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Vitamin D could help you stay cold-free

Start taking this now for a sick-free flu season
We’re still in the dog days of summer, but I’ve already got cold and flu season on my mind. So I’ve been keeping an extra sharp eye out for ways to get ready. I can’t say I was surprised when one of our favorites showed up in my research — I guess it just goes to show that this stuff really can do it all!

Maybe it’s the fact that, as I type this letter, I’m feeling pretty miserable. The culprit? A mid-summer cold that’s left me sniffling, sneezing, and an absolute pain to be around.

Whatever the reason, I have cold and flu season on my mind today. We might still be in the dog days of summer, but the “sick” time of year will be here before we know it. It’s time to brace ourselves for another round of “Get the flu shot before we all die!” messages from Big Pharma and the CDC.

And it’s time to look at the alternatives.

Leave it to an old Nutrition & Healing favorite — so popular in the news this past year for a host of studies showing it may help prevent diabetes, certain cancers, even depression — to kick off our cold and flu prevention plan.

I’m talking about — if you haven’t guessed already — vitamin D.

We all know our bodies make vitamin D when we’re out in the sun. Rates of vitamin D insufficiency rise during the winter, when the days are shorter and darker and we’re all spending a lot more time indoors. Because of this, researchers have wondered for a while now whether vitamin D insufficiency might play a role in winter’s reputation as “cold and flu season.”

Past research has shown that people with lower vitamin D levels in their blood end up with more respiratory infections and that vitamin D may play an “important role” in our immune systems’ defenses against such infections.

A new study from the University of Tampere in Finland found that men who took 400 IU of vitamin D per day were more likely to have no days missed from work due to respiratory illness than men who didn’t take the supplement. Overall, 51% of the men taking vitamin D remained healthy through the six months of the study, compared with 36% of men who didn’t take it.

Another study, this one out of Japan, found that children given 1,200 IU of vitamin D each day were less likely to come down with the flu.

So, how much should you take? The upper limit, set by U.S. health officials, is 2,000 IU per day. They only recommend getting 200 IU per day if you’re under 50 years old, and 400 to 600 IU if you’re older.

The Vitamin D Council, however, begs to differ. They recommend taking 5,000 IU per day for two to three months, then having blood levels tested and working toward maintaining blood levels between 50 and 80 ng/mL year-round. They also suggest using a sun bed during the winter, and getting plenty of sun in the warmer months.

There is some debate as to how much vitamin D is too much. So, as always, it’s best to consult a doctor skilled in natural medicine for guidance on finding your body’s optimum D level.

Sources:
“Some evidence vitamin D might fight colds,” Reuters (www.reuters.com)
Vitamin D Council (www.vitamindcouncil.org)