Vitamin D has been found to be crucial in providing a boost to the immune system. So how do you know if you are getting enough or should be supplementing your intake?
How it works
The body fights foreign infections caused by bacteria by way of the immune system. We are actually often fighting off infections that we don't even know about but the body naturally takes care of before we may notice any symptoms at all. The cells which are responsible for all the fighting are known as T cells, or fighter cells. They are inactive and just kind of hang around the body until they are triggered. Once triggered, they become active cells and get to work killing foreign intruders.
Vitamin D plays a critical role in all this. It is responsible for being the trigger to T cells to become active. When vitamin D is lacking in the blood response to infection is delayed, allowing the bacteria to spread for longer before T cells are activated.
Mobilising the immune system
When a foreign pathogen enters the body, it attaches tiny fragments of itself to normal healthy body cells. T cells sense the strange pathogen and begin responding by extending a sort of antenna into the blood reaching for Vitamin D. Once the T cell is activated it will be able to attach itself to the host cell, multiply into hundreds of cells and target the pathogen. Without the critical vitamin D step, the T cells are slow to function.
While the importance of vitamin D has be known for its role in calcium absorption, its role in multiple sclerosis and some cancers, the research which concluded with certainty its role in the immune system is very new.
Getting enough Vitamin D
There is no definitive answer on how much vitamin D is required on a daily basis. To know where you stand and find out if you are deficient, a blood test is the only accurate way to tell. Outside of this, there are no obvious signs of being vitamin D deficient. Much of the world does lack Vitamin D, and there are several ways around this. Getting vitamin D from the sun is the most commonly known way. The sun doesn't actually spread vitamin D through its rays. The vitamin is a simple byproduct that occurs by the skin after and during exposure to sunlight.
Getting vitamin D through a good diet is the best recommended way of absorbing it. You can find it in eggs and fatty fish like mackerel, salmon, and herring, as well as in fish liver oil. Given that much of the worlds population is considered lacking in vitamin D, researchers have estimated that about 25 to 50 micrograms per day should be enough. If you're allergic to food products that contain vitamin D is a good idea to look to dietary supplements to get it.
If you decide it to be a good idea to take vitamin D as a dietary supplement, which usually comes in a pill form, take it gradually. The body will simply excrete any excessive dosage, so start with a very low dose and work your way up week by week to the goal dosage.