You know Vitamin D as the sunshine vitamin. But do you know that researchers are examining its role in disease prevention. Getting enough Vitamin D may prevent respiratory illness.
Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because of the body’s ability to make the vitamin through exposure to the sun. How much sun is adequate is hard to estimate because of seasonal and geographic variations in ultraviolet rays. Natural food sources are few, consisting of fatty fish and some mushrooms, but fortified foods abound.
Vitamin D has long been known to strengthen bones. Years ago researchers linked Vitamin D deficiency to rickets, a disease that softens the bones of children. Soon they noticed that kids with rickets were also getting more than their share of infections.
Making sure that you and your family get sufficient Vitamin D is more important now that there’s good evidence that getting enough of it can prevent respiratory illness. Makes sense—the very season when weather keeps people indoors is when most people come down with colds and flu.
A walk in the sunshine is better than chasing down a multivitamin with a glass of fortified milk, because the body naturally limits its production of Vitamin D to less than toxic levels. Taking 20,000 international units (IU) of the vitamin orally for an extended length of time could cause trouble. Your best course of action would be to supplement a healthy diet with 400-500 IU of Vitamin D daily and get outdoors as often as possible.