Boosting Your Immunity - How to support your immune system with Vitamin D and Chaga
Post by Penny Barnett
We’ve been hearing quite a bit about Vitamin D in the news recently and how important it can be for the immune system. As we move into the darker, winter months, let’s take a look at why it’s increasingly important for our wellbeing.
The Sunshine Vitamin
Vitamin D comes in two forms - D2 & D3. It is a fat-soluble (the liver mainly stores it in fat) pro-hormone which helps balance hormones in the body and supports our immune system. Vitamin D is thought to be an immunoregulator that slows or stops bacteria that causes disease. Vitamin D and A, along with vitamin C, have been beneficial in reducing the incidence of colds.1
When the sun’s ultraviolet rays touch the skin they are converted into the vitamin D3 molecule, this is with the help of a precursor which is already naturally found in our skin. This vitamin D3 molecule then follows a metabolic pathway through the liver and finally to the kidneys, where it’s then converted into a different molecule called calcitriol - that’s the good stuff, the active form of Vitamin D.
This is why it’s so important to top up your vitamin D3 levels from exposure to the sun. Vitamin D3 also aids cardiovascular health, bone strength, insulin regulation and a positive effect on mood.
Vitamin D Deficiency
If we are deficient in Vitamin D we could display symptoms including weakened immune system (colds & flu), seasonal depression (SAD), autoimmune disease, weak bones (osteopenia), skin issues eczema and psoriasis or even dementia.
Alongside the exposure of sun other ways to top up Vitamin D levels can also be from food (both D3 & D2), especially from seafood and dairy, the highest sources being:
- Caviar (if you’re feeling plush!)
- Eggs and Raw milk
Another high source of Vitamin D, and a vegan alternative, is mushrooms.
Chaga and Vitamin D
Chaga is a medicinal mushroom that grows most abundantly in birch trees located in forests around the Northern hemisphere, most commonly in Siberia, North America, Korea and North East Europe. The chaga fungus grows inside a tree and when the tree starts its defence mechanism it grows a lumpy burl, which is then harvested and used in natural remedies.
Chaga mushroom is a great source of nutrients, especially as it contains ergosterol, a precursor to Vitamin D. David Wolfe has extensively researched into the benefits of chaga and he writes;
“…this is why when yeasts and mushrooms are exposed to ultraviolet light, Vitamin D2 is produced…even though Vitamin D3 is 3 to 9.5 times more potent than D2 and has a longer duration of action, vitamin D2 (found in chaga) is still an extraordinary important nutrient”2
As we’ve seen, relying on Vitamin D from food can be limited due to the narrow range of sources, so soak up the sunshine’s rays to prompt synthesis in the skin and consider taking a vitamin supplement or superfood that is rich in Vitamin D, like chaga mushroom.
Supplementation of Vitamin D is recommended as an additional boost, especially for those that may fall into any of the categories mentioned below.
Risk factors of deficiency include:
- People taking medication that deplete vitamin D eg. anti-convulsants and steroids.
- People who are obese (vitamin D won’t be as bioavailable from fat stores).
- People with less exposure to sunlight eg. Night workers, those living sedentary lifestyles.
- People with digestive impairments such as IBS.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women.
- Babies and young children under the age of 5.
- The elderly due to reduced capacity to synthesise vitamin D.
- Also covering of the skin from clothes or sunscreen can affect the absorption.
The rich pigments of chaga show the powerful antioxidant configuration. Most notable of these is superoxide dismutase (SOD), which is between 25 to 50 times stronger than other medicinal mushrooms. Quite unique to chaga, these antioxidant properties are most potent when extracted in hot water3, so having a chaga tea, instant chaga or adding it to your coffee is an easy, everyday way of keeping your immune system boosted.
Polar Nutrition’s Chaga Extract is a hot water extract and it has been gently simmered in a vacuum until the parts that don’t dissolve into the body, are gone. That means that it leaves only those parts that are 100% dissolvable. This Chaga doesn’t need 8 hours of simmering like dried chaga does - it’s instant chaga and tastes a bit like coffee.
It comes in powder form, just add 1/3 of a teaspoon (1g) per day to your morning brew.
2 David Wolfe, Chaga King of the Medicinal Mushrooms, pg 49-50
3 David Wolfe, Chaga King of the Medicinal Mushrooms, pg 44