Vitamin D and the immune systemAdjusting your face?
- Cut back on sugar. Sugary foods break down quickly and raise your blood sugar. Your body responds to this with a spike in insulin, which suppresses your immune system. Avoid foods like sodas, fruit juices, breads, pastas, and sweets, especially when you are feeling ill.
- Eat your fruits and veggies. The nutrients in fresh fruits and veggies support the function of your immune system, so it can ward off invaders. If you feel that you are “coming down with something,” eat fresh oranges. Vitamin C is actually a complex of many different chemicals, and typical vitamin C supplements only contain one of these chemicals (ascorbic acid). Whole foods and whole food supplements are superior sources of nutrients.
- Manage your stress levels. When we are anxious or irritated, we release stress hormones to prepare for a “fight-or-flight” response. This suppresses the immune system, because the body can’t fight against external threats (even imaginary ones) and internal invaders at the same time. Meditate, delegate, and learn to say no.
- Exercise daily. Even if it’s just 10 minutes of jumping jacks, push-ups, and squats, get your heart rate up and break a sweat! This will reduce your levels of immunity-suppressing stress hormones. It also gives you a reason to get outside in the sun.
- Get some sun every day. Sunshine builds vitamin D in our bodies. Many of us believe sun exposure is not healthy, but humans evolved with daily sun exposure for thousands of years. Get 10 minutes of unprotected sun exposure each day in the summer. In Minnesota, we need at least 20 minutes in the winter months.
- Have your vitamin D levels tested. The most recent research indicates that the optimum level of vitamin D in your blood is 40-80 ng/mL. The U.S. RDA for vitamin D (400 IU/day) is intended to prevent bone disease, not to strengthen the immune system. For this reason, we may need to ingest up to 2000 IU/day of vitamin D3.
- Supplement with vitamin D3. In Minnesota, most of us will need to take a high-quality vitamin D supplement to maintain protective levels of vitamin D in our blood. This should contain the active form of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), not the inactive vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) or unspecified “vitamin D.”
- Eat fat! Yes, fat! We make vitamin D in our skin from cholesterol and sun exposure. Then, all of that vitamin D requires fat to be absorbed from your digestive tract. The best fats are found in olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, butter, nuts, eggs, fish, poultry, and meat.
- Take probiotics. Did you know that 80% of your immune system is in your intestinal tract? Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help us digest food and keep harmful pathogens from entering our bodies. A 2009 study from Pediatrics journal noted that children taking probiotics have a 28-73% percent lower risk of developing cold and flu symptoms.
- Get chiropractic care. Our modern understanding of the body is that the immune system and nervous system are intimately connected. They speak in the same cellular language, using the same chemical messengers. Chiropractic care reduces distortions within the nervous system so the body and brain can communicate more effectively. This makes the body more resistant to stress and illness because it is operating efficiently. A 1994 study showed that HIV-positive people had a 48% increase in germ-fighting white blood cells after receiving chiropractic care. Families who use chiropractic care often report less colds and flu – for both parents and children.
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