While we typically want things to be simple and straightforward, our patients come to us with unique histories, biochemistries and genetics. Understanding these unique traits and components is often key to understanding the root cause of our patients’ symptoms.
Treating biochemical individuality is a key tenet of functional medicine and the core concept underlying everything we teach through Psychiatry Redefined. Unfortunately, it is often critically absent from standard medical approaches to both physical and mental health. And through identifying and assessing biochemical individuality, we can instill hope in our patients as they recognize the opportunity for recovery and lasting wellness.
Vitamin D and COVID-19
A recent study on vitamin D and COVID-19 is another example of the importance of addressing our patients’ biochemical individuality (Freitas 2021). In the study, the authors had previously noted that COVID-19 severity was inversely related to vitamin D levels. As such, the researchers tested over 500 patients who were hospitalized for COVID-19 and assessed different genetic variants that affect vitamin D levels in relation to the course of their infections.
The study discovered that a specific polymorphism in the GC gene that encodes for vitamin-D binding protein significantly increased the risks for severe COVID-19 and death. While studies have found that the polymorphism is associated with lower vitamin D levels, the authors also note that vitamin-D binding protein plays a role in immune system activation and inflammation, a response that is often overexpressed in COVID-19 patients with severe disease.
Additionally, vitamin-D binding protein acts as a scavenger for actin, a protein released from dying cells. When excessive, actin can contribute to increased intravascular coagulation, also seen in severe COVID-19.
The authors highlight the importance of the discovery as a possible predictive factor for the course of COVID-19 infection. It also identifies a subset of patients who are likely in greater need of supplemental vitamin D to help in prevention. This research is an ideal example of how a commitment to understanding the unique traits and characteristics of our patients can improve prevention, care, and treatment.
Assessing and addressing our patients’ individual biochemistry and genetics is the core mission of Psychiatry Redefined. Unfortunately, too many patients struggle with standard, one-size-fits-all, medication-based approaches that are often poorly effective for their mental health symptoms. By utilizing functional medicine and psychiatry tools and protocols, we can – and will – do better for our patients.
Infections and mental health, including Lyme, PANDAS, mold, COVID, and more, will be the focus of day two of our Functional Medicine for Mental Health Conference this October 7-8. Get all details and register below!
Freitas AT, Calhau C, Antunes G, et al. Vitamin D-related polymorphisms and vitamin D levels as risk biomarkers of COVID-19 disease severity. Sci Rep. 2021;11(1):20837. Published 2021 Oct 21. doi:10.1038/s41598-021-99952-z