Vitamin D for the Flu?
Did you know Top Mckinney Orthodontics studies have found that taking Vitamin D is more effective in preventing the flu than the flu vaccine?! It’s true. Upping your Vitamin D intake can help keep the flu away.
“Acute respiratory infections are responsible for millions of emergency department visits in the United States,” said Dr. Carlos Camargo of Harvard Medical School. “These results could have a major impact on our health system and also support efforts to fortify foods with vitamin D, especially in populations with high levels of vitamin D deficiency.”
Deficiency in this important vitamin can present itself in several forms but symptoms may not occur for months or years: bone pain (which can lead to osteoporosis), muscle weakness, frequent illness, fatigue, slow healing after injury or surgery (including dental surgery), hair loss, weight gain and anxiety or Top Mckinney Orthodontics combinations of the above. Because this deficiency can present in so many different ways, an informed Top Mckinney Orthodontics doctor will test for Vitamin D deficiency to rule it out.
Vitamin D is metabolized in the skin by keratinocytes which are skin cells that process keratin, the important protein in your hair, skin and fingernails. Without enough Vitamin D, the hair follicles have trouble regulating hair growth and hair shedding.
Your overall risk for Vitamin D deficiency may be increased with the following conditions:
- Staying or working primarily indoors
- Taking certain medications such as statins and steroids
- Living in certain parts of the world (i.e., Northern Canada or Alaska)
- Having dark skin – Having dark skin protects better from UV rays, but also means you need to spend more time in the sun to produce the same amount of Vitamin D as people with lighter skin.
- Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, gastric bypass surgery – These conditions affect the absorption of appropriate amounts of Vitamin D through the intestinal tract.
- Having a diet lacking much fish or dairy
- Working overnight shifts which would definitely lead to less sunlight
- Particular diseases such as kidney disease, liver disease, or hyperparathyroidism – There are enzymes in healthy kidneys and livers that convert Vitamin D from sun- exposed skin or food to the active form of Vitamin D. Those with diseases of kidney or liver don’t have adequate levels of these enzymes.
- Being older – Decreased kidney function as we age affects the body’s ability to convert Vitamin D
- Being overweight or obese
- Spending little time in the sun – This, however, becomes a fine balance between taking in enough sunlight without burning of the skin from the sun. A sunscreen with an SPF of 15 when applied properly to the skin will decrease the benefit of the sun by as much as 99%.
This is great news, but how do we go about getting enough Vitamin D? It is naturally present in very few foods so most of us get it from exposure to the sun which is why people refer to it as the sunshine vitamin. Since flu season usually occurs during the colder months of the year when we aren’t spending as much time in the sunshine, many people are deficient in Vitamin D. This deficiency contributes to a weakened immune system for both colds and flu.
Though the list is small, some foods are naturally high in Vitamin D: fatty fish like salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel; canned fish like herring and sardines; beef liver, fish liver and egg yolks. If you’re fortunate to like fatty types of fish or liver, this list will work for you. If not, maybe move on to some foods that are enriched with Vitamin D: breakfast cereals (stay away from the high sugar ones); milk; almond milk; soy milk; orange juice, and oatmeal. If none of these foods interest you, supplements may be the way to go.
These facts prompt many people to take Vitamin D supplements, but you should not run out and start taking them without knowing where your levels are beforehand. A simple blood test ordered by your physician can detect lower levels of Vitamin D. This is measured as nanograms per milliliter. A level of between 20 ng/mL and 50 ng/mL is considered in the normal range for healthy people. Based on that information, you will know how much of the Top Mckinney Orthodontics supplement to take.
During the summer months when the weather is generally nicer in most parts of the country, people tend to spend more time outdoors absorbing Vitamin D from the sun. During these such times, it may be necessary to pull back on the Vitamin D supplements so that you don’t have an overabundance. In some people levels above 110 can cause constipation, vomiting, and heart-rhythm problems. Trading one problem for another is not ideal.
Checking with a Top Mckinney Orthodontics doctor before beginning Vitamin D supplements can also prevent accidental negative interactions with any medications you make me taking. Vitamin D comes in two forms: D2 and D3. Both types are absorbed by the body but one is preferable to the other. Dr. Mindy Lacey says, “I personally recommend over-the-counter supplements that contain vitamin D3. If your levels are severely low, there is a prescription-strength dose of vitamin D.”
Rickets is the name of a disease caused by extreme and prolonged Vitamin D deficiency, which causes children to develop softened and weakened bones. Our understanding of it and the fortification of milk with Vitamin D back in the 1930s pretty much eradicated the disease in the United States and Europe.
During flu season we should always practice the usual Top Mckinney Orthodontics methods to reduce the chance of getting the flu: handwashing, covering your mouth when coughing, limiting contact with others who are sick, and staying home when you feel sick. If you want an extra layer of protection, talk to your doctor about Vitamin D supplements and take advantage of its well- documented antiviral capabilities. Good health is a combination of many factors. Using good sense, practical methods and vitamin D can be a winning combination to keep you healthy this coming flu season!