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Vitamin D and Cold & Flu Prevention

We all know about the connection between Vitamin D and how it improves calcium absorption, and thus bone health.  But, over the past decade of research, new findings are showing that activated forms of vitamin D have incredible protective effects on your immunity, including protection against viruses, and likely against the current H1N1 swine flu virus.

Vitamin D has been shown, by various researchers to benefit the immune system in various ways including:

  • To activate a human gene that produces our own innate anti-microbial proteins (called cathelicidins).  This research has shown that vitamin D-activated-cathelicidin can activate the immune cells (macrophages and monocytes) to fight bacteria and viruses in and around our cells
  • Recent research has shown promising effects of vitamin D in helping fight against influenza, viral upper respiratory tract illnesses, and tuberculosis
  • Recent observation in a Wisconsin long-term care facility in the USA showed that patients who had their levels of vitamin D monitored and corrected had 10 times less incidence of the H1N1 virus and influenza-like illness, during a June 2009 facility outbreak, compared to the facility staff (who were not monitored for their vitamin D status).  For more information on this observation, see: http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/newsletter/vitamin-d-and-h1n1-swine-flu.shtml

It is amazing to see how we ourselves are ‘solar powered’ in our normal function, and how dependent we are directly on the sun.  Of course a balanced immune system depends on other nutrients and lifestyle factors.  Although, from reviewing the above research, I am encouraged that by taking an appropriate amount of vitamin D, I feel we can significantly reduce the impact of winter viruses on our health, including from the H1N1 strain.  Read below to understand how to get enough vitamin D.

Other Health Issues Associated With Vitamin D Deficiency

  • Atopic Dermatitis
  • Allergic Hypersensitivity
  • Asthma severity & risk
  • Autism risk
  • Cancer Risk (especially breast, colon, & prostate)
  • Cardiovascular Diseases
  • Dementia risk
  • Depression risk
  • Diabetic glucose control
  • Environmental / Multiple Chemical Sensitivities
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Low Back Pain
  • Multiple Sclerosis risk
  • Osteoporosis, Osteopenia, Osteomalacia
  • Premenstrual Syndrome
  • Prostate Enlargement (BPH)
  • Rickets
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Do You Have Enough Vitamin D?                                                                                  You can test your vitamin D level easily enough by requesting a blood test through your medical or naturopathic doctor.  The test is specifically called “25-hydroxy vitamin D,” or the “25(OH)D test.”  Ask for it by name, or they may order the wrong vitamin D test.  It’s also a good idea to test your blood calcium level at the same time.

How Can You Increase Your Level of Vitamin D?

Three effective options exist:

  1. Take supplemental vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol in tablets, capsules or drops.  Many Canadians are low and need to take a few thousand international units (IU’s) per day, so drop dosing is easy, where many company’s make a 1000 IU per drop liquid format.  Many experts suggest to take 4000-5000 IU per day, for 3 months, and then test your vitamin D level.  Speak to your naturopath or family doctor for specific dose suggestions.
  2. Actual sunlight.  Though, this is hard for Canadians since the strength of the UV rays in Canada are quite low in the early-Fall to late Spring months, not sufficient to produce enough vitamin D in our skin.  Get about ¼ of the sunlight it would take to cause skin redness, for many, this is about 10-15 minutes, and more if you have darker skin.  Note that our diet provides only 10% of our vitamin D requirements; most of it comes from skin production.
  3. Use of artificial light, from a sun bed (though be careful not to burn, and make sure to use high quality sun beds).

 

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