Dr. Sunshine For Better Immunity

  • 4 mins read
  • Health Conditions
  • Written by: Dr. Pramod Mane

Sunshine is a marvellous spectacle of nature. From brightening our days and spreading warmth to being a source of energy, the benefits of sunshine are countless. Did you know that being out in the sun can do more than just refresh us? When our skin is exposed to sunlight, our body forms an important vitamin called Vitamin D. You can now guess why Vitamin D is also called the ‘sunshine vitamin’!

Vitamin D plays several roles in our body, ranging from strengthening bones to protecting our kidneys. It can greatly benefit diabetic patients as well. Recently, Vitamin D and its correlation with immunity have gained a lot of traction. Now, we bet you have a ton of questions about this wonder vitamin. No worries, we’ve got you covered.

Is it not a vitamin?

Don’t be tricked by the name. Vitamin D is not a vitamin, but a hormone! Our body makes Vitamin D through a series of chemical reactions after the sun hits our skin. It reacts with certain proteins called receptors and produces its effects.

What’s the link?

Vitamin D has a strong connection with both our immune systems- innate (the one we’re born with) and acquired (the one we develop over our lifetime). This has been known for quite some time. Recently, several studies have been conducted to report that Vitamin D deficiency can make you more susceptible to infections.

It has also been noted that Vitamin D can prevent the proliferation of certain immune cells and inflammatory substances and increase the synthesis of anti-inflammatory ones. Its impact on key immune cells in our body justifies its importance in the maintenance of immunity.

Can it protect me?

Long before people knew about its role in immunity, tuberculosis patients used to be sent to sanatoriums. They thought that sunlight could directly kill the infection. Years later, the role of Vitamin D in immunity became clear.

Vitamin D can protect you from infections and even help you get better when you’re sick. It takes part in our body’s innate antimicrobial response and can ward off infections.

Does it matter where I live?

Sunshine is the best source of natural Vitamin D. This means rainy days can rain on our parade! If you live in a place where it rains a lot or has high latitude, or in general places receiving less sunlight – you might have low levels of Vitamin D. In such cases, you can focus on getting Vitamin D through dietary sources or supplements.

What else can lower my Vitamin D levels?

Besides latitude and seasons, other factors can affect the Vitamin D levels in our body. This includes applying too much sunscreen to protect ourselves on a sunny day and even growing old. Now, age is something you can’t control. But going easy on that sunscreen – yes, you can!

How can I boost my levels of Vitamin D?

For starters, you can lower that screen time and invest in sun-time. However, if for some reason this is not possible, the next best option is dietary sources. Fatty fishes, orange juice, milk, etc are good sources of Vitamin D. If these are not available or you have a vitamin deficiency – you can turn to supplements after consulting your doctor.

It must be noted that too much Vitamin D can be toxic over the long haul. The key is moderation. So be careful before you pop those pills!

We’ve now learned that Vitamin D is very crucial for our immunity. Today, the number of Vitamin D deficiency cases across the globe are soaring. To curb this effect, we must all understand its importance. So, let’s get out of our houses more often and load up on the sunshine!

References:

  1. Vitamin D – Vitamins and minerals. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/. Accessed on 28 April 2021.
  2. Amrein K, et al. Vitamin D deficiency 2.0: an update on the current status worldwide. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2020; 74(11):1498-1513.
  3. Yeum KJ, et al. Impact of geographic location on vitamin D status and bone mineral density. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2016;13(2):184.
  4. Time for more vitamin D. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/time-for-more-vitamin-d. Accessed on 28 April 2021.
  5. Aranow C. Vitamin D and the immune system. J Investig Med. 2011;59(6):881-6.
  6. Morris HA. Vitamin D: a hormone for all seasons–how much is enough? Clin Biochem Rev. 2005;26(1):21-32.
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