Well winter has well and truly hit. Cold and flu season is starting to ramp up and the sniffle’s are getting passed around.
Remember you help your body fight off bugs before you get sick. Start boosting your immune system now to help battle the nasty’s. Many of us think about the usual Vit C, garlic, horseradish, Echinacea, olive leaf extracts are the most popular ways to boost our immune system. But there’s an unsung hero. VITAMIN D!
Vitamin D as we know, is needed for maintaining good bone health. It helps our bodies absorb calcium. Remember we need to have adequate levels of both calcium as well as Vit D for our bones to remain healthy.
Vitamin D is actually a hormone rather than a vitamin. Vitamin D is needed for much much more than good bone health. In fact is such a potent hormone that is has been shown to regulate more genes and bodily functions than any other hormone yet discovered. It plays an essential part in maintaining the health of our overall body, not just our bones. It’s found Vitamin D is needed to maintain our overall organ function.
The most surprising thing is it’s also shown to have an important role in immune function.
Our immune cells have receptors which act like feelers to detect whether our cells are “our” cells or “foreign” cells. A strong immune system is one that is able to find foreign cells and kill them off before they grow in numbers where they affect the integrity of normal function. If these immune receptors don’t work properly we have troubles with detecting diseases and viruses in our bodies. This means our immune system is then compromised and opens us up to infection that is difficult to control.
Interestingly, Vitamin D was unknowingly used to treat Tuberculosis (T.B) patients before the advent of effective antibiotics. Tuberculosis patients were sent to facilities where direct exposure to sunlight was thought to kill off the T.B virus. Cod liver oil, which is naturally high in Vit D, was also administered for general increased immune protection (1).
A study looked at Vitamin D levels of 19000 subjects between 1988 – 1994. Individuals with lower vitamin D levels (<30 ng/ml) were more likely to self-report a recent upper respiratory tract infection than those with sufficient levels, even after adjusting for variables including season, age, gender, body mass and race (2).
So if there’s anything you do for you immune system this winter, make sure your Vitamin D levels are normal and ample this cold and flu season.
- Williams C. On the use and administration of cod-liver oil in pulmonary consumption.London Journal of Medicine. 1849;1:1–18
- Ginde AA, Mansbach JM, Camargo CA., Jr. Association between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level and upper respiratory tract infection in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(4):384–90.