South Africa is experiencing one of its coldest winters due to changing global climate patterns and experts recommend taking special precautions to prevent cold exposure and boost immunity.

Research shows that although the global temperature is rising, climate systems that drive anomalously cold weather will continue to cause cold snaps increasing the risk of hypothermia, frostbite and other cold-related illnesses such as cardiovascular and respiratory disease.

READ MORE | 5 Vitamins And Minerals That Could Boost Your Immune System This Winter

Vitamin D deficiency raises risks

Health expert Vanessa Ascencao said that the risk of vitamin D deficiency and infections are much higher in winter due to reduced sun exposure, and a study has shown that supplementing with vitamin D3 during winter can help to support the immune system and fight off infections such as colds and flu.

Vitamin D helps to absorb phosphate and calcium in the body which is essential for healthy bones, teeth and muscles. It also reduces inflammation, improves gut health and protects against respiratory infections but natural food sources are limited.

A study show that low vitamin D levels was prevalent in 82% of Covid-19 patients and contributed to a higher risk of contracting Covid-19 and severe symptoms, while other studies have shown the benefits of vitamin D in protecting against heart attacks, diabetes, dementia, multiple sclerosis and even cancer.

Countries like the UK and Poland have implemented strategies for the prevention and treatment of vitamin D deficiency, including supplementation during autumn and winter.

READ MORE | Brighten Up Your Health With Vitamin D

A growing health concern in SA

While data remains limited in SA, vitamin D deficiency is a growing health concern due to increased sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy eating and high obesity.

Research shows that around 63% of black South Africans, 36% of coloured South Africans and 33% of infants are deficient while Africa is estimated to have the highest frequency of severe deficiency.

“The immune system needs balance and harmony among all systems to function effectively and vitamin D helps to modulate innate and adaptive immune responses. BetterYou DLux oral spray can help optimise vitamin D levels fast via the inner cheek and has been clinically proven to have higher absorption than tablets and capsules,” said Ascencao.

Additional tips recommended by Ascencao include:

  • Ensure a well-balanced diet that includes lots of colourful fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, healthy fats, fatty fish and lean protein.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Avoid sugar and processed foods.
  • Spend more time outdoors in the sun.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Manage stress.
  • Prioritise getting good quality sleep.