No question, doctors and patients are now joining the vitamin D revolution in large numbers. More and more doctors are ordering tests to determine vitamin D blood levels and more patients are reading about the positive benefits of vitamin D in news reports. There have been more than 3,000 published studies and reports involving vitamin D listed at the National Library of Medicine in just the past 14 months.
Now, pediatricians at Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore say all children need to be screened for vitamin D deficiency. This means vitamin D is going big time.
What's the vitamin D revolution about and why should you join it? It's about the rediscovery of a sun-made vitamin-hormone that was first recognized in 1922 to avert bone softening in children, what is called rickets.
Overlooked at that time was the fact that most vitamin D-deficient children with rickets had impaired immune systems. Only recently have researchers begun to investigate the role of vitamin D in maintaining an optimal immune response. In particular, vitamin D activates an army of white blood cells called neutrophils, which represent 50-70 percent of the total white blood cell volume and are the first responders to any infection in the body.
Vitamin D for colds and flu
Dr. John Cannell, founder of The Vitamin D Council, has noted that seasonal bouts of the flu and winter colds are not spread from person to person as commonly believed. Colds and the flu do not progress from town to town, and an individual in a family may come down with a viral infection while others remain healthy. Nor are colds "caught" by being out in chilly weather. In fact, medical literature points to the wintertime cold and flu season as simply a downturn in human immunity as vitamin D levels drop due to the diminished intensity of the sun combined with more time spent indoors as the outdoor temperature becomes chilly.
A relatively recent study found just 800-2,000 international units (IU) of supplemental vitamin D, by weight just 20-400 micrograms, reduced wintertime cold symptoms from 30 in 104 subjects given an inactive placebo tablet to just nine in 104 subjects given vitamin D. That is quite a striking difference.
Modern medicine is agonizingly slow in providing conclusive evidence as to whether vitamin D is the big antidote to the common cold and wintertime viral infections. But your family doesn't have to wait; vitamin D is relatively inexpensive, and concerns about overdosing are poorly-founded.
The biggest concern among doctors is that mega-dose vitamin D will cause a condition called hyper-calcification. But it takes about a million units of vitamin D for this to occur in healthy adults. Intake of 40 1,000-unit vitamin D pills a day would be required to produce toxicity in an adult.
Our family isn