Up to 62 percent of women over 50 are low in vitamin D, which is produced when sun hits. Here’s how it can help boost immunity and protect against illnesses, including breakthrough COVID-19 infections. With the new Omicron variant sweeping the nation, even for fully vaccinated folks, it can’t hurt to get a little extra help in the immunity department!
Why You Need Vitamin D
“Vitamin D acts as personal protective equipment inside us,” notes Derrick M. DeSilva Jr., M.D., internist at New Jersey’s Raritan Bay Medical Center. That’s because vitamin D helps keep viruses from penetrating cells and producing severe damage. Indeed, researchers noted in The Irish Medical Journal that ample D can reduce risk of acute respiratory infections and pneumonia, and suggested lifting levels to enhance resistance to COVID-19. “If you’re exposed, you’ll have the armor to fight it off more effectively,” says Dr. DeSilva.
(Bonus: Research in Public Health Nutrition reveals folks with adequate D were 154 percent less likely to feel depressed than those with low levels!)
The Best Way to Get Vitamin D
Sun exposure is the best way to boost D, since the vitamin is made naturally when UVB rays strike skin. And midday is ideal since UVB rays are at their highest between 10 am and 3 pm. Michael Holick, M.D., Ph.D., recommends spending 10 to 15 minutes (darker-skinned folks, who are more likely deficient, can spend up to 35 minutes) in the sunshine without sunscreen during peak hours three times a week. And wait at least an hour before showering once you come in: Research out of the University of Alabama reveals that it takes as long as 60 minutes for skin oils to make D out of sunlight.
Experts note it’s hard to reach infection-fighting levels solely through sun and dietary sources. That’s why Dr. DeSilva recommends taking 5,000 IU of D-3 daily. Also, scientists say folks with low D can boost levels eightfold by adding 200 mg. of magnesium. Note: Check with your doctor before supplementing.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.
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