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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.)