One thing’s for sure: after the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re all become more aware of our immune system’s importance. Whether you were knocked out by a case (or two or three) of Covid, or whether you managed to skip through without so much as a cough, you can benefit from boosting your immune system for the coming cold and flu season.
Many of us know about vitamin C’s importance in boosting the immune system, but there are many other vitamins that can provide benefits. Vitamin D is one such wellness star. Sunlight typically gives us enough of this vitamin during the summer months—but in winter, the amount of vitamin D made from sunlight exposure can be small.
It’s not a vitamin at all?
It’s important to understand that vitamin D, in the grand scheme of things, is not a vitamin at all. It is, rather, a hormone that your body produces when it is exposed to sunlight. Because of its status as a hormone—like testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen—vitamin D is a substance that our bodies rely on for overall health.
The closer you live to the equator, the easier it is for your body to create vitamin D from sunlight all year round. Unfortunately, Indiana is above 37 degrees north of the equator—and when it’s not summer, our bodies can make little if any vitamin D. That puts Hoosiers at greater risk for vitamin D deficiency.
D …1, 2, 3…
At the risk of creating even more confusion, vitamin D isn’t just a single vitamin. It’s a whole family of nutrients. That’s why you’ll often see labels advertising vitamins D2 and D3, the two types of this important hormone.
Vitamin D3 is more effective at increasing your body’s overall levels of vitamin D. It can be acquired from animal products such as oily fish and fish oil, liver, egg yolks and butter. Experts suggest making sure your supplement contains adequate amounts of this type of vitamin D.
Vitamin D2, although still a good source, is not quite as helpful. You can acquire vitamin D2 from mushrooms grown in UV light, fortified foods, and dietary supplements.
The benefits of the sunshine vitamin
Vitamin D not only boosts your immune system, but also offers a wide variety of far-reaching health benefits. These can include:
- Strengthening teeth and bones
- Preventing certain cancers
- Supporting brain function
- Aiding in weight loss
- Boosting your mood
- Lessening your risk for rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes
- Lowering blood pressure
- Reducing risk for heart disease
How do I get my recommended dose?
Supplements are one easy way to add vitamin D’s benefits into your wellness routine. But it’s important to speak with your physician before you start. Your doctor can do blood work that will determine your level of deficiency, and let you know the appropriate amount of vitamin D needed to bump up your body’s level of production.
The recommended daily amount of vitamin D for adults is currently 600 international units (IU). Children should get about 400 IU, while seniors need a whopping 800 IU to keep their bodies healthy. In some cases, a healthcare provider may prescribe even higher levels of this important nutrient.
If you want to keep your immune system strong this season, consider upping your intake of the sunshine vitamin. Ask your physician for a recommendation and stay well this winter!