A bottle of sunscreen next to a bowl of cereal, fish, and carton of milk

Hep C and Vitamin D

Last updated: December 2022

Vitamin D is a fundamental part of healthy human body function. We need it to survive.

It is a versatile vitamin that is unique in the variety of ways we can absorb it. Ensuring adequate vitamin D levels in the body becomes doubly important in the winter. Vitamin D impacts how effective and timely our immune system's response is when that system encounters seasonal germs and flu.

The benefits of vitamin D

When you are diagnosed with hepatitis C or are managing post-treatment extrahepatic manifestations, it can mean you are living with a compromised immune system. Immune response naturally declines in how effective it is during the winter months.1

Increasing the amount of vitamin D you get during winter might be the immune system boost you need. Please ensure that before making changes to your supplements, you speak with a healthcare professional you trust about whether it’s a safe decision for your unique situation.

The first thing to learn is what vitamin D is and how it does what it does. Vitamin D, also known as calciferol, is a vitamin retained and lives within your body's lipid cells (fat cells). Unlike other vitamins, vitamin D can be absorbed through consuming foods or supplements but also through the skin in the form of UVB light rays.2

Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium through our gut and digestive system. It is an essential vitamin for healthy bones. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory and is chemically necessary for maintaining healthy cell function in cell growth and immune function.1,2

The two types of vitamin D found in foods and supplements are vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol.) Unfortunately, not many foods contain vitamin D naturally.2,3

If you want to boost your intake through food alone, your choices are slim. Vitamin D is in fatty fish such as tuna, trout, salmon, and mackerel. It is also found (in smaller amounts) in beef liver, egg yolks, and cheese. Vitamin D is required to be added to fortified milk and dairy products in Canada and the United States.2,3

Getting vitamin D from the sun

Relying on being outdoors to maintain healthy vitamin D levels may be challenging. Factors such as season, time of day, skin, cloud cover, and where you live can affect how easily you can absorb vitamin D. It is important to note that windows are often treated to block UVB rays, so sitting in a sunny room or being in a car on a sunny day is unlikely to work.1,2

Tanning beds are not recommended to increase vitamin D intake. The risk of preventable skin cancer through UVA and UVB radiation is much greater than any potential vitamin D increase that tanning beds could provide. It is best to stick to foods and supplements.1,2

When you have hepatitis C or are managing long-term health issues due to extrahepatic manifestations of hepatitis C, your immune system can often seem to be working against you. Some studies suggest that up to 92 percent of people with chronic liver disease have vitamin D levels below the acceptable average.4

Low levels of such a necessary vitamin can put your immune system at risk and increase the number of times you become sick, especially during winter.

Have you tried these tips for boosting your vitamin D levels? Share in the comments below!

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