Soak in the sunlight

Soak in the sunlight

Soak in the sunlight
The mention of Vitamin D brings to mind the thought of sunbathing on a beach while sipping on a cocktail. Some studies say exposure to sun for 30 minutes between 11 am and 4 pm will help you get sufficient Vitamin D for a day. However, today’s lifestyle that keeps many people indoors during this window has lead to many suffering a deficiency. Indians currently do not get the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of Vitamin D despite living in a tropical country. 

Reduces infectionVitamin D is a fat soluble Vitamin that is available in nature. Vitamin D2 is found in plants and is known as calciferol, while Vitamin D3 is found in animal tissues and is called cholecalciferol. 

Cholecalciferol is what we absorb through the skin from exposure to sunlight. The dehydrocholesterol present in the skin aids the absorption.

The main function of Vitamin D is the absorption of calcium and phosphate, which is essential for good bone health. Adults who are deficient in the Vitamin develop osteoporosis, while children develop rickets. Besides, Vitamin D also plays a crucial role in maintaining immunity to diseases. 

Immune cells like B-cells, T-cells and antigen-presenting cells (APCs) are capable of synthesising the active form of Vitamin D. Hence, the Vitamin can modulate the native and other immune responses which are adaptive in nature. If the Vitamin is in short supply, the body will be more at risk of infection.

However, if one takes in Vitamin D supplements, this susceptibility can be avoided. Various studies have reported the importance of Vitamin D in reducing infection. For instance, cod liver oil is a rich source of Vitamin D and has been used for treating tuberculosis. Those with autoimmune diseases are also seen to have benefited immensely when they have been given Vitamin D as supplements.

Increasing your intakeThere are several ways to ensure that you get enough Vitamin D. One easy way is to stand under the sun for 15 minutes between 10 am and 3 pm at least two to three times a week. Make sure direct sunlight falls on you and do not wear sunscreen products. 

Another way of supplementing your Vitamin D intake is through food. Sources of the Vitamin include milk from grass-fed cows which have had sufficient exposure to the sun. Salmon, tuna, mushrooms and pasture-raised eggs are other foods that you can take. 

In countries where there is limited exposure to the sun, people have been fortifying their foods with Vitamin D. Those who have been found to be deficient have been given supplements in therapeutic doses by the medical practitioners.

Modern agriculture and the cooperative dairies have changed the procurement of milk and eggs. Broiler chickens are cooped up in closed spaces and fed with chemicals and antibiotics. Similarly, cows in co-operative dairies may also be raised indoors. Hence, there may be a change in Vitamin D levels available in the milk and eggs today. However the same from grass-fed cows and chickens have exposure to the sun and hence, their products are likely to be rich in the Vitamin.

Dietary toxicity of the Vitamin can occur when adults consume more than 4000 IU of Vitamin D. Being a fat soluble Vitamin, it cannot go out of the body through the bodily fluids. Whereas all water soluble Vitamins that are in excess can be sent out through urine.

Adequate intake of Vitamin D will keep you healthy. Step out of your air-conditioned office once in a while to soak in the sunshine Vitamin and make sure you eat nutritious food to supplement it.
(The author is a consultant dietitian)
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