Nutrition for Immune System Health

Nutrition for Immune System Health (NISH) is an email discussion list with searchable (members-only) web archives for doctors, nurses, public health administrators, researchers and other people concerned about nutrition and immunity.  In the current COVID-19 crisis, our attention is naturally focused on the role vitamin D supplementation is likely to have in protecting millions of people from serious symptoms, lasting harm and death.

This list is for people with a serious commitment to understanding and facilitating research concerning nutrition and immunity.   For general information about vitamin D and COVID-19 please see and other sites linked to from there.

The membership list and discussion archive are confidential to members.   Views expressed are assumed to be personal and independent of whatever organisations members may be affiliated with.

The NISH list is hosted at which has better archive and other facilities than those of other systems, including Google Groups.  List emails have a header [NISH] in their subject line.  Subscribers can turn off these emails and participate entirely via the web interface.  Although "group", "join" and "member" terminology is used, this is a discussion mailing list, not a set of people with particular ideas which must be adhered to, or which will make any public statements. 

COVID-19 severe symptoms, harm and death result from the SARS-CoV-2 virus eliciting a weak and/or dysregulated (overly-aggressive, pro-inflammatory) immune response which does not stop the infection reaching the lungs.  There, a combination of viral replication and self-destructive immune responses damages endothelial cells, causing the blood to become thick and hypercoagulative.  This causes microembolisms and large blood clots in the brain, lungs, heart and other organs.   Heart attack, stroke or other causes of death all result from this hypercoagulative state.

A great deal of research shows that adequate vitamin D levels (40ng/ml 250HD and above, AKA 100nmol/L) are required for a strong, well regulated, immune system.  Most people have lower levels and require robust supplementation to attain 40ng/ml or more.

Antiviral drugs cannot halt the spread of the disease and there may never be a safe, effective, vaccine.  So there are strong arguments for most people taking substantial vitamin D supplements as a matter of urgency.   Yet seven months into the global pandemic, there are just a handful of studies on 25OHD levels and vitamin D supplementation before - or after infection - and COVID-19 severity.

Many doctors are wary of vitamin D supplementation beyond the 400 to 600IU/day government guidelines, which are about about a tenth of what many people require to reach 40ng/ml.  Are there particular individuals or groups for which robust vitamin D supplementation may be harmful?  How can most doctors be convinced of the need for population scale vitamin D supplementation?  How can factories be built quickly to meet such global demand?

Vitamin D is not the only nutrient required for proper immune system functioning.  COVID-19 with severe symptoms is one of many health problems caused by weakened and/or dysregulated immune responses.  The NISH list's scope includes:

  • Nutritional deficiencies and excesses which affect immune function.
  • Immune function affecting health, chronic and acute illnesses etc. as well as illness affecting immune function.
  • Particular groups of people whose may need more or less of certain nutrients for full health.
  • Research and clinical care regarding the above, including matters which affect this such as, for instance, genetic differences which increase the risk of severe symptoms, and the racial/ethnic patterns in the prevalence of such genetic patterns. 
  • Etiology of illnesses, such as COVID-19 and how this is affected by immune system dysfunction, nutrients and common drugs such as alcohol an nicotine.
  • Absence of helminths (intestinal worms) leading to overly-aggressive immune responses which evolved when our helminths downmodulated our ancestor's immune responses.  Hence, helminthic therapy - though this is unlikely to be practical except for individuals with an acute need to reduce inflammation.
  • Organisational, public awareness and political aspects of advocating for better research and supplementation of most people, in call countries.  This includes reasons why clinicians and public health administrators might be wary of such supplementation.
  • Please use ng/ml for 25OHD blood level measurements rather than nmol/L.  D3 dosage in milligrams is good, with the equivalent IU value in brackets.  One of the problems with vitamin D supplementation is that "4000IU" seems like a lot, when it is a modest intake (0.1mg) for normal weight people, and adds up to a gram every 27 years.

The mailing list is for constructive, potentially detailed, courteous discussions - not a flurry of one-liners.  In order to maintain a high signal-to-noise ratio on the NISH list subscribers can use an Other Topics sub-list to discuss matters which are outside the NISH scope.  NISH subscribers can create real-time text chat channels and schedule Zoom meetings.

As required by, each new member's first message is moderated.  If you need help understanding or using the lists, please write to me at rather than to the NISH list.

Robin Whittle    Daylesford, Victoria, Australia

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