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The Importance of Vitamin D for Immunity

Authored by: Paige Welsh, Clinical Nutritionist & Naturopathic Practitioner

As we approach these next few summer months, most people’s immune systems tend to get stronger. In regards to viruses in particular, these pathogens tend to thrive in colder temperatures, which is why we see a spike in cold and flu season in the Fall and Winter, rather than in the Summer. As we breathe in cold air during the Fall and Winter, the respiratory tract cools, making it harder to fight off these invaders and increasing our chances of getting sick. Warmer temperatures make it much harder for viruses to live! Warmer temperatures also mean more exposure to vitamin D, which is one of my personal favorite nutrients for optimal immunity.

Natural Vitamin D is Not Enough for Most People

While most of us do get more exposure to natural sources of Vitamin D from the sun during summertime, I find that a lot of my clients are still too low in vitamin D. I like to see blood levels of vitamin D between 60-80 ng/mL for optimal immunity. However, I still see clients testing at levels under 40 ng/mL, even in the middle of summer! For this reason, it is very important to get your blood levels of vitamin D checked at least once a year, especially if you have any symptoms of low vitamin D (which will be discussed below).

How to Increase Absorption of Vitamin D

There are various ways to increase your absorption of vitamin D. Some tips I give clients are to get as much skin exposure as possible when outside during the day. If just your chest or arms are showing, you will not absorb that much vitamin D from the sun. Try to get outside between the hours of 10am - 4pm. Eat outside during lunch, but don’t shower right after being in the sun (this will wash off and interrupt the process of absorbing vitamin D through the skin), and refrain from using sunscreen for the first 15 minutes of being outside. If you are doing all of the above and still tend to have lower blood levels of vitamin D, you may need to consider supplementing with vitamin D3.

If you are someone who needs to supplement with vitamin D3, you will need 2.5 times more vitamin D if you are not taking it with vitamin K2 and magnesium. Fun fact: for those of you who have gotten blood work done with vitamin D levels being too high, it is usually a sign of vitamin K2 deficiency. This is because you need vitamin K2 to absorb and transport the vitamin D into your cells and tissue. For this reason, be sure to supplement with a vitamin D3/K2 combination plus magnesium (this may need to be added separately, since a lot of vitamin D3/K2 supplements do not contain magnesium). One of my favorite supplement sources of vitamin D3, K2 and magnesium is called DV3 by Systemic Formulas (which can be found at our clinic).  

Signs & Symptoms of Vitamin D, Vitamin K2 and Magnesium Deficiencies

  • Vitamin D deficiency signs: depression, joint pain, fatigue, muscle weakness, headaches, slow wound healing, and/or bruising easily.
  • Vitamin K2 deficiency signs: poor bone health, bone density loss, bruising easily, excessive bleeding, painful menstrual cramps, and/or blood in the stool.
  • Magnesium deficiency signs: high blood pressure, muscle cramps, restless legs, osteoporosis, insomnia, mood swings, anxiety, and/or painful menstrual cramps.

If you have any of these common signs and symptoms of nutrient deficiencies, please consider supplementing accordingly. Anyone from the store or the clinic at Total Health can help you with this if you have questions.

Managing Stress to Fight Off the Virus

One last word on immunity and the virus; since we are expecting a second wave in the Fall, please try to keep your fears and anxieties surrounding the virus (and other stressors in your life) as low as possible. Fear is not good for your immune system. Your immune system protects you internally from pathogens while your “fight or flight,” or the sympathetic nervous system, protects you from external, perceived stress, such as a busy or stressful home and/or work life. We need energy for both the immune system and your nervous system. So if your immune system is trying to fight a virus, but you have external stress triggering your “fight or flight” response, your body will prioritize that energy towards the “fight or flight” response instead of towards your immune system. Think of it this way—if you were being chased by a tiger, but you also had the flu, your energy would go towards running away from the tiger. Remember, fear = stress.

We Can Help!

Please reach out to our clinic if you have more questions regarding how you can best strengthen your immune system, how we can help you manage your stress, and/or your “fight or flight” response better. The clinic and the store are open, but we are still offering teleconference visits, as well. You can reach us at 262-251-2929 for a free, 15 minute phone call consultation to learn more about how we can help you.

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