, robust immune system — but your body can’t process vitamin D on its own. Magnesium is critical for metabolizing vitamin D, converting it into its active form in the body, and transporting it within the body.
Together, magnesium and vitamin D are powerhouse nutrients. However, before vitamin D can perform its vital functions, it must be activated by a two-step process:
In step 1, an enzyme in the liver called 25-hydroxylase converts vitamin D2 and D3 to 25-hydroxyvitamin D. This is the circulating form of vitamin D that gets measured in blood tests that evaluate levels of the vitamin in your system.
In step 2, your kidneys use another enzyme, 1-alpha-hydroxylase, to convert 25-hydroxyvitamin D into active vitamin D.
Both of these enzymes — 25-hydroxylase and 1-alpha-hydroxylase — need magnesium to function properly. Without magnesium, vitamin D would remain inactive in your system, rendering it useless.
What does that mean for you? It means that if you have low serum magnesium levels, you may run the risk of experiencing vitamin D deficiency, as well.
A 2018 article in the Journal of Osteopathic Medicine said:
“Magnesium and vitamin D are 2 essential nutrients that are necessary for the physiologic functions of various organs. Magnesium assists in the activation of vitamin D, which helps regulate calcium and phosphate homeostasis to influence the growth and maintenance of bones. All of the enzymes that metabolize vitamin D seem to require magnesium, which acts as a cofactor in the enzymatic reactions in the liver and kidneys. Deficiency in either of these nutrients is reported to be associated with various disorders, such as skeletal deformities, cardiovascular diseases, and metabolic syndrome. It is therefore essential to ensure that the recommended amount of magnesium is consumed to obtain the optimal benefits of vitamin D.”
Additionally, vitamin D can enhance the absorption of magnesium in your digestive system, particularly if you already have low magnesium levels. This boost of absorption allows magnesium to be used more efficiently in the body.
In one study, scientists reported that giving obese women Vitamin D injections significantly increased their serum magnesium levels.
The Role of Vitamin D in the Immune System
Laboratory studies show that vitamin D can also help control infections, and can reduce inflammation, thereby contributing to a healthy immune system. In the Journal of Investigative Medicine, researchers reported:
“The immune system defends the body from foreign, invading organisms, promoting protective immunity while maintaining tolerance to self. The implications of vitamin D deficiency on the immune system have become clearer in recent years and in the context of vitamin D deficiency, there appears to be an increased susceptibility to infection…”
We know that magnesium and vitamin D are critical for a fully functioning immune system. Now let’s take a look at what recent research says about how these nutrients might help reduce COVID-19 infections and keep more COVID patients from getting seriously ill.
How Magnesium and Vitamin D Can Help Us Fight COVID-19
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the COVID-19 virus has infected more than 565 million worldwide and killed over 6 million people. Many of the people who die of COVID suffer from a type of “hyper-inflammation” that includes features of cytokine storm syndrome (CSS) in pulmonary tissues, followed by acute respiratory distress syndrome.
According to the National Cancer Institute, a cytokine is:
“A type of protein that is made by certain immune and non-immune cells and has an effect on the immune system. Some cytokines stimulate the immune system and others slow it down. They can also be made in the laboratory and used to help the body fight cancer, infections, and other diseases. Examples of cytokines are interleukins, interferons, and colony-stimulating factors (filgrastim, sargramostim).”
Cytokines play an important role in normal immune responses. However, having a large number of cytokines released in the body at once can be very harmful. A cytokine storm is a severe immune reaction in which the body releases too many cytokines in the blood too quickly, triggering a cascade of events that can lead to multi-organ failure and death.
Cytokine storms often cause:
- Cell and tissue damage
- Narrowed blood vessels
- Blood clots
Low magnesium leads to a higher incidence of cytokine storms, causing the body to attack its own tissues and cells, instead of fighting infection. Magnesium supplementation decreases inflammatory cytokine production, and can reduce these effects, according to a study in the Journal of Immunology.
Additionally, researchers in Spain discovered that 80% of the patients who had severe cases of coronavirus were found to have vitamin D deficiency.
