Winter is here, naturally, we’re spending more time indoors, decreasing our exposure to the sun. And now with COVID-19 in the mix, we may be spending even less time outdoors, leaving our vitamin D stores lacking.
Vitamin D is synthesized in the skin when we are exposed to UV-B (little rays of sunshine), making it unique to other vitamins that we can only obtain from our diet. Being a fat-soluble vitamin, Vitamin D is found in fish, eggs, pork, soy, and some nuts, however, to reach our daily intake we’d have to consume these food groups in obscure amounts. Making it really important that we’re getting outside, so the sun can give us natural vitamin D kisses.
As simple as this sounds, vitamin D deficiency affects 30% of Australians, and it's growing across the world. This is due to lifestyle changes like jobs indoors and migration to other countries, educational changes like knowledge around sunscreen and skin cancer, and other factors like our genetic makeup.
Experts say that if you have fair skin 10mins in the sun will get your recommended daily intake while people with olive complexion need 15-20 mins and darker skin tones need more than double this. And all of these times are without sunscreen, vitamin D is unable to be absorbed if this is applied. This doesn't mean we avoid or stop using sunscreen, we just have to be cautious that some time is without, depending on skin type. This could be as small as your morning coffee outside sunscreen free or having your lunch breakout side.
So what’s Vitamins D's role in our immunity?! Surely the other vitamins can carry us through the winter?! The answer is no, Vitamin D is a key player, and we really feel it when they can't make the game. Our immune system is our first line of defense, protecting the body from foreign invaders, promoting immunity. Vitamin D activates our immune system and enhances the function of immune cells like T-cells and Macrophages which attack foreign cells. Over the years it's become clear that vitamin D deficiency has implications on our immunity which can lead to increased infection and autoimmune diseases. In particular, it's linked to respiratory diseases, like tuberculosis and asthma, both viral and bacterial respiratory infections and has been linked to decreased lung function.
So how can we avoid vitamin D deficiency? Whilst in lockdown or as we are easing out of lockdown, getting outside is crucial there is nothing more natural about it. Being outside usually includes some form of exercise - also hugely beneficial or maybe you're taking a break outside and enjoying some “me time.” Whatever it is make sure some of your skin is exposed to the sun, and to be smart about sun safety. Secondly, you can consciously include foods that are higher in Vitamin D like oily fish, eggs and soy products. Like our soy and ginger glazed salmon or thai ref tofu curry. Thirdly you can use supplementation, to ensure that your Vitamin D stores are sufficient to ensure you have a strong immune system all year round.