1. Why do we get Colds and Flu in the Winter?
There is a reason why we contract colds and flu during the Autumn and Winter months, opposed to any other time of the year, and that is a lack of Vitamin D3. We have all been brought up to believe that we need to take plenty of Vitamin C if we have a cold or the flu which is true. High dose Vitamin C will help you to overcome a cold and the flu more quickly, however, prevention is better than cure. Vitamin D3 will help your body stave off any cold or flu that circulates during the Autumn and Winter months. Having said that, Vitamin C is also an important vitamin which is known as the conductor of all vitamins and this supplement will need to be taken alongside Vitamin D3 for prevention purposes, especially if the diet is lacking in Vitamin C rich foods. The purpose of these two vital nutrients helps to boost the immune system – we have an immune system for a reason – to fight off viruses, infections and disease. The stronger the immune system the less likely you will be to contract a cold or the flu.
2. What is the source of Vitamin D3
We obtain the lion’s share of our Vitamin D3 from the sun’s ultra-violet rays which penetrates our skin. There is a chemical in the skin which turns the ultra-violet rays into Vitamin D3 and from there it travels to the liver where it is synthesised. From the liver, the Vitamin D3 then travels to the kidneys where it is involved in bone mineralisation and increased absorption of calcium from the intestine.
Another source of Vitamin D3 that our bodies utilise (albeit in tiny amounts) is from fortified products such as milk, some cereals, eggs and fatty fish. However, Vitamin D3 is utilised by the body more efficiently if it is obtained from the sun as it does not have to be digested in the gut but will go straight to the liver, from the skin, where it is synthesised.
3. How much sun exposure do I need?
Generally speaking, we need to expose as much of our body to the sun’s ultra-violet rays as possible and for about 20 minutes every day. During the summer months, for most people, this will not be a problem, but during the Winter months it will be less common for the average person to obtain this amount of sun exposure. Particularly, if you work in an office-bound environment and during the winter months, you will be going to work in the dark and leaving work in the dark and, therefore, getting virtually no exposure to the sun at all. If you are elderly, during the Autumn and Winter months, you are less likely to take a walk to the shops or in the park during the day because of the cold/snow and be almost house-bound so, again, be desperately lacking in Vitamin D3.
4. How does Vitamin D3 boost the immune system?
All vitamins and minerals work synergistically ie each one is inter-dependent on the other. Vitamin D3 is no exception.
Vitamin D3 is needed for the proper absorption of calcium in the digestive system and works closely with Vitamin K2 and omega 3 fatty acids to transport calcium to the bones. A sufficient amount of magnesium is needed also to enable calcium to be absorbed into the bones. As you can now see, Vitamin D3 is not only essential for a strong immune system but also for healthy bones, metabolic health and which, in turn, will help with all types of chronic degenerative disease.
5. Supplementation: How much do I need?
There are two types of vitamins: fat soluble and soluble. Care must, therefore, be taken when supplementing with fat soluble vitamins that one does not over-dose as any surplus will be stored as fat in the tissues which will result in toxicity. With water soluble vitamins such as Vitamin C and Vitamin B, any excess will be excreted out in the urine.
The RDA for Vitamin D3 used to be 400 IU but was revised in 2010 to 600 IU. Recent scientific studies have concluded that even a RDA of 600 IU is wholly inadequate to keep the body healthy and that an RDA of up to 10,000 IU a day is needed for the proper functioning of the body.
For ease of reference, the following conversion may help in understanding the amount your body requires each day of Vitamin D3:-
10,000 IU = 100 micrograms = 0.025 milligrams
For optimal health, therefore, you will need 0.025 milligrams of Vitamin D3 which seems minute in comparison to consuming the optimal amount of Vitamin C each day – 10 grams. Vitamin D3, however, is certainly no less important than Vitamin C, even in these miniscule amounts.
6. What is the best way of supplementing with Vitamin D3?
There are, generally, three ways you can consume supplements: in liquid form, tablet form and capsule form.
As mentioned above, recent scientific research has confirmed that the best way to take Vitamin D3 supplements is by way of liquid form due to the fact that most people’s digestive system is not working at its optimum level due to the Western diet, anti-biotics, pharmaceutical drugs, vaccines, GMOs and pesticides, herbicides and fungicides in our food chain. The less effort your digestive system has to use in breaking down and absorbing supplements will ultimately lead to a higher absorption rate of that vitamin. With capsules and tablets your digestive system has more to try and break-down than in the liquid form.
Advice regarding which brand of supplement to take is outside the scope of this blog but I would certainly advise you to do your research before purchasing any vitamin and mineral supplements as not all supplements are made equal. Always check the ingredients list for things like “fillers”, “additives” and “preservatives”. Try and stay away from synthetic supplements and go for plant based ones instead.
7. Christmas Time!
In my experience of times gone by, and before I became a Nutritionist and Natural Therapist I, as well as my friends and family, always seemed to be afflicted with a bad cold, the flu and even pnuemonia at Christmas time. Being a very inquisitive person, I always wondered why this was.
I now know that Vitamin D3 (along with Vitamin C) has a big part to play as to whether you contract a cold, the flu and even pneumonia. But still – why around Christmas time?
I believe that our immune system becomes compromised leading up to Christmas, not only due to insufficient Vitamin D3, but also due to the stress of that run-up to Christmas. If you are working, you are probably working to hit deadlines before Christmas, maybe trying to get the house in order to greet visitors for Christmas get-togethers (more stress), dashing around buying your last minute presents (even more stress) and not having enough time to eat properly.
Chronic stress is the biggest suppressor of the immune system and when we are stressed we are running on higher amounts of adrenaline (which impacts adversely on your nervous system). Adrenaline will be the hormone that keeps us going through the stressful period running up to Christmas, then Christmas arrives: you are highly stressed out and you suddenly stop and begin to relax. Adrenaline reduces dramatically but your immune system is too depleted to take over, you are Vitamin D3 deficient to boot and you are then unable to stave-off viruses and infections that are rife at this time of the year.
The best way, therefore, to stave-off illness during the winter months and especially to have a healthy and happy Christmas, to summarise, is:-
- make sure you are getting enough Vitamin D3
- supplement with Vitamin C (around 10 grams per day)
- keep stress levels to a minimum, especially leading up to Christmas
- try and do at least 20 minutes of exercise a day
- eat a healthy balanced diet
Best wishes for a healthy winter (and Christmas!)