Preventing The Flu and Colds with Vitamin D

You might have to read the next sentence twice. Natural health practitioners are aligning around a radical-sounding concept that colds and the flu are nothing more than a symptom of Vitamin D deficiency.

Yes, it may be true that you don't have to be sick again, at least not flat on your back with a fever and puking your brains out. You can likely prevent this suffering by normalizing the level of Vitamin D in your blood.

Conservatively, half the population is deficient in Vitamin D and by some reports as many as 87% of us are deficient, so if you are not going in the sun, or if you are using sunblock, or not supplementing with D3, you are likely in this group! Since our skin makes D only in the summer months, we are lowest in winter months, making us more susceptible to flus and colds. This is why experts are saying "Seasonal" Flu might be a misnomer. Since viruses circulate throughout the entire year, the seasonality is likely mainly due to our D status.

Many studies support D's role in preventing influenza. The largest and most recent - the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey - found that among 19,000 subjects, the higher the level of D, the less illness (upper respiratory infection, URI):
Interestingly, the analysis stops at blood levels of 30ng/ml and above. The lower limit for D deficiency is 32 ng/ml, so even at deficient levels, we have a stair-step correlation showing the protective effects of Vitamin D. The study did not separate out a group with optimal Vitamin D levels of 50 - 80ng/ml. At those levels, the rate of viral illness is thought to plummet even further, even approaching zero. Anecdotally, among doctors who have begun to treat their patients with Vitamin D, they have seen dramatically fewer cases of influenza-like illness in their practices.

Vitamin D also protects us from the two main ways influenza can kill us - cytokine storms and secondary bacterial infections.
  1. Cytokine Storm: "Vitamin D also suppresses inflammatory cytokines. Cytokines are partly responsible for the pain, fever, and congestion that comes with influenza infection; full-blown cytokine storms are to blame in some fatal cases of influenza," according to this must-read flu article in Life Extension magazine.
  2. Secondary Bacterial Infections: D is protective against bacterial illness, including one of the nastiest bacterial lung infections - tuberculosis: "Increased production of [D3] results in synthesis of cathelicidin, a peptide capable of destroying M. tuberculosis as well as other infectious agents," wrote Dr. Holick in his Vitamin D Deficiency review article in The New England Journal of Medicine. Other articles also support the bacterial-protective effects of D.
If you do come down with a flu, you can work with your doctor to treat with high-dose Vitamin D, to help prevent the awful fevers, nausea, headaches and other symptoms that typically accompany the infection. Here is what Dr. John Cannell, of the Vitamin D Council says he would do:
Stock your home's pharmacy with several fresh bottles of 50,000 IU capsules of Vitamin D3 (a medicine at this dosage, not a supplement) and if you get this flu, take 2,000 IU per kg of body weight per day for a week. As I weigh 220 pounds, I would take 200,000 IU per day for seven days if I thought I had an infection with a 1918-like influenza virus.
How to prevent flu with D: Your skin makes Vitamin D from direct sun exposure when you are taller than your shadow. Step outside and look! You'll notice that in the winter or outside of mid-day, your shadow is always taller than you are, which means you are not making D. See the Vitamin D Council for information on how to monitor blood levels of Vitamin D and treat. Per the experts, most adults should be taking 2,000 - 5,000IU of D3 per day. Always do this in consultation with your doctor, ideally testing your blood at the beginning and end of daylight savings season. for

OK, now for a little quiz. In addition to the $4.8 million PR campaign in 2009 for the H1N1 flu shot, how much did the CDC - full name being Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - spent educating the public that Vitamin D is a safer and more effective way to prevent H1N1 influenza infection?

$0. That's right. Nothing. I asked CDC officials about this when I met with them in Sacramento in August. I got a shoulder-shrug in answer to my question about Vitamin D being the ultimate protection against viruses.


Anonymous said...

200,000 IU seems like quite a bit of Vitamin D. Even from a chemist's perspective, this doesn't seem an appropriate level of cholecaliferol, especially if it is synthetic. I am all for natural D3 supplementing, but I haven't come across any research that supports this dramatic increase in daily Vitamin D intake (1000 times the daily recommended dose, and 20 times the "safe" highest upper limit found in all my years of research). Why so much and where is the research to support this?

Alix said...

Anonymous, I agree Cannell's severe influenza 7-day protocol seems high and I don't know how he calculated that dose, but he is a respected expert on the topic.

I think the theory is that a loading dose is like going in the sun every day in the summer and saving up D to last the winter.

As for the high dose, I recalled reading an article about that and found it - a 500,000IU(!!!) loading dose is used safely in elderly:

Osteoporos Int. 2009 Aug;20(8):1407-15. Epub 2008 Dec 20.
High-dose oral vitamin D3 supplementation in the elderly.

Bacon CJ, Gamble GD, Horne AM, Scott MA, Reid IR.

Department of Medicine, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.

SUMMARY: Daily dosing with vitamin D often fails to achieve optimal outcomes, and it is uncertain what the target level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D should be. This study found that large loading doses of vitamin D(3) rapidly and safely normalize 25OHD levels, and that monthly dosing is similarly effective after 3-5 months. With baseline 25OHD > 50 nmol/L, vitamin D supplementation does not reduce PTH levels. INTRODUCTION: There is concern that vitamin D supplementation doses are frequently inadequate, and that compliance with daily medication is likely to be suboptimal. METHODS: This randomized double-blind trial compares responses to three high-dose vitamin D(3) regimens and estimates optimal 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD) levels, from changes in parathyroid hormone (PTH), and procollagen type I amino-terminal propeptide (P1NP) in relation to baseline 25OHD. Sixty-three elderly participants were randomized to three regimens of vitamin D supplementation: a 500,000-IU loading dose; the loading dose plus 50,000 IU/month; or 50,000 IU/month. RESULTS: The Loading and Loading + Monthly groups showed increases in 25OHD of 58 +/- 28 nmol/L from baseline to 1 month. Thereafter, levels gradually declined to plateaus of 69 +/- 5 nmol/L and 91 +/- 4 nmol/l, respectively. In the Monthly group, 25OHD reached a plateau of ~80 +/- 20 nmol/L at 3-5 months. There were no changes in serum calcium concentrations. PTH and P1NP were only suppressed by vitamin D treatment in those with baseline 25OHD levels <50 and <30 nmol/L, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: Large loading doses of vitamin D(3) rapidly and safely normalize 25OHD levels in the frail elderly. Monthly dosing is similarly effective and safe, but takes 3-5 months for plateau 25OHD levels to be reached.

Vitamins Canada said...

Having the right amount of Vitamin D can help prevent flu and colds.

Jennifer Swift said...

In case of flu, it is important to also include water therapy in managing the illness aside from the Vitamin D intake. It's a wonderful solvent. You can also make your own flu remedies to combat sore throat and cough. I consider ginger tea as one of the best sore throat home remedies that's very economical and easy to use.