Study co-author José L. Hernández, Ph.D. of the University of Cantabria, said:
“One approach is to identify and treat vitamin D deficiency, especially in high-risk individuals such as the elderly, patients with comorbidities, and nursing home residents, who are the main target population for the COVID-19. Vitamin D treatment should be recommended in COVID-19 patients with low levels of vitamin D circulating in the blood since this approach might have beneficial effects in both the musculoskeletal and the immune system.”
Our disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most current information possible, but this content is for informational use only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or professional diagnosis. Before you start taking any medications, discuss any possible side effects or interactions with your healthcare provider who knows your medical history.
Current Research on COVID-19, Magnesium and Vitamin D
One groundbreaking study in Singapore compared clinical outcomes of older COVID-19 patients who received a combination of magnesium and vitamin D, together with vitamin B (also known as DMB), compared to those who did not receive the combination. The scientists reported:
“After adjusting for age or hypertension separately in a multivariate analysis, the intervention group retained protective significance…A vitamin D/magnesium/vitamin B12 combination in older COVID-19 patients was associated with a significant reduction in the proportion of patients with clinical deterioration requiring oxygen support, intensive care support, or both. This study supports further larger randomized controlled trials to ascertain the full benefit of this combination in ameliorating the severity of COVID-19.”
Another study concluded that magnesium and vitamin D, as well as zinc could be helpful in fighting against the hyper inflammation of respiratory viruses like COVID-19.
“Targeted treatments against cytokines can prevent the cytokine storm, which brings the disease to its final stage,” scientists said. “Vitamin D, by affecting NF-κB and other pathways, can attenuate various pro-inflammatory cytokines involved in the cytokine storms. Magnesium, the critical element in the synthesis and activation of vitamin D, acts as a cofactor for many enzymes involved in VitD metabolism. Low zinc status impairs immune response and increases susceptibility to viral, bacterial, and fungal infections. Excessive inflammatory response overproduces pro-inflammatory cytokines and cytokine storm, which play a significant role in COVID-19 pathogenesis….so, it can be concluded that concomitant use of a standard drug with vitamin D, magnesium, and zinc may effectively control COVID 19 in the early stages and reduce mortality.”
The Best Magnesium Supplement for the Immune System
Although you can get magnesium from dietary sources like dark leafy greens, seeds, nuts, beans, and some types of fish, most Canadians don’t get the recommended amount of magnesium every day from diet alone.
In the Science of Medicine, researchers James J. DiNicolantonio, PharmD and James H. O’Keefe, MD, concluded that magnesium and vitamin D supplementation should be considered in the general population during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
If you would like to boost your immune system and potentially protect yourself against some of the most serious effects of COVID-19, you may want to consider supplementing with magnesium and vitamin D.
But buyer beware: There are many different forms of magnesium on the market, and they all have different levels of bioavailability. When a supplement is more bioavailable, it means it is more easily absorbed, and your system can get the benefits of it more readily.
One study showed that organic magnesium — like magnesium citrate — has higher bioavailability than inorganic types like magnesium oxide. In the journal BMC Nutrition, researchers said:
“This study confirms former study results showing a higher bioavailability of the organic Mg compound magnesium citrate compared to magnesium oxide. It can be concluded that magnesium citrate, similar to other organic magnesium compounds, may be more suitable than magnesium oxide to optimize the dietary magnesium intake.”
Natural Calm Magnesium for Immunity
Since low levels of magnesium and vitamin D are a common characteristic in a majority of patients with COVID-19 — and both nutrients have been found to help ward off the cytokine storms that lead to such devastating consequences in COVID patients — getting magnesium and vitamin D levels within the normal range is a safe and inexpensive way to strengthen your immune function and shore up your defences against this deadly virus.
A highly bioavailable magnesium supplement like Natural Calm® is highly absorbable, so that you can meet your daily dietary magnesium recommendation.
Natural Calm® magnesium citrate powder dissolves into a delicious fizzy beverage when added to liquid, and it can be enjoyed hot or cold. Natural Calm® magnesium gummies are also very popular.
Check out our online store to browse our selection of magnesium citrate powders or gummies, or check the shelves of major Canadian retailers.