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Vitamin D shines bright for immune health

March 2017 Print
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We live in the sunburnt country so it’s perhaps ironic that up to three in 10 Aussies are deficient in the ‘sunlight vitamin’- Vitamin D.

One NSW study found that 62 percent of females were Vitamin D deficient during the spring months.[i], [ii]

Many people avoid the sun these days due to the risk of skin cancers but our body actually needs small amounts of direct sun exposure to create Vitamin D and avoid deficiency.

The role of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for your health including healthy bones and particularly our immune function. [iii]

It may help to ward off respiratory infections associated with colds and flus and reduce the risks of allergic and autoimmune conditions.

A major international analysis found Vitamin D supplementation can help protect against respiratory infections. Researchers found daily or weekly supplementation cuts the risk of respiratory infection in half. [iv]

A variety of autoimmune conditions, including psoriasis, have been associated with Vitamin D deficiency.

If you suffer from psoriasis, studies have shown that using Vitamin D ointments is as effective as low-medium strength corticosteroid creams in managing the condition.[v]

Other autoimmune diseases associated with Vitamin D deficiency include rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus and inflammatory bowel diseases.

The multi functions of Vitamin D

When your skin is exposed to the sun, it produces Vitamin D and sends it to your liver for use by the rest of the body. Eating foods containing Vitamin D or using supplements can help boost daily levels.

Vitamin D benefits the muscles, cardiovascular system, the respiratory system, immune system and brain development.

Vitamin D helps us absorb other minerals like calcium and phosphorus. Even if you eat foods containing a lot of calcium and phosphorus, without enough Vitamin D, you can’t absorb them into your body.

Simple ways to boost Vitamin D

The most natural way to get Vitamin D is by exposing your bare skin to sunlight (ultraviolet B rays).

The Sun

  • Just a small amount of direct exposure is needed – avoiding the middle of the day when UV levels are highest.
  • The more skin you expose the more Vitamin D is produced.
  • If you have fair to moderate toned skin – 5-10 minutes in warmer months and 7-30 minutes in winter.[vi]
  • For people with dark toned skin - 15-60 minutes in warm months and 20 min – 3 hrs in winter. [vi]

Foods

  • Oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, herring, sardines, tuna and cod.
  • Butter, eggs and foods that have been fortified with Vitamin D

Supplementation

  • Vitamin D supplements are also available to help you boost your Vitamin D levels if you can’t get enough sunlight, or if you’re worried about exposing your skin. Ask your health practitioner about dietary changes and if Vitamin D supplements may be helpful for you. Your doctor may recommend testing your levels.  Remember – vitamin supplements should not replace a balanced diet.

References available on request

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