Vitamin D – Immune Silver Bullet?

I came across an article this morning touting something I’ve only recently become aware of: the wonders of Vitamin D, and the dangerous deficiency in this underappreciated nutrient among a worldwide population spending less and less time out in the sun:

There is an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency sweeping across our modern world, and it’s an epidemic of such depth and seriousness that it makes the H1N1 swine flu epidemic look like a case of the sniffles by comparison. Vitamin D deficiency is not only alarmingly widespread, it’s also a root cause of many other serious diseases such as cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease.

A new study published in the March, 2010 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that a jaw-dropping 59 percent of the population is vitamin D deficient. In addition, nearly 25 percent of the study subjects were found to have extremely low levels of vitamin D.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Richard Kremer at the McGill University Health Center, said “Abnormal levels of vitamin D are associated with a whole spectrum of diseases, including cancer, osteoporosis, and diabetes, as well as cardiovascular and autoimmune disorders.”

This new study also documents a clear link between vitamin D deficiency and stored body fat. This supports a theory I’ve espoused here on NaturalNews for many years: That sunshine actually promote body fat loss. Vitamin D may be the hormonal mechanism by which this fat loss phenomenon operates.

I knew nothing of Vitamin D’s connection with prevention of such an array of maladies. But after moving from DC to Arizona last summer to help out with some family businesses, I found that I was inundated with new viruses against which I seemed to have no defense. Month after month, from August until late December, I came down with one cold, flu, or respiratory illness after another. And then, a friend recommended a substantial daily dose of Vitamin D3 – 5,000 IUs – which I figured couldn’t hurt. 

It didn’t take long. A couple weeks after I started taking it, things cleared up. I knew it might have been coincidence, but it wasn’t long before my kids were bringing new coughs, sneezes, ear infections, runny noses and stomach bugs home from school. Every time I felt like I was heading under the weather, I’d take another dose, and by the morning, I was feeling fine. 

For three months since I started taking the supplements, I haven’t had so much as a case of the sniffles, even when I fail to get enough sleep – always a precipitator for illness in my case. If the study in question is to be believed, I’ve stumbled onto something simple, but effective:

Recent research carried out at the University of Copenhagen has revealed that vitamin D activates the immune system by “arming” T cells to fight off infections.

This new research, led by Professor Carsten Geisler from the Department of International Health, Immunology and Microbiology at the University of Copenhagen, found that without vitamin D, the immune system’s T cells remain dormant, offering little or no protection against invading microorganisms and viruses. But with vitamin D in the bloodstream, T cells become “armed” and begin seeking out invaders that are then destroyed and carried out of the body.

I can’t speak for the science, but I can tell you what I’ve experienced. Even with increased sun exposure here in the desert, my immune system wasn’t keeping up, and Vitamin D supplements have been a huge help. If you’re struggling through a rough patch with colds and flus, you might want to give it a try.

By

Steve Skojec serves as the Director of Community Relations for a professional association. He is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he earned a BA in Communications and Theology. His passions include writing, photography, social media, and an avid appreciation of science fiction. Steve lives in Northern Virginia with his wife Jamie and their five children.

  • Zoe Romanowsky

    Steve, thanks for the post.

    Natural health practitioners have been sounding the warning about Vitamin D deficiency for years. Finally, some mainstream studies have been done and published and medical doctors are on board. One study recently showed that something like 82% of American children are Vitamin D deficient. Optimum levels of Vitamin D are necessary for bone growth and health, immunity, fighting depression, preventing cancer, and a whole host of things.

    The “get out of the sun at all costs” to prevent skin cancer was a mistake. Skin cancer has not gone away — because we need Vitamin D for cancer prevention and the sun is the best natural source. We needed to limit our sun exposure, but not eradicate it by staying inside and wearing sunscreen all the time. We also don’t tend to eat oily fish — another source of Vit D.

    This is the first winter I’ve taken Vitamin D3 regularly, because a blood test back in the summer showed that it was too low. And this is the first winter I never got my usual colds.

  • J Chiarella

    Steve, thanks for your post. As a cancer survivor, I found out in a rather hard and dramatic way after the surgery – that I was D deficient. Vit D is also important to the regulation and retention of a host of other vital elements including Calcium. So, I take a daily supplement to help with all this.

    The main point I’d like to make here is that I have also had complications with the supplement. In other words, while it is hard to reach toxic levels of D in your system, it is possible. And not everyone tolerates D supplements equally. Finally, other elements are also useful to uptake, retention and regulation of D in our systems. It’s just complicated and everyone’s body is different. So, I certainly support your assertion (and Zoe’s) that it has generally contributed to a better health situation for me – but not without some complications.

    My recommendation would be that readers should discuss vitamin D supplements with their family doctor before self-medicating. Well, that and, if you can, stay connected wirelessly on your laptop on the patio and get some minimally shaded sun. It will improve more than your Vit D levels. 🙂

  • Zoe Romanowsky

    Joe, you make a good point. Supplements like Vitamin D should be taken in consultation with a medical professional. And people should have their levels checked. You need to make sure you are taking the right form, and a good brand. You also need to make sure it’s being absorbed properly. For example, Vit D should be taken with fats.. .so it’s better to take it after a meal or snack when you’ve had something like butter, dairy, oils, etc.

  • Kamilla

    Zoe,

    You bring up a good point – you should always check with your doctor. But especially with fat soluble supplements that can accumulate and cause problems when too much is stored in the body.

    The current thinking on Vit D (actually a hormone) is that it is not only linked to basic immune function but generally to inflammation and deficiencies my be related to autoimmune disease.

    See a healthcare provider and do all have your levels checked!

    Kamilla

  • Todd M. Aglialoro

    I swear by cod liver oil — “in all the months with an ‘r'” — for just this reason. Especially here in New England.

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