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Is low Vitamin D affecting your immunity?

Our biggest source of vitamin D comes from the sun.

 With so much sun around, getting your daily dose of this vitamin should be a piece of cake. 

Sadly this is not so. 

An estimated 73% of adults suffer from inadequate vitamin D levels.

Why do we need Vitamin D?

Vitamin D has many important functions in the body such as:

  • Building bones
  • Keeping our muscles strong
  • Modulating our moods
  • Boosting our immunity

Without adequate levels, our body struggles to do these jobs to the best of its ability.

When it comes to immunity, Vitamin D is crucial in activating your immune system.

If you find that you are getting sick often, then it is a good idea to get your vitamin D levels checked. This is can be done via a blood test. It should be noted that the normal range for Vitamin D is quite broad. Even if your vitamin D status falls within the normal range your levels may still be too low for maintaining optimal health.

 

 

How can we boost our Vitamin D?

Vitamin DVitamin D is actually made in your skin once it has been exposed to the UVB rays of the sun. This is where the majority of our vitamin D comes from. Obtaining adequate Vitamin D levels can be affected in some of the following ways:

  • Not getting enough sun exposure due to:
    • spending too much time indoors,
    • lathering up with sunscreen,
    • shading ourselves from the sun,
    • Concern over developing skin cancer has made many of us sun shy
  • Skin colour – the darker your skin the more sun exposure you need to make vitamin D.
  • Air quality – pollution creates a barrier that decreases the ability of UVB rays to reach the earth’s atmosphere¹.
  • Age – as we age our bodies become less efficient at making vitamin D².
  • Distance from the Equator and season of the year affects UVB rays and therefore vitamin D levels.

We do also get small amounts of vitamin D from some food sources such as fatty fish like salmon and cod liver oil, mushrooms, and egg yolks Vitamin D supplementation is also an option for those who are not able to obtain enough vitamin D from other sources.  However, not all vitamin D supplements are the same. Vitamin D is prone to oxidisation and deterioration, so it is important to use a high-quality vitamin D with proven stability.

 

How much sun exposure do we need?

The Ministry of Health in New Zealand has released a consensus statement on the levels of sun exposure. Below I have outlined a summary or for more detailed information you can access the document via the pdf link.

https://www.health.govt.nz/system/files/documents/publications/vitamind-sun-exposure.pdf

Consensus statement summary:

  1. Sunburn should always be avoided. Exposure must be to direct sunlight as UVB does not pass through glass.
  2. Sun protection should be used throughout the year when at high altitudes or near highly reflective surfaces, such as snow or water.
  3. Between September and April – Deliberate sun exposure during peak ultraviolet radiation periods (10 am and 4 pm) is not recommended because this increases the risk of skin cancer, eye damage and photo ageing. Sun protection (shade, cover-up clothing, hats, sunscreen, and sunglasses) should be used during peak time. A daily walk exposed to the sunlight outside the peak times in the early morning or late afternoon is recommended.
  4. Between May and August, sun protection is generally not required unless at high altitudes or near highly reflective surfaces, such as snow or water. A daily walk or other outdoor activity is recommended around noon when UVB levels are at their highest.
  5. Those at high risk of skin cancer include those: with a history of skin cancer, who are highly sun sensitive, who have received an organ transplant, or who are taking medicines that increase photosensitivity. These people should discuss their vitamin D requirements with their health practitioner to determine whether dietary supplementation with vitamin D would be a preferable alternative to sun exposure.
  6. Refer to the daily Ultraviolet Index at sunsmart.org.nz or www.niwa.co.nz/our-services/online-services/uv-and-ozone/forecasts.

 


References
1 Hosseinpanah, Farhad et al. “The Effects of Air Pollution on Vitamin D Status in Healthy Women: A Cross Sectional Study.” BMC Public Health 10 (2010): 519. PMC. Web. 24 July 2017.

2 Boucher BJ. The problems of Vitamin D insufficiency in older people. Aging and disease. 2012 Aug; 3 (4): 313-29

3 Nowson, McGrath, Ebeling, Haikerwal, Daly, Sanders, Seibel, Mason. Vitamin D and health in adults in Australia and New Zealand: a position statement. Med J Aust 2012; 196 (11): 686-687.)

 

How do hormones affect your sleep?

Have you ever noticed that if you don’t go to bed or wake up at a particular time, that your whole night’s sleep or whole day is ruined? Much of this is because of hormones, not the lovely lady hormones, but rather a different set that is involved in your body’s cycle of sleeping and waking.

