Vitamin D from the sun has existed for a long time as an immune booster. In the 1800’s when many people had tuberculosis, sunshine was known to have curative powers, and sick patients flocked to sanitariums in sunny places to soak up the healing sunshine. Cod liver oil, also a rich source of vitamin D, has also been around for decades as a preventative for infections, colds and flu.
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So what does vitamin D actually do?
Studies show that vitamin D regulates many functions in the body, including hormone balance, metabolism, blood pressure, bone density, fighting cancer, and immune function (ever wonder why people get colds and the flu in the winter when the sun is low?).
Vitamin D is critical for our health. We know that vitamin D is essential for healing and protecting against many contagious diseases and chronic diseases. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with upper and lower respiratory infections, heart disease, asthma, cancers, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, HIV, hypertension, inflammatory bowel disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other autoimmune diseases. Most people have a Vitamin D deficiency, which has become a worldwide public health problem in both developed and developing countries.
Our bodies contain cell receptors for vitamin D in virtually every system of the body. That means that vitamin D is necessary for virtually all body functions. Vitamin D actually influences the expression of over 200 health-supporting genes in our bodies. That’s really important!
There’s a lot of buzz about vitamin D boosting immune function to fight off colds, seasonal influenza, and of course, the corona virus. Research suggests that vitamin-D deficiency may be one of the primary reasons people get more colds and flu in the winter when sunshine is less available.
As many as 70 percent of Americans are considered deficient in vitamin D. Elderly, females more than males, those who live far north or south of the equator, people with darker skin pigmentation, those who work and stay inside during the day, and people with poor dietary habits generally have the lowest levels of vitamin D.
How does vitamin D boost immune function?
The immune system is an incredibly complex protective mechanism, but to explain it simply, we divide the immune system into two main categories: innate immunity, and adaptive immunity.
Innate immunity is our nonspecific defense mechanism that activates in the presence of an invading pathogen. So, even if you have never been exposed to a virus or pathogen, your body has a built-in ability to protect itself from an invader. This part of your immune system is your first line of defense against any type of new type of germs—whether it is bacteria, viruses, and fungi. And it’s super important to be sure this line of defense is strong.
The other type of immune response is your adaptive immune response. This immune response is active against pathogens that you have previously encountered. The body recognizes, adapts and attacks specific invaders much more efficiently.
In the case of brand new types of influenza strains or the corona virus, the body has not had a chance to develop specific antibodies against them yet. So, this is where we call in the powers of our innate immune system to protect us. Vitamin D works to strengthen this innate immune system response.
Many different studies have associated vitamin D with its power to fight infection. One study looked at close to 19,000 people and found that the individuals with lower levels of vitamin D were more likely to report upper respiratory tract infections, than those with sufficient levels of vitamin D.
This study looked at 800 people in Finland, and found that those with the lowest levels of vitamin D lost more days at work due to respiratory infections. Other studies have focused on how vitamin D helps to prevent influenza, colds and even HIV. And this well-designed study using therapeutic doses of vitamin D showed that vitamin D administration resulted in a statistically significant (42%) decrease in the incidence of influenza infection.
Vitamin D works by boosting the strength of the immune system while lowering inflammatory reactions. This makes vitamin D a powerful immune modulator. It helps boost immune power, but prevents the immune system from overreacting, as in the case of autoimmune disease.
How does it work? Vitamin D strengthens particular cells within the immune system, such as the T cells. It also helps to decrease levels of inflammatory cytokines, a part of the immune system that can overreact with dangerous outcomes.
There are three ways to get vitamin D levels up in your system
One—you can take a vitamin D3 supplement. D3 or cholecalciferol is most easily utilized in the body, over vitamin D2.
Secondly, you can get some vitamin D from foods
Third, you can get vitamin D from the sun—IF you are in an area where the sun is strong enough. Depending on the latitude where you live and the time of year, you may or may not be able to get vitamin D from the sun. In my opinion, getting vitamin D from sunshine is the best way, if you can.
The sun’s rays are too weak in the winter generally (depending on the latitude that you live). Even if you can get outside in the winter, if you live north of say, Los Angeles to the west and Atlanta, Georgia to the east, you won’t be able to get enough sun from November through February.
The only way for our bodies to make vitamin D from the sun is to allow the UVB rays of the sun to reach our skin. That means we need to expose enough skin for 20-40 minutes without sunscreen at the strongest times of the day, between the hours of 10am and 2pm.
UVB rays are the rays that cause sunburn, so please don’t overdo it! Full-body exposure of pale skin to summer sunshine for 30 minutes without clothing or sunscreen can result in the synthesis of between 10,000 and 20,000 IU of vitamin D.
However, if you don’t supplement with vitamin D3 in the winter you can pretty much count on being deficient in vitamin D in the winter.
Supplementing with vitamin D has a wide range of ‘suggested’ dosages, and you can overdo it with this fat soluble vitamin and create adverse health effects. While some doctors advise people to take 5000 to 10,000 IU per day of vitamin D, this can be too much and a safer range would be around 5,000IU vitamin D3 per day – see my suggested Vitamin D3 below
Lastly, be sure to get plenty of healthy food with natural sources of vitamin D, such as egg yolks, wild caught salmon and mackerel, organ meats, and some mushrooms. And avoid those processed foods with added vitamin D—those do nothing for your health.
Some of the best absorbed vitamin D comes from taking some cod liver oil daily. Make sure to take only small doses of cod liver oil (enough for 50% to 100% DV of vitamin D), as large doses can give you an overdose of Vitamin A.
One more thing to point out as we approach the winter months, sunlight has far more beneficial benefits for our health than just increasing our vitamin D.
A recent 20-year study following 29,518 subjects found that those individuals avoiding sun exposure were twice as likely to die from all causes. Sunlight helps us make more endorphins, the natural chemical in our bodies that makes us feel relaxed and happy.
Sunlight promotes production of a peptide that helps to dilate the blood vessels, lowering blood pressure, and it helps create another substance called ‘Substance P’, that promotes better blood flow and regulates the immune system in response to acute stressors. And one more benefit of sunshine, it helps to reduce appetite, increase the libido and gives you a nice looking golden glow, while regulating your sleeping/waking cycle better.
If you want to stay healthy and strong, it’s not only wise, but essential to spend time outdoors in the sunshine. Soak up the sun!
Note from Kendall:
Suntrex D3 is one of the best vitamin D supplements out today, derived from lichen, also known as cholecalciferol. This potent liquid vitamin D product is formulated to boost the immune system, assist with calcium absorption to promote bone strength, support the nervous system, and promote brain health. Each batch of organic vitamin D is analyzed to verify purity and D3 content. Why vitamin D3 vs vitamin D2? Vitamin D3 is the form naturally manufactured by humans from sunlight exposure and therefore more biologically active and effective.
“Vitamin D deficiency is a global concern. Many people don’t get enough regular sunlight exposure to help their body produce this critical nutrient, and there aren’t many food sources. Suntrex D3 is an easy way to consistently and reliably get the best form of vitamin D.“
DR. EDWARD F. GROUP III, DC, NP
LifeVantage Omega+ is a 3-in-1 powerful blend of the Omega-3, Omega-7, and vitamin D you need to get the most out of life. Omega+ supports brain health, cardiovascular health, skin health, and the immune system. Click the image for my details