10 Ways To Boost Your Immune System Part 2- The 11th element: Vitamin D
What do chronic health issues like diabetes, obesity, risk for all cancers, osteoporosis, autoimmune conditions, and suppressed immunity all have in common? They are all directly associated with vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is produced naturally by your body’s skin pigments when exposed to natural sunlight. We have evolved with sunlight and we have always relied on the sun to provide life to our planet, but also to provide life to our body by stimulating Vitamin D production. It is very essential to most of our body’s functions and especially essential for a healthy robust immune system.
There is a minimal amount that you can get from your diet if you eat fortified products like milk (not recommended) or fatty fish like salmon but it is near impossible to get adequate vitamin D relying solely on your diet.
So who is at risk at becoming D deficient?
Everyone! Studies show that at least half of Americans are vitamin D deficient including children. Anyone who lives above the latitude of 35 N (approximately Atlanta, GA) is at risk of producing little to no vitamin D during the months of Oct-Feb. Even in the months of summer, if you are constantly indoors, wear sunscreen, or cover your body with clothing when outside then you may not be producing enough vitamin D. With an SPF 15 sunscreen you block out 99% of your body’s ability to make vitamin D. Furthermore, populations of darker skin people like african-americans are even more at risk since it takes anywhere from 10 to 20x the sun exposure compared to a lighter skinned person to produce the same amount of vitamin D.
So what should I do?
It is my recommendation that everyone should make a conscious effort to get some daily exposure to natural sunlight. Even 20 minutes of sun exposure on your legs and arms can produce up to 20,000 IU’s of natural vitamin D. However there is a therapeutic dose. I am not an advocate of laying on the beach for 3 hours at a time so after a healthy 20-30 minute exposure then sunscreen, clothing, or shade can help you avoid over-exposure.
In the winter months (especially those who live above the 35th parallel) or for those who spend most of their time indoors should take a daily supplement of vitamin D to ensure good health and a strong immune system. Here is a Vitamin D supplementation guideline from Dr. Joel Fuhrman:
Men - 0 to 5,000 IU’s (international units) – I take none during the summer months, but October – April (especially here in New England), I take 4-5,000 IU’s /day
Women & Teens - 0 to 4000 IU’s
Children 1-year-old and up should be supplementing with 0-2,000 IU’s
Infants (less than 1 year) should be taking 0-800 IU’s.
**Keep in mind the reason zero IU’s is an option here is because we are supposed to get Vitamin D via the sun.
It’s summertime now, get outside and get some rays in the name of health. Every man, woman, and child needs to get outside and play every once in a while. It will boost your spirits, your fitness, and your immune system.
Your Health Coach,
Dr. Ryan Hewitt
Other related resources:
Top 10 Things to do to Boost Your Immune System by Dr. Ryan Hewitt
16 shocking vitamin D facts by Dr. Nick Araza
www.vitaminDhealth.org - Dr. Michael F. Holick on Vitamin D