The main hormones involved in sleep are known as melatonin and cortisol. Melatonin triggers feelings of being sleepy, and its release is stimulated by darkness but reduced by exposure to light. This is one reason why many people wake up when the sun rises. However, it also means that spending time on your computer or watching television right before bed is not a good idea! The bright lights that these screens give off can trick your body into thinking that it’s still the middle of the day.

As melatonin falls in the morning, cortisol rises sharply to help us wake up . Poor sleep can increase cortisol levels, and so can stress, meaning these are two more factors that can ruin what would be a good night’s sleep.

Cortisol levels are meant to drop at night, in order to allow sleep. If you have been under long term stress your cortisol levels start can become unbalanced and if you are not in bed by 10pm they can rise again, keeping you awake. This is just one reason why it is important to follow your body’s natural rhythms, which roughly means a bedtime of 9-10pm (when it is dark stimulating melatonin production) and waking up around 6am (when it becomes light). A routine out of sync with these rhythms can disrupt quality sleep leading to other issues such as hormonal and mental health issues. Napping during the day when we are meant to be awake is another disruption to our natural rhythms, particularly if it is for more than an hour. Being stressed just before going to sleep can also affect sleep quality, leaving you unrefreshed.

If you tend to worry when going to bed set aside a specific “worry time” and journal your worries to get them out of your head so that they don’t circulate round and round in your head.

Breathing exercises can be another way to reduce of stress. This is one way that you can relax the part of your nervous system that the body automatically controls.  Simply breathe in for to the count of 5 hold for 3 second and breathe out to a count of 7 really letting everything go  – emphasis is on the out breath.

Caffeine, vigorous exercise and other stimulating activities are also forbidden, as these can increase adrenaline, another hormone that keeps you awake like cortisol. The purpose of adrenaline is to get your body in “fight or flight” mode, at the expense of the “rest and digest” mode.

And perhaps most importantly if you are making changes to improve sleep, get your whole family involved! Healthy sleeping habits are most essential for children, and if everyone is getting a good night’s sleep then family life can run much more smoothly.

The cost of doing too much

Girls can do anything …but what is the cost?

Girls can do anything
New Zealand Government’s Employment and Vocational Guidance Service launched this advertising Campaign in the mid 1980’s. This was to encourage girls to seek work in more traditionally male dominated industries which were generally better paid.

I grew up in a pretty traditional family where women and men had pretty set roles. Growing up I always thought that women got the raw deal and remember thinking that I would do things differently when I grew up. A quiet feminist was stirring within.

The gods must have been listening to my pleas for a better life for women. When I was around sixteen, an advertising campaign was launched by the New Zealand Government that said “Girls can do anything” which was to encourage girls into more male dominated industries. This was fantastic news.

In my teenage wisdom I decided I was going to drive tanks in the army. My parents were mortified! This spurred me to want to do it even more (nasty teenager I was). Needless to say I didn’t join the army, although friends of mine did, but there was not a tank driver among us. My life took many unanticipated twists and turns but the biggest was Motherhood.

Being a mother took a lot more out of me than I thought – it was a BIG JOB! I was overwhelmed with all that was expected of me. Being a good mother, participating in paid work, running a home, having a good relationship with my husband AND somehow having a life for myself. Phew!

This was not how I imagined motherhood would be. This is not how I remember my mother’s life looking. It was about this time that I started to question modern society’s expectations on women. My quiet feminist values began to be put to the test.

Modern Motherhood

The fact is modern motherhood looks a lot different to that of our mothers. While some things have  improved such as greater access to information, more conveniences and larger incomes there are also far greater expectations on mothers.

In the world of a modern mother many households need a second income so off to work mum goes (or for single mums she has even more pressure to provide financially). Stay at home mums feel guilty for not bringing in an income and working mothers feel guilty for not spending enough time with their children. Kids no longer free range play so activities and “play dates” are scheduled, how we discipline and speak to our children is under scrutiny by those around us and social media bombards us continuously with how our lives should be.

Attitudes and expectations around parenting have changed dramatically and we are now parenting in uncharted waters. We have no role models to look to as to how to parent in these changing times.  We look to each other, the media, experts and even the Government who all have differing opinions of what we should be doing. The pressure and the guilt, which mums are so good at, is intense.

So what’s the toll on mothers?

