Beautiful Sunshine

We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel of winter. Phew! I know in our house it can’t come soon enough, an end to the constant runny noses and days in-doors.

For this column I thought we could look at why our immune systems seem to have more trouble in winter. Germs and infections are all around us all the time so why are we more susceptible to illness in winter? A couple of things spring to mind; firstly it’s a simple equation of energy in and energy out. Most people would remark that they eat more in winter, or they eat stodgier foods in winter – like stews with lashings of mashed potato. The simple reason for this is because controlling our temperature requires energy that we do not need to use to the same extent in summer. To keep your body temperature up in a cold climate takes fuel to create heat. This is also why we tend towards hot food and drinks as it helps to increase or maintain our temperature without the huge outlay from out bodies to do the same job. So we require more fuel to achieve the same results in winter.

The second thing is sunshine. There has been a lot of media around Vitamin D recently and for our area it is seen in deficiency more than we would expect. In my view there are a few reasons for this; firstly our winter is long and cold (although not so bad this year!) the days are short and if you don’t have a job that requires you to be inside you would still most likely be very well covered when outside. This limits the amount of vitamin D we absorb from the sun. Vitamin D deficiency directly reduces your immune function leaving you more susceptible to infection. Even in summer as we are all health conscious people for our families, we lather up with sunscreen, which blocks Vitamin D absorption. As sunburn is very damaging for the skin I am not suggesting you don’t use it, but it can be useful to have 10 – 15 minutes in the sun before applying sunscreen, in the cooler parts of the day. And if you can bear to get your pale skin out for short periods of time regularly in winter you will be increasing your bodies resistance to infections.