Immunity & The Sun: What Does Sunshine Have To Do with It?
We are Creatures of the Sea and the Sun
Our ancestors were built for outdoor living and this lifestyle and adaptation has informed not only our skin color, but how we respond to diseases. When we emerged from the sea, we needed the sun to help our bodies fortify our bones and make hormones that keep us resilient and healthy in the face of bacteria and viruses.
Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin”, but it is actually a powerful prohormone (a substance that your body converts into a hormone) that regulates calcium absorption and immune function.
There is a lot of talk these days about use of vitamin D as a supplement to help combat respiratory viruses like influenza and COVID-19. However, while supplementation may be a good idea during certain times of the year and under certain circumstances, pumping up blood levels through supplementation may not be the best solo strategy. In a nutshell, immune health is about much more than popping a pill.
It’s About More Than Popping A Pill
Vitamin D deficiency tends to occur in people with chronic diseases like diabetes and insulin resistance, heart disease, high blood pressure and autoimmune diseases. This is likely due to Vitamin D’s influence on immune function in autoimmune disease and also that the lifestyle factors that contribute to low vitamin D also contribute to chronic illnesses.
Getting Outside for Regular Natural Light Therapy
The best way to get a good dose of Vitamin D is to get out into the sun for a period of time that makes sense for your skin tone and sun tolerance. The key is to never get a sunburn. This could mean you spend only 10 minutes doing natural light therapy. Someone with darker skin may choose to do it closer to 30 minutes or longer.
Midday is the best time for sun exposure since this is when the sun is highest in the sky and you will get the quickest amount of Vitamin D in a short amount of time. Of course If you have light skin, your time in the sun will be shorter than someone with dark skin. The key to sun exposure is not too much and not too little. Most of us know what our threshold is before we burn. You can feel it when you are out there.
Most people whose ancestors come from Northern Latitudes without a lot of sun exposure for part or much of the year ate a lot of fish or other food sources of Vitamin D.
Good sources of Vitamin D are cod liver oil, fatty fishes and fatty meats. Animal foods are the best sources of vitamin D. Mushrooms are the best vegetable source.
It’s All About Sugar and Processed Foods
In a nutshell, eat less sugar, avoid processed foods and treat seed oils like the plague. Insulin resistance, diabetes and all the metabolically driven diseases are caused by the overconsumption of sugar, processed, hyperpalatable foods and industrial seed oils. These foods drive disease and drive down your Vitamin D levels. You can supplement all day long but if you have a sugar addiction, processed food addiction or eat a lot of seed oils you will not have a robust immune system.
If you have any questions about regaining a healthy immune system for life, please call the office to set up your free 30-minute care call with Dr. Amy Shouse at NorCal Integrative Medicine.