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Roger Seheult, M.D.: COVID-19 And Vitamin D | Found My Fitness With Dr. Rhonda Patrick

Key Takeaways

  • COVID-19 won’t be beaten by a single thing – it’s going to take a combination of pharmacological and lifestyle interventions
  • It’s worth your while to get a vitamin D level test and supplement accordingly
  • We can’t say vitamin D is the cure for COVID-19 but it’s certainly prudent to keep levels sufficient
  • Regardless of one’s BMI, age, race, gender – COVID-19 patients with lower vitamin D levels are more likely to have advanced symptoms, need hospitalization, need ventilators, and have higher rates of mortality
  • The benefits of COVID-19 vaccines far outweigh the risks of contracting COVID-19 itself – the disease has a huge grey area with more and more cases of “long-haulers” exhibiting symptoms from respiratory distress to psychosis months after infection
  • Sleep is critical to maintaining healthy immune function: the 2 hours of sleep before midnight are more important than the 4 hours of sleep after midnight
  • Hydrotherapy (hot shower, hot tub) and heat stress (sauna) can potentially enhance innate immune response and reduce hospitalizations
  • Tips for staying healthy: get enough sleep, shower with hot and cold water in the same session, eat antioxidant fruits, supplement with vitamin D, NAC, and zinc (under 40 mg)


Dr. Roger Seheult, M.D. (@RogerSeheult) is a physician, professor, and co-creator of  MedCram Videos.

In this episode of Found My Fitness, Dr. Rhonda Patrick and Dr. Roger Seheult discuss the importance and complexity of vitamin D for COVID-19 and heat hydrotherapy. Dr. Seheult provides a unique perspective as a researcher and practicing clinician on the front line during the pandemic.

Host: Dr. Rhonda Patrick (@foundmyfitness)

Lessons From COVID-19

  • COVID-19 gave a platform to physicians, researchers, nutritionists who didn’t necessarily have an audience before
  • People were searching for answers and turned to scientists for information and data
  • Randomized controlled trials are the gold standard to confidently tell patients something will work
  • The system of approval we have for randomized controlled trials is not helpful in a global pandemic because we can’t get answers fast enough
  • Because of the flexibility we need to have for COVID-19, studies without controls are happening and approved – this is not business as usual
  • It’s difficult to scale up the production of any pharmacological intervention during a pandemic
  • Because of the supply and demand issue at the time of the pandemic, we have to turn to lifestyle remedies for prevention and some resolution (not necessarily cure)

COVID-19: Timing Of Treatment Is Critical

  • The timing of intervention is crucial in COVID-19
  • COVID-19 is all about timing – there’s an early portion and a late portion; the gray area in between is when you get pneumonia
  • In the late stages of COVID-19, patients are hospitalized and on oxygen
  • Timing of medication administration impacts the efficacy
  • Steroids: not efficacious in patients not on oxygen (in other words, early in the progression); but very beneficial to late-stage patients on ventilators
  • Remdesivir (anti-viral): efficacious early in the course of the disease but not for patients on ventilators

There’s No Silver Bullet For COVID-19

  • Preventing and treating COVID-19 is complex
  • What we know for sure: wear a mask over nose and mouth, make sure you’re not in an enclosed space for long periods of time with other people
  • Masks won’t protect us from everything – ventilation in closed spaces is critical
  • Ventilation on airplanes: air changes every 10 minutes through HEPA filters so planes are relatively safe
  • Even cloth masks help filter out particles if worn properly over one’s nose and mouth
  • COVID-19 won’t be beaten by a single thing – it’s going to take a combination of pharmacological and lifestyle interventions

