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Low White Blood Cells & a Vitamin D Deficiency

by
author image Carrie Cross
Carrie Cross has been writing for profit and pleasure for more than 35 years. Her background includes business, real estate, entrepreneurship, management, health and nutrition. A registered nurse, she has published various pieces, including web content, numerous newspaper and magazine articles and columns and six books.
Low White Blood Cells & a Vitamin D Deficiency
The sunshine vitamin may play a bigger role in fighting infections than first thought. Photo Credit Photodjo/iStock/Getty Images

It has long been known that vitamin D plays a vital part in maintaining strong bones and teeth. There is new evidence that vitamin D has a crucial role in regulating your immune functions, according to a 2009 paper in “Expert Reviews in Clinical Immunology.” The review adds that vitamin D deficiency may be linked to many diseases. Vitamin D is also needed to boost white blood cell production.

Your Immune System

Your immune system protects you from a plethora of intruding viruses, bacteria and parasites and a host of other disease-causing organisms. The immune system has two lines of defense, or attack. The first is non-specific and includes your skin, tears, the hair in your nostrils and the mucus in your respiratory system, to name a few. The specific defense system are your white blood cells that come in two basic types – lymphocytes, from your lymph system, and leukocytes, or white blood cells.

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White Blood Cells and Vitamin D

White blood cells carry a vitamin D receptor that allows the immune system to guard against infection. There are several different types of WBCs, including dendritic cells and macrophages, each requiring vitamin D to perform their jobs. The Linus Pauling Institute states that in specific cases, macrophages may produce an enzyme that is needed to make the active form of vitamin D to enable the macrophages to function properly.

Cathelicidin

In the event of vitamin D deficiency, the antimicrobial peptide cathelicidin is low. Cathelicidin is produced by WBCs to attack microbial invaders. Vitamin D promotes increased production of this broad spectrum peptide and increases your immunity to infection. Without vitamin D, as in the case of a deficiency, you are more open to disease and illnesses. A 2008 study in the "Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology" supplemented 14 subjects with 4,000 international units of vitamin D daily over three weeks and found that the white blood cells produced more cathelicidin.

Link Between Vitamin D and White Blood Cells

New physiological functions of vitamin D are emerging, claims the article in “Expert Reviews in Clinical Immunology.” It is becoming apparent that vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency are linked to poor immune functioning, which may translate to low white blood cell counts. The review adds that vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased infections and susceptibility to cancer, but more research is necessary. Do not replace vitamin D supplementation for any traditional medication or treatment without consulting your doctor.

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