One of the most common questions I get from clients is, “What can I do to avoid getting sick this winter?” Although there are many answers to that question, my favorite is to recommend adequate doses of vitamin D. Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because skin exposure to sunshine is required in the production pathway of vitamin D. This means that the dark months of winter are a bad thing for vitamin D levels. The primary forms of vitamin D in the body are 25 OH D3 and 1,25 OH D3 with the latter form being active. Vitamin D has long been known for its importance in maintaining bone health. The disease rickets has been essentially eliminated in the US with the addition vitamin D to the diet. Over the past 20 years, it has become increasingly evident that vitamin D has many other benefits, particularly to the immune system. Recent studies have shown that vitamin D can dampen immune over-reaction as well as inducing anti-bacterial peptides.(Gombart, Borregaard, & Koeffler, 2005; Pfeffer & Hawrylowicz, 2012) In real life, this means that vitamin D could prevent infections and make the infections we do get less severe. We have been recommending that patients maintain optimal vitamin D levels for their overall health for years. Now, two review articles have been able to confirm that taking your vitamin D does, indeed, prevent respiratory infections.(Bergman, Lindh, Bjorkhem-Bergman, & Lindh, 2013; Martineau et al., 2017) Both of these papers were reviews and evaluated multiple studies of the effectiveness of vitamin D in preventing respiratory infections. They found that supplementation was effective at lowering the risk of infection. The benefits of vitamin D supplementation were greatest in people that had low levels to start with (like everyone in the state of Michigan). The studies also suggested that daily vitamin D supplementation gave better protection than once per week bolus doses. At Bio Energy Medical Center, we consider vitamin D levels as important as any other basic lab test. We strive to keep levels optimum (a level over 50 ng/ml). Dosage of vitamin D varies from individual to individual. The Institutes of Medicine consider doses up to 4000 I.U. per day to be safe. It is best to customize your dose to the blood level, but any of us can easily tolerate 2-3000 units of vitamin D per day. It is important that your vitamin D is in the form of D3. Vitamin K2 is frequently added to higher doses of vitamin D because of its benefit in regulating calcium distribution (it moves calcium into the bones under the influence of vitamin D). So remember in the dark months of winter, take your sunshine vitamin, vitamin D, every day.
Bergman, P., Lindh, A. U., Bjorkhem-Bergman, L., & Lindh, J. D. (2013). Vitamin D and Respiratory Tract Infections: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. PLoS One, 8(6), e65835. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065835
Gombart, A. F., Borregaard, N., & Koeffler, H. P. (2005). Human cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide (CAMP) gene is a direct target of the vitamin D receptor and is strongly up-regulated in myeloid cells by 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3. FASEB J, 19(9), 1067-1077. doi:10.1096/fj.04-3284com
Martineau, A. R., Jolliffe, D. A., Hooper, R. L., Greenberg, L., Aloia, J. F., Bergman, P., . . . Camargo, C. A., Jr. (2017). Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data. BMJ, 356, i6583. doi:10.1136/bmj.i6583
Pfeffer, P. E., & Hawrylowicz, C. M. (2012). Vitamin D and lung disease. Thorax, 67(11), 1018-1020. doi:10.1136/thoraxjnl-2012-202139