Complexity And Importance Of Vitamin D

  • Vitamin D is so much more than a vitamin
  • In the U.S. 70% of the population is vitamin D insufficient
  • The structure of vitamin D is more similar to that of cortisol and other hormones
  • Standards of vitamin D dosage depend on the indication
  • Part of the complexity with vitamin D is our standard of doses are based on bone studies, not immunological data
  • It takes time for vitamin D to be metabolized in the liver; in an acute situation it may be more important to supplement with 25-hydroxyvitamin D – the major circulating metabolite of vitamin D
  • The problem is we don’t have a gland that makes vitamin D – it’s produced through one’s skin
  • Prior to COVID-19, a meta-analysis showed supplementation with vitamin D decreased acute chest infections by 50%
  • There are vitamin D receptors in immune cells
  • Many of the things we see in COVID-19, we see in vitamin D deficiency: higher risk with age, race – darker skin affected more (even in controlled studies), BMI (obesity is associated with higher morbidity)
  • Relevant study: SARS-CoV-2 positivity rates associated with circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels by Harvey W. Kaufman, Justin K. Niles, Martin H. Kroll, Caixia Bi, and  Michael F. Holick 
  • Regardless of race, gender, age, BMI – there’s an association between low levels of circulating vitamin D and increased positivity of SARS-CoV-2
  • Patients with lower vitamin D levels are more likely to have advanced symptoms, need hospitalization, need ventilators, and have higher rates of mortality
  • Relevant study: Vitamin D deficiency as a predictor of poor prognosis in patients with acute respiratory failure due to COVID-19 by G. E. Carpagnano, V. Di Lecce, V. N. Quaranta, A. Zito, E. Buonamico, E. Capozza, A. Palumbo, G. Di Gioia, V. N. Valerio, and O. Resta
  • We can’t say vitamin D is the single antidote for COVID-19 but it’s fair to say we should all stay vitamin D sufficient
  • Get a test to measure vitamin D levels and supplement accordingly
  • Recent data showed African Americans in Chicago have to stay in the sun 6x as long as Caucasians to produce the same amount of vitamin D
  • Vitamin D is the least toxic fat-soluble vitamin

Sleep And Immune Function

  • Sleep is complicated because most people have trouble sleeping but it could be medical or maladaptive behaviors
  • Sleep is critical for immune function
  • Slow-wave sleep: the sleep you get at the beginning of the night, also associated with secretion of growth hormone
  • REM sleep: occurs later in the night and the stage where dreams take place – less relationship to the immune system but important for other reasons
  • Cortisol levels are slower when you sleep more
  • With poor sleep, you have higher levels of cortisol and stress which compromises your immune system
  • Sleep apnea raises cortisol
  • Sleep and vaccine: people who have proper sleep prior to vaccination (any vaccination) have a higher immune system response and produce more antibodies
  • When people are implanted with a virus, people with 7+ hours of sleep with good sleep efficiency were 5-7x less likely to contract the virus
  • Sleep is not a cure but a good place to start
  • Late exposure to light shifts and delays circadian rhythm: over the past 50 years we cut into our most important deep sleep period
  • The 2 hours of sleep before midnight is more important than 4 hours after midnight
  • Tips for better sleep: (1) bright light exposure when you wake up; (2) avoid blue light exposure at night – either with glasses, red light, dim light in the house

Heat Stress & Heat Therapy For Innate Immunity

  • SARS-CoV-1, SARS-CoV-2, and MRSA all suppress innate immune system early in the disease
  • The innate immune system is robust in children but wanes over time
  • Key tools used by the innate immune system: fever, interferons
  • In order to have a mild to moderate course of the disease, you need an early and adequate interferon response
  • 80% of all symptomatic COVID-19 patients in the United States are not hospitalized because their innate immune system adequate handles the virus
  • Hydrotherapy (such as hot shower) and heat (such as sauna) increase innate immune system response
  • We can use hydrotherapy at home to rev immune system and manage infection low risk – potentially changing the course of the disease and avoiding hospitalization
  • Instead of having people wait at home until they’re sick enough to go to the hospital, we should try hydrotherapy at home
  • 20-minute home hydrotherapy option: boil hot water towel and place on back and chest; use ice-cold towel on head and neck – heat up the body but not thermostat (in the brain) so you don’t sweat
  • Relevant book: Rational Hydrotherapy by John Harvey Kellogg

COVID-19 Vaccines & mRNA Technology

  • mRNA is in the cytoplasm of the cell
  • Analogy to understand mRNA technology: mRNA vaccines are like an envelope with a message in it and that message tells the cell what type of protein to make
  • When you get a viral infection the virus fuses with cells and tells cells to make foreign proteins  
  • The Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines tell the cell to make a portion of the protein to recognize so if it ever comes around again, the immune system is ready to attack and prevent invasion
  • AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine uses a different vector: this is a DNA vaccine – the DNA goes into the nucleus where it is transcribed into mRNA then follows the same process as the other vaccines
  • mRNA vaccine benefits: if mutation or variant is significant, manufacturers can quickly change information on mRNA so it matches variant and immune system can response
  • Most long-term side effects appear in the first month or two
  • Benefits of vaccines outweigh risk: risk of getting post-infective autoimmune pathology is higher if you get COVID-19 versus if you get vaccinated

Tips For Staying Healthy

  • https://thor.ne/AYOyZGet enough sleep
  • Contrast shower: 3 min as hot as you can tolerate + 1 min as cold as you can tolerate, keep cycling a few times
  • Plenty of antioxidant fruits – blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, pineapple
  • Supplement with: vitamin D, NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine), Zinc (not more than 40mg)
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