VITAMIN D AND YOUR HEALTH
During Covid-19, the power of Vitamin D entered the public discourse for its immune system-boosting benefits. Before this, it was long seen as a bone and teeth vitamin. However, more and more discoveries are linking Vitamin D to mental health, fertility, and even hormone production.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphate from our diet. These minerals are essential for healthy bones, teeth and muscles. Vitamin D is also linked to blood sugar regulation. Sunshine is said to lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation. The body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors. According to the NHS, lacking vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children and bone pain in adults.
During the spring and summer months, most people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need from sunlight. So this being said, what about the dangers of too much sun? Sun exposure has links to premature skin ageing and skin cancer. Sunbeds are no safer. “Overexposure to UV light, either from sun or sunbeds, is the main cause of skin cancer,” says Cancer Research UK.
Vitamin D: A Modulator of the Immune System
Vitamin D has long been recognised for its essential role in maintaining healthy bones and aiding calcium absorption. However, recent research has shed light on its involvement in modulating the immune system. The immune cells in our body possess vitamin D receptors, enabling them to respond to its presence.
Enhancing the Innate Immune Response
Vitamin D is pivotal in the innate immune response, the body’s first line of defence against pathogens. It helps activate and regulate the production of antimicrobial peptides, which are small proteins with antimicrobial properties. These peptides help destroy invading microorganisms and prevent their spread.
Strengthening Adaptive Immunity
In addition to its impact on innate immunity, vitamin D also influences adaptive immunity, the branch of the immune system responsible for long-term immune memory. It assists in developing and functioning T-cells and B-cells, which are vital for recognising and eliminating specific pathogens. By supporting the adaptive immune response, vitamin D aids in the prevention of chronic infections.
Excessive inflammation can disrupt immune balance and contribute to various autoimmune diseases. Vitamin D acts as a natural anti-inflammatory agent, helping to regulate and suppress excessive inflammatory responses. By doing so, it assists in maintaining immune homeostasis and reducing the risk of autoimmune conditions.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Immunity
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression linked to changes in seasons, often occurs due to decreased exposure to sunlight. Since sunlight exposure is a primary source of vitamin D synthesis in our bodies, individuals with low vitamin D levels may be more susceptible to SAD. It is worth noting that SAD can have indirect effects on the immune system, potentially compromising its efficiency.
Getting your Vitamin D in a Sun-Safe Way
How do we get enough sun without harming our health? Ideally, you need to be exposing at least 10% of your skin without sunscreen to the sun for 15 to 20 minutes a day, as the skin can only make Vitamin D for the first thirty minutes of exposure.
Remember, everything is in moderation when you are out this summer. Enjoy the sunshine, but keep covered or in the shade when the rays are at their most harmful; this is when the sun is at its highest during the day. According to a dermatology nurse, just one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chance of developing melanoma later in life.
Soaking up the rays this summer will make us feel great, but remember that too much is not always good.