Tired of Catching Colds? Boost Your Immunity with the Sunshine Vitamin
Have you ever noticed that your friends who spent a good bit of time outdoors or who have a great tan never seem to get sick? One possible reason is that by spending time in the sun, their bodies make all the vitamin D they need. Most people are familiar with the role this essential nutrient plays in bone health, as it facilitates the body’s ability to absorb calcium. In the immune system, vitamin D serves as a regulator to signal your body’s defenses to attack bacteria and viruses. In fact, during the Victorian era, doctors advised patients with tuberculosis to spend time outside in the sun and take cod liver oil. Although they did not realize it, these physicians were actually prescribing a vitamin D regime.1
Vitamin D reduces the risk of pneumonia
When your immune system is weak, you are at an increased risk of developing pneumonia. Older adults who contract this infection of the lungs are more likely to develop complications than younger people. For example, seniors who develop pneumonia are at greater risk of heart damage as the inflammation from the lungs spreads in their chest cavity, lung abscesses and scars, and pleurisy.2 Fortunately, a research team from Finland has discovered that older adults who boost their blood levels of vitamin D reduce their risk of developing pneumonia significantly.
The scientists from the University of East Finland compared the blood levels of vitamin D in 1,421 adults whose average age was 62.5 years, with the incidence of pneumonia in the same subject pool. The researchers found that people whose vitamin D level ranked in the top third of the data pool were 2.5 times less likely to contract pneumonia than those whose levels were in the bottom 30 percent of the subject pool. Since Finland is in the northern latitudes, the people have very little exposure to sunlight during the winter months, which makes vitamin D deficiency a public health issue.
Make sure you are getting enough vitamin D
The main way your body obtains vitamin D is by the absorption of sunlight by the pigment in your skin, which is then converted into the vitamin. Some foods that contain this vital nutrient include fatty fish, fish liver oil, and fortified milk and dairy products. Since most people do not have enough of these dietary sources of vitamin D in their daily menus, the best way to ensure you maintain the optimal amount of this immune boosting nutrient is to take a supplement. If you are looking for a specific recommendation, check out our top vitamin D supplement picks.
1Aranow, C. Vitamin D and the immune system. Journal of Investigative Medicine. 2011. 59(6): 881–886.
2American Lung Association. Understanding pneumonia. n.d. Retrieved from http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/pneumonia/understanding-pneumonia.html.