Vitamin D: infection fighter

The sunshine vitamin is also essential for powering your immune system

Nicholas Sokic 2 minute read January 23, 2020

For the most part, we have natural sunlight to thank for getting our much-needed vitamin D. But in these short winter days, that can be a challenge. Here’s why it’s actually really important you maintain vitamin D intake year round.

First off, it’s essential for warding off infection and fighting inflammation. Originally, vitamin D was only connected to good bone health, as a deficiency  was linked to rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults. But in the 1980s, scientists discovered immune cells had receptors for vitamin D.

This led to discoveries that the vitamin was important to gastrointestinal health. Higher levels of vitamin D increase the amount and variety of microbes living in the gut, which work to reduce inflammation and strengthen one’s immune system. A responsible level of vitamin D has been linked to a risk reduction in inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease as well as gut and lung infections.

Foods that are rich in vitamin D include mushrooms, fatty fish like salmon, herrings, sardines and tuna, both dairy and soy milk, orange juice and egg yolks.

As with everything, however, there is such a thing as too much. Vitamin D toxicity can result in bone pain, vomiting, kidney stones and kidney disease. Of course, spending too much time in the sun for your vitamin D can also lead to skin cancer. In young children, excess vitamin D can cause abnormal bone growth and formation, depression, weight gain and diarrhea.

For anyone between the ages of 9 and 70, Health Canada recommends 600 IU (International Units) of vitamin D a day, with an upper allowable limit of 4,000 IU. For those over 70, the recommendation is 800 IU.