Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, healthy muscles, and a robust immune system. Healthy levels of vitamin D are also essential for normal bone development during pregnancy – if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy you need to ensure your levels are optimal. Sunlight is the best natural source of Vitamin D, but winter in Melbourne can be a difficult time to get enough sun. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can also cause skin cancer; a balanced approach is needed to ensure you’re getting enough sun whilst reducing your cancer risk.
UV levels above 3 are strong enough to cause damage to skin and eyes, and protection from the sun is required. In winter, UV levels in Melbourne are generally below 3 so there is no need to slip, or slop (unless you’re near snow or water, lucky you). It’s a good idea to wear sunglasses or a hat to protect your eyes.
For people with fair to olive skin, 2 to 3 hours per week of midday sun exposure on the face, hands and arms is enough to maintain healthy Vitamin D levels. If you have very dark skin you will need 3 to 6 times this amount.
Other sources of Vitamin D
If you’re struggling to get adequate sun exposure during winter, there are other ways to enhance your Vitamin D production.
- Daily exercise can boost your body’s production of Vitamin D
- Food sources include oily fish, cod liver oil, eggs and mushrooms
- Supplementation – make sure you choose vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Vitamin D3 is the more potent form (compared with D2) and is more effective at raising vitamin D levels
Supporting immune function with TCM
If you are struggling with low immunity or recurrent coughs and colds this winter Chinese medicine can also help. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs help to boost the body’s defenses, and can help you to recover more quickly if you do fall ill.