How Sunlight and Vitamin D Actually Helps Our Immune System
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Vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, isn’t actually a vitamin. It is actually a pro-hormone, which our body converts to a hormone.
Because vitamin D is not actually a nutrient, foods are not good sources of vitamin D. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight, and you cannot get enough vitamin D that your body needs from foods alone.
When sunlight hits our skin, it synthesises it into vitamin D that our body can use using the cholesterol in our skin cells.
Vitamin D has many important functions in the human body, including the regulation of immune functions, absorption and metabolism of other minerals in the body, such as calcium metabolism, bone mineralisation, phosphate and magnesium metabolism.
When we lack vitamin D, our immune system cannot optimally function, making us more susceptible to infection by virus and bacteria.
Sunlight benefits us in fighting off viruses indirectly, by allowing our immune function to be fully optimised in responding to viruses and bacteria. Although getting enough sunlight is important, too much exposure to the sun brings harmful risks such as getting skin burn and even skin cancer.
You need to be mindful of the length of time and time of day/year that you are exposed to sunlight. Generally, 15 minutes of exposure if you have fair skin and slightly longer if you have darker skin is a good rule of thumb although this too depends on where you are at which time of the year.
The parts of your body that are covered in clothing and sunscreen cannot receive enough sunlight to be synthesised into vitamin D. You need to expose a larger amount of skin to produce more vitamin D.
UVB doesn’t travel through glass, so if you are behind glass doors or windows, you don’t get the UVB needed for vitamin D production.
In some parts of the world, you simply cannot make enough vitamin D due to the angle of the sun during the winter months.
If it’s cloudy or the air where you are is polluted, you get less UVB and hence make less vitamin D.
The older you are, the harder it is for your skin to synthesise and produce vitamin D.
If you live in a place where sunlight is abundant, you still may not get enough vitamin D if you spend most of the time indoors.
Contrary to popular belief, the morning hours are not the best time to get sunlight for optimum vitamin D production. The sun is at its highest point and its UVB rays are most intense at noon. That means you need less time in the sun at noon to make sufficient vitamin D, but generally, between 10 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon is the best window to get enough sunlight to make vitamin D.
If you live in an area where you simply cannot get enough vitamin D from the sun, you may need to supplement. Vitamin D supplements are generally very cheap, however, unfortunately, they are mostly made of the fats in sheep’s skin, or lanolin. These fats go through a ton of chemical processing, and have many chemicals added into them, before they are turned into a supplement pill or fortified into foods like milk, cheese and yogurt.
I personally choose a plant source of vitamin D which is made from lichen, a type of algae.
Another way to boost your vitamin D is to get mushrooms to do the job for you. When exposed to sunlight, mushrooms synthesise the UVB into vitamin D just like our skin does. You get the vitamin D when you consume these mushrooms.
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