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VITAMIN D AND YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM

Posted by Gillian Day BHSc. Comp Med, Adv Dip Nat, AFMCP Grad
VITAMIN D AND YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM

What does vitamin D do?

Vitamin D plays a key role in many functions in the body and supporting many systems in the body. This important vitamin provides us with great benefits to help maintain a robust immune system, however it doesn't end there! Adequate vitamin D levels support;

  • Immune system
  • Bone health
    • vitamin D allows us to stimulate the absorption of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium in the gut and transport it to the bones and teeth.
  • Brain development and improvement in mood
    • Sunlight encourages the release of serotonin and endorphins, which can instantly encourage a better mood - and over the long term, reduce the risk of suffering from depression. One easy way to ramp up this effect is by waiting at least a few minutes before putting on sunglasses. It's when sunlight hits the retina that production of serotonin begins.
    • I’ve lived in the northern parts of the world and can tell you first hand that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is ‘real’. However,  you can have a higher risk for SAD if you don’t expose yourself to the sun (e.g. if you work long hours indoors) we have access to.
  • Creating happy, healthy hormones and supporting a healthy pregnancy
    • The sun converts cholesterol in the blood into our steroid and sex hormones needed for reproduction and healthy, happy hormones. Interestingly, without adequate amounts of sunlight, the opposite happens; and our steroid and sex hormones convert to cholesterol.
  • Cardiovascular health

Vitamin D and Sunshine

We’re lucky enough in Australia to still see a fair amount of the suns rays during the winter months. However, the reality is, we simply aren’t accessing the sun as much as we used to. Why? Well……….

  • It’s obviously colder in the winter months, which means we wear more layers, meaning the sun can’t penetrate our skin, which we need to make the vitamin D.
  • Collectively, we spend less time outside - the majority of us work indoors so it’s easy to get 0 sun before work and leave the office in the dark.
  • The threat and fear of skin cancers have minimised our exposure to the sun, and this is particularly true for kids. The recommended amount of high SPF sunscreen without question, negatively impacts the skins natural production of vitamin D.

Of course we know how excessive sun exposure can cause sunburn, which is recognized as 1 of the biggest risk factors in developing skin cancer. However, in 1 or 2 generations we’ve experienced a monumental shift in sun protection attitudes and behaviours in this country. We’ve gone from applying cooking oil and baking in the sun all day to a culture of wetsuits and rashies, 50+ sunscreens and sprays + ‘no hat no play’ rules in our school playgrounds.

Unfortunately, there aren’t too many foods that contain good amounts of vitamin D so it’s really important to support your body through supplementation, particularly in the winter months.

Different types of vitamin D through supplementation

There are generally 2 types of vitamin D available through supplements, D2 and D3.

D3 (cholecalciferol) is the form of vitamin D that is the closest replica to what we naturally produce through the sun. Research supports this is the most effective way to increase vitamin D levels in the body.

Trang HM, Cole DEC, Rubin et al. (1998) American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 68, 854-858 ‘Evidence that vitamin D3 increases serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D more efficiently than vitamin D2’.

Both of our top selling vitamin D products contain a dose of 1000IU per capsule.

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If you’re looking for more of a ‘food’ source of vitamin D, Cod Liver Oil naturally contains anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular protective benefits as well as a decent dose of vitamin D.

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D2 (ergocalciferol)

This form of vitamin D isn’t as potent as D3 and requires some levels of conversion in the body first before it can be absorbed. However, in supplemental form, vitamin D2 is generally produced from plants so is a great alternative for vegans.

How much do I need?

Great question. Osteoporosis Australia recommends those with low levels of vitamin D should take between 1000IU and 2000IU per day. Ask your health professional to check your levels, especially after a few months of supplementation with a goal of achieving vitamin D levels between 50nmoL/L to 70nmoL/L at the end of winter.

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