The vitamin you and your family need more of and most right now is Vitamin D!

Move over, vitamin C—there’s a new flu buster in town! Are we entering “flu season” or more appropriate “Low Vitamin D Season”).  Vitamin D plays an important role in immune system support. Also known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is every bit as important as its antioxidant counterparts whenever the immune sysytem is under duress, like during a cold or flu. If you’re one of those people who keeps getting sick and you don’t know why OR you want to prevent from being one of those people, read on! See how vitamin D helps your immune system to boost immunity and fight viral infections.

What Is Vitamin D?
First, it’s important to understand that vitamin D isn’t a “vitamin” at all, but rather a pro-hormone that is synthesized in response to interaction between cholesterol, the skin, and sun exposure. If you are taking a statin drug to lower your cholesterol, chances are you don’t have enough cholesterol to MAKE your vitamin D. Best to supplement! (Or even better, let me help you figure out WHY your cholesterol is high and let’s fix it so you can get OFF the statin which is known to cause Alzheimer’s).

Vitamin D is widely studied for all kinds of health benefits, like bone health, calcium absorption, heart health, and immunity. While experts differ on how much vitamin D is needed to provide protection and avoid symptoms of insufficiency or deficiency, nearly everyone agrees that you cannot get enough vitamin D from food alone.

Vitamin D Boosts Immunity, Especially Among People Who Have Low Vitamin D

When you take vitamin D, you lower your chances of getting sick from viral infections, like colds and the flu! People who are deficient in vitamin D actually see a greater protective benefit when they supplement, reducing their risk by 50 percent.

Receptors for vitamin D are located on cell surfaces in the immune system, allowing vitamin D to bind to them. When this happens, vitamin D reduces inflammatory cytokines that perpetuate illness. It also boosts the proteins that fight bacteria and viruses, the natural versions of antibiotics that protect the body from infection.

How Much Vitamin D You Really Need
If you cannot get sun exposure regularly—as everyone above the 45th parallel (a.k.a MICHIGANDERS!) do not from September through March each year—then supplementation is essential to maintain steady levels. Vitamin D3 is considered to be the natural form and is most effective at raising blood concentrations. In my opinion, adults should supplement with 15,000 IU per day in these months and children should take 1,000 IU daily per 25 pounds of body weight (up to 125 pounds). The best bet when it comes to supplementing with vitamin D is to get your levels tested and I can advise you on the proper dosage for your health factors. I can order this simple lab for you and your total out of pocket cost would be ~$32.

Heath Tip: Vitamin D supplements absorb best when paired with fish oil or fatty foods to optimize absorption.

How Vitamin D Boosts the Immune System

Vitamin D boosts the innate branch of the immune system, the body’s first line of defense against infection, and the first to mount an attack against foreign invaders. The response time for this branch of the immune system is strongly associated with our ability to ward off illness or shorten the duration of sickness. When vitamin D levels are low, immune cells respond slower and the innate immune response is not as rapid as it should be.

Even if you do get sick, increase your vitamin D levels immediately for faster recovery. 

Cold and flu viruses are contagious respiratory infections that affect the nose, throat, and lungs with symptoms like congestion, coughing, wheezing, sore throat, body aches, and fever. There are several overlapping factors that are associated to both the severity of the flu and being at risk of vitamin D deficiency, including:

Age (under age 2 or over age 65)
Chronic disease (diabetes, heart disease, autoimmunity, etc.)
Suppressed immunity (HIV, AIDS)
Most People Have Low Vitamin D

Most Americans get far too little vitamin D and the recommended daily allowance for vitamin D of 600 IU is OUTDATED, setting the stage for rampant deficiencies. Certain people, like those with Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, osteoporosis, or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, have an even higher risk of being deficient because of issues with absorption in the intestines and because of greater demands.

The Bottom Line
Vitamin D is a critical nutrient for immune support. When the body is low in this nutrient, immune system cells will have slower response times to viral invaders, sickness duration will be longer, and overall immunity will be suppressed.

Vitamin D is one of the few nutrients that doesn’t have an abundance of food sources. We were designed to produce most of the vitamin D we need in the skin from sun exposure. But between food and supplements, as well as sun exposure in the warmer months, we can optimize our vitamin D levels for overall health.