© 2009 Katherine Poehlmann, Ph.D.
As a health researcher, I have been bombarded with questions lately about how to prevent the H1N1 flu that's being hyped by the media. This is not the highly deadly strain they are leading people to believe, but like any flu, it can be serious if your immune system is not in good shape.
So take the usual precautions, but be aware that you can increase your chances to avoid catching the flu by making sure you have adequate vitamin D levels. I've found that:
The Recommended Daily Value of vitamin D is not adequate.
Grandma's advice made sense. Compare:
-- 1 TBS cod liver oil = 1360 IU vitamin D
-- 1 cup milk (any kind) = 98 IU
-- Recommended DV = 400 IU (International Units)
Better DV is 700-800 IU/day
Scientific studies show that 700-800 IU/day plus 500-1200 mg of calcium per day:
-- decreases the risk of falls, fractures, and bone loss in older adults
-- works as an anti-inflammatory for aching muscles and joints
High doses in flu season prevent illness
A suggested daily dose during flu season is 2000 IU. Check the label and be sure to purchase the D3 version of vitamin D, not D2, which is not as readily absorbed or effective. Or, you might follow Grandma's natural method of 1 TBS cod liver oil per day. Be careful not to take too much of this fish oil since it contains vitamin A, which can be toxic at very high levels. One tablespoon is optimal.
Risks associated with vitamin D
We get some of our vitamin D from sunlight but this isn't enough. The rest should come from foods we eat (nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables), but many of us have inadequate nutrition. During fall and winter months (traditional flu season) sunlight is too weak and can lead to vitamin D deficiency. A blood test can determine your vitamin D level.
With higher vitamin D doses, there is a risk of kidney stones but this risk can be offset by increasing vitamin C intake. (And by the way, the DV for vitamin C is also way too low, in my view. Details about vitamin C can be found in other free articles on this website).
Increased vitamin D can interact with certain prescription drugs so be sure to ask your doctor before taking this supplement in either tablets or cod liver oil.
Scientific studies show that SHORT term high doses (e.g., 50,000 IU per week for 8 weeks) do NOT cause toxicity.
You may have a vitamin D deficiency and not be aware of it. I just had a complete physical and passed with flying colors except for low vitamin D. Shocking, because I spend at least 1/2 per day in the California sun doing gardening and try to eat right. To strengthen bones and ward off flu infections, I'm taking 2000 IU of vitamin D (in D3 form) per day for a month, then taking a maintenance dose of 800 IU daily.
Sources used in this article:
Dr. Poehlmann is the author of Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Infection Connection, available at Amazon.com and major bookstores, or click here to order now.