Day in and day out, our immune systems are hard at work protecting us from micro-organisms and other factors that cause illness and disease. Want to be sure your immunity is at the ready? Reach for vitamin D supplements.
Canadians low in vitamin D
A major source of vitamin D is exposure to sunlight, which triggers vitamin D production. Food sources include fatty fish, fish liver oil, eggs, and fortified foods such as milk and cereal. But are we getting enough?
Recent statistics suggest that 10 percent of Canadians—roughly 3 million people—have inadequate levels of this crucial nutrient.
A multitasking nutrient
Vitamin D performs a variety of important roles in the body. It is required for calcium absorption and bone health, as well as for cell growth, neuromuscular function, and inflammation reduction.
It is vitamin D’s powerful effect on immunity, however, that seems to have drawn the most media attention recently.
How immunity works
When we are exposed to bacteria, a virus, or a potentially harmful substance, various immune factors are automatically triggered within our bodies to deactivate or destroy the invader so it doesn’t cause damage or disease.
Numerous types of protector cells are involved in this complicated immune process. Where vitamin D steps in, in basic terms, is by enhancing the activity of these cells.
Low vitamin D may increase the risk of upper respiratory tract infections and is linked to autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and Crohn’s disease.
“More recent studies indicate that infections such as tuberculosis may also be linked to low [vitamin D] levels,” researchers reported in The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society in August 2011.
And it’s not just adults who are affected. Children with low vitamin D have less infection-fighting ability and may be more likely to be anemic.
Supplementation during pregnancy may even enhance the immunity of offspring, making a mother-to-be’s vitamin D levels an important consideration.
How much do you need?
Health Canada recommends:
- Infants 0 to 12 months: 400 IU (10 mcg)
- Children and adults 1 to 70 years: 600 IU (15 mcg)
- Adults over 70 years: 800 IU (20 mcg)
Some people do require higher amounts, so if you are not sure of your vitamin D status, consult a naturopathic doctor for a blood test.
Reach for vitamin D to keep bugs and disease at bay with a well-functioning immune system.