Vitamin D is being hailed as the new natural remedy for colds & flu. Vitamin D, known as the “sunshine vitamin” because it is made in our bodies after exposure to the sun, is more commonly known for its role in building strong bones. But researchers have found that Vitamin D can help balance the immune system helping to prevent a whole host of health problems as well as colds and flu.
It is known that flu predictably occurs in the winter months when Vitamin D is low. Much of the population living in Britain and countries that have similar seasons become deficient in Vitamin D during the winter and spring when exposure to sunlight is lacking.
While the natural remedy cod liver oil which contains Vitamins A and D is often taken by people to ease joint problems it was noted that it helped to prevent respiratory infections such as colds and flu. It is a fact that children exposed to sunlight get fewer colds and that children who were constantly sick from colds and flu were suddenly free from infection when they were given high doses of Vitamin D.
Researchers studying the effects of Vitamin D on the immune system have shown that it increases production of certain peptides that quickly destroy the influenza virus. They have only recently learned how Vitamin D increases production of antimicrobial peptides while simultaneously preventing the immune system from releasing too many inflammatory cells.
Although the main source of Vitamin D is exposure of the skin to sunlight you can get some Vitamin D from food. The main source from food is the flesh of oily fish and small amounts are found in cheese, egg yolks and beef liver. It is quite difficult to get adequate amounts from food and as it is so important for strong bones some foods like cereals, milk, yogurt and margarine have been fortified with it. In spite of this it is thought that people only get about a third of what they need from food.
Getting enough Vitamin D was not considered to be a problem until recently but some experts believe we are in the middle of an unrecognized pandemic of Vitamin D deficiency. According to one study an amazing nine out of ten people are deficient in Vitamin D during winter and spring.
So how do you know if you are deficient in Vitamin D?
There is no way of knowing whether you are getting enough without doing a blood test. Be sure to get a 25-hydroxy-vitamin D also known as a 25(OH)D test. Some doctors order a 1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D but this goes up and down with calcium intake and is not a good indicator for Vitamin D deficiency.
How to boost your levels for good immunity and other health benefits.
Experts do not agree on how much you need but Dr Micheal Holick one of the world’s leading authorities on Vitamin D says that exposing arms and legs or hands face and arms to the sun without sunscreen for up to 15 minutes a day between 10 am and 3 pm in spring, summer and autumn is enough to keep levels up for most of us.
People with dark skin pigmentation may need 20 – 30 times as much exposure to sunlight as fair-skinned people to generate the same amount of vitamin D.
Secondly eat vitamin D rich foods. Its difficult to say how much you need because it depends on how much you get from the sun. Some experts say we need about 800iu a day and others recommend 1000iu or more. One 100g (3.5oz) salmon contains about 360 iu of the vitamin and an egg around 20 iu.
If you think you may be at risk of a Vitamin D deficiency consider taking a supplement to keep free of winter colds and flu.
There are various forms of Vitamin D but the best form to take is Vitamin D3. This is the form that is made in your skin when exposed to ultra violet light.
Ideally find a doctor who is conversant with the current scientific evidence regarding the importance of Vitamin D to your health and monitor your blood levels for an immune system boost against colds and flu.