Got Asthma? Make Time for Sunshine
Vitamin D has entered the spotlight in recent years. Once thought to be important for good bone health—and little more—we now know that this multi-functional hormone is actually one of the most crucial compounds in the body. Cellular receptors for vitamin D stud cells and tissues throughout the body. They’re not just in bone tissue. They’re in the brain, the heart, the linings of blood vessels—you name it, it probably has vitamin D receptors. That alone tells us that vitamin D is extremely important.
Most recently, some large statistical analyses of many different studies have concluded that supplementation with vitamin D may not have the clear benefits that were once assumed. But few, if any, of these studies have ever reported a downside to supplementation. It’s only the additional benefits that remain controversial.
If you have asthma, you might want to err on the side of caution and boost your intake of vitamin D (through fortified milk, salmon, or vitamin D3 supplements), or spend a little more time in the sun. Vitamin D is often called the “sunshine vitamin” because our bodies are capable of making new supplies of this hormone through the action of sunlight striking bare skin. About 10-15 minutes, three times a week in summer, should be adequate. After that, it’s probably best to apply sunscreen, to prevent the risk of skin cancer. But bask in sunshine briefly, first.
That’s because a recent study concluded that asthma sufferers with normal levels of vitamin D were a full 25% less likely to suffer an attack (an “exacerbation”) than patients who were vitamin D deficient. In winter, at northern latitudes, sunlight is too weak to drive vitamin D synthesis in the skin after about mid-October and until April again, in much of the United States. During these months supplementation with vitamin D3 should be considered.
R. Confino-Cohen, I. Brufman, A. Goldberg, B. S. Feldman. Vitamin D, asthma prevalence and asthma exacerbations: a large adult population-based study. Allergy, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/all.12508