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Boost your immune system with sun and fresh air

By Nadia McMorran

Summer is here and it’s well known that generally, the summer months mean people have stronger immune systems and aren’t as susceptible to illness.

Vitamin D is a vital nutrient for a strong immune system - low levels of vitamin D have been linked to frequent infections, both viral and bacterial. Vitamin D is particularly helpful for prevention and management of acute respiratory infections.

Every white blood cell in our body has vitamin D receptors and activating enzymes on the surface of the cell, so has a vital role to play in balancing our immune system. Vitamin D then directs our white blood cells to manufacture an antimicrobial peptide that kills infections, which is happening often before we even know we have picked up a bug.

Make sure to spend time in the sun where your skin is exposed and you aren’t wearing sunscreen – just be smart about it. The best time of day to absorb vitamin D is around midday, when the sun is highest in the sky. Have short, controlled periods of time directly in the midday sun, but be very careful not to burn. Take plenty of breaks in the shade, or after a little while cover your skin or apply a natural sunscreen. As our skin tans, it naturally protects us from the sun, so you’ll be able to tolerate longer periods of time in the sun before needing to cover up to prevent burning.

Apart from the benefits of the sun, people that regularly breathe fresh, clean air outdoors (without a mask on, of course!) have much stronger immune systems than people who stay indoors or breathe polluted air. It helps to increase our oxygen levels, therefore helping white blood cells to function properly fighting bacteria and viruses. Getting plenty of sun and fresh air also helps with good sleep patterns and our circadian rhythm – good quality sleep also boosts immunity because when we sleep, our immune system releases antibodies and cytokines that fight infection.

It’s even better if you are outdoors in the sun and fresh air and moving your body; a gentle walk is enough to help blood circulation, strengthening our cardiovascular system and helping to lower stress levels, which in turn also strengthens our immune system.

Enjoy the sun and fresh air this summer, just don’t get burnt! A tip though if you do suffer from sunburn this summer – take high doses of supplementary vitamin D as soon as you realise you may be sunburnt. This can reduce redness, cell damage, inflammation and soreness. This, coupled with aloe vera gel directly on the skin should provide you quick relief.