The reality is that a lot of people are struggling with the demands of modern living but in particular mothers. Behind the painted on smiles of many mothers who seem to be doing it all and having it all there is an exhausted woman who are desperately trying to do their best to keep up with the exceptions of modern motherhood.

The enduring portrayal that mothers should be selfless coupled with jam packed schedules, mothers are all too often grossly neglecting their own needs. It is not until their bodies can no longer cope and they reach adrenal burn out that they drag themselves through my clinic door.

So what is the cost of women doing everything? She is tired, unfulfilled, disconnected and exhausted. There are many diseases and conditions on the rise that can in the main be attributed to our modern lifestyles, autoimmune diseases, infertility, diabetes, heart disease, depression, anxiety and obesity just to name a few.

It’s time for Women to take back their power

While I think it is fair to say we have more than proved that girls can do anything we have failed miserably at taking care of ourselves. Women simply can’t do it all and remain healthy and vital. Doing everything drains our tanks and running on empty we are no good to anyone.

Here are 5 things you can do to fill up your tank and reduce the stress in your life:

  • Guilt is a wasted emotion. Unfortunately women are very good a feeling guilty. Guilt serves no one and simply drains you of energy and wastes your time. Any time you hear yourself saying “I should have …”, “I could have …” – Just STOP you are wasting your time and energy.
  • Work out what your values are and focus your energy on the things that mean something to you. Prioritise your to do list around those things that bring you closer to your values and learn to say NO to the things that do not. If healthy food is something you value but you don’t have time to cook then what other things can you give up in order to free up your time – would meal planning help, can someone in the house help, or are you spending too much time plugged into social media. Spending time on things you value is far less stressful than spending time on things you do not value.
  • Quality sleep – Sleep rejuvenates the body, rests the adrenals, rejuvenates the cells in your body and strengthens your immune system. Sacrificing sleep time to get more done is a false economy. Poor quality sleep will catch up on you draining you of energy.
  • Stop being a Martyr – Women tend to do more as they feel under appreciated. It’s OK to say NO. Say no to the things that you don’t really want to do, say no to the things that you only do to please others, say no to the things that cause you stress.  Just say No. You always have a choice.
  • Unplug yourself – Constantly checking your emails, text messages, Twitter or Facebook keeps you in a constant state of being switched on and distracted. Information overload causes you stress. Our brains need space to process, rest and just be.

If you are feeling like every day is a struggle and you just can’t see how you can get through another day like this. You need to stop and take a good look at your life. Only you can make the choice to make a change. Modern mothering does not have to be like this. It is up to you to pave a healthier way for the mothers ahead of us. Mothers are the role models for the next generation of mothers.

I will leave you with this thought

Make yourself a priority

 

Are you allowing Candida to thrive in your body?

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/microbiome-graphic-explore-human-microbiome/
Illustration by Bryan Christie Source: scientificamerican.com
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There are a massive amount of microorganisms on our body, around 10 times more than there are human cells.

The surface of our body, both inside and out, is warm and moist and this is where these microorganisms love to hang out. Favourite hangouts are our gut, skin, mouth, nose, intestines, vagina, urinary tract and between the toes and toenails.

These microorganisms are mainly made up of bacteria and yeasts both beneficial and non-beneficial. Collectively they are known as the human microbiota.

Ideally the beneficial microrganisms far outnumber the non-beneficial.

Why do we have so many microorganisms?

Our body needs microorganisms in order to survive and the microorganisms need our body to survive – it is a symbiotic relationship. Our body acts as a host to the microbiota and it is constantly trying to keep the balance in favour of the benefiCrowdedcial microorganisms by providing it with nice luxurious real estate sites to live on and a nourishing food supply.  In return the beneficial microorganisms have many important jobs in the body such as digesting carbohydrates, producing both vitamin K and some B vitamins, keeping the non-beneficial microorganisms under control and they are responsible for a large part of our body’s immune response.

Because sites are limited, there is a battle for space between the beneficial and non-beneficial microorganisms. Each area of the body provides different conditions, some more desirable than others, and will therefore attract its own unique community.

In a healthy body where conditions are favourable for the beneficial microorganisms to thrive, and the immune system is strong, then beneficial microorganisms generally win the battle for real estate and food. But when conditions change the tables can turn and non-beneficial microorganisms such as Candida can easily spread and secure their spot in the neighbourhood by planting down their long roots. Normally Candida are resident in small numbers which is fine but when they start to thrive and take over the neighbourhood then problems can occur.

What makes conditions favourable for Candida to thrive?

Anything that feeds Candida (mainly sugar and yeast), weakens the immune system or changes the fine balance in the body’s microbiota will create favorable environments for Candida. This increases the chances of it taking up residence. Here are some things that create favourable conditions for Candida:

  • Antibiotics – Antibiotics kill off both the beneficial and non-beneficial microorganisms.  Yeast such as Candida can then flourish and spread without opposition from the beneficial microorganisms.
  • Stress – Stress releases a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol weakens your immune system and raises your blood sugar level.
  • Poor diet – Consuming an excessive amount of sugary foods, beverages and refined carbohydrates (which easily break down to sugar). Sugar is the best source of nutrition for Candida.
  • Alcohol – has the ability to kill off bacteria and change the balance of the microbiota. All alcohol has the ability to disrupt the balance but beer is particularly bad as it has high yeast content also.
  • Steroid or Corticosteroids use – depress the immune system and increase blood glucose levels
  • Hormone imbalance – an abnormal monthly cycle, pregnancy, menopause or oral contraceptive pills change the bodys hormone balance and therefore upset the delicate balance of the microbiota.
  • Diabetes – especially type 2 diabetes. When elevated sugar levels go unchecked this provides a great food source for Candida.
  • Mould – inhaling mould spores triggers the immune response which overtime can weaken your immune system.
  • Chlorinated water – a powerful disinfectant that disrupts the natural balance on the microbiota.
  • Immune deficiency – e.g AIDS and cancer

How do I know if I have Candida?

Below is a list of symptoms that those with a Candida overgrowth can experience. The problem is that the symptoms related to Candida overgrowth are so varied and may appear to be unrelated. They can also be symptoms that may well be related to any number of other conditions. If you feel sick all over, have been exposed to any of the conditions that help Candida thrive and seem to have a large number of symptoms from the list below then it may be possible that you have a Candida overgrowth.

Gastrointestinal System

  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Wind
  • Itchy Anus
  • Mucous in stools
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Alcohol intolerance
  • Food intolerance’s
  • Strong sugar and refined carbohydrate cravings
  • Bad breath

Genitourinary System

  • Recurrent urinary tract infections
  • Vaginal itching
  • Recurrent vagina thrush
  • Fishy smell from privates
  • Painful intercourse
  • Bladder infections
    Candida
    Vaginal Thrush can cause itchiness, burning and discomfort
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Low libido

  Integumentary System (your skin)

  • Athlete’s foot or toenail fungus.
  • Eczema/Dermatitis
  • Psoriasis
  • Dark circles under eyes

Immune System

  • Recurrent colds and coughs
  • Allergies

Nervous System

  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Sensitivity to light heat, noise and strong smells
  • Poor memory
  • Brain fog
  • Mood swings
  • Loss of balance

How do I get rid of Candida?

Getting on top of a Candida over growth can be a challenge. Changing the conditions that allow Candida to take up residence in your body is the key to controlling Candida overgrowth. Just like our gardens we need to take care of the soil, make sure the weeds are pulled out, plant seeds and nourish and feed the plants. The same goes for our body’s. To take control of Candida the steps that need to be taken are:

  • Weed – Starve and kill off Candida by eliminating its food source and by using antimicrobial herbs. Care must be taken to do this step slowly as the die off effect can put strain on the liver and immune system and cause inflammation.
  • Seed  – Introduce beneficial microorganisms and boost the immune system.
  • Feed – Nourish the beneficial microorganisms and ensure that the gut pH is at the correct level.
  • Heal – The gut lining needs to be healed. Candida causes damage to the gut lining (“leaky gut”) which puts pressure on the immune system and the liver.

Even when all the above steps are followed Candida can be stubborn and is sometimes very difficult to get rid of. New research is finding that communities of Candida can sometimes band together and protect themselves behind a shield called a biofilm. These biofilms protect the Candida from antimicrobials which can make them very resistant to eradication.

There are products and processes that can be taken to break down this biofilm layer. It is best to work with a qualified practitioner to guide you through the process. This will ensure that Candida is eliminated properly, conditions for beneficial micro organisms are enhanced and if there are any biofilm issues that these are addressed.Vacant site

If all steps to control Candida overgrowth are not completed then the next time you are feeling stressed, run down or you start eating crappy food then you may find Candida snapping up the next available property on the block …. and the whole cycle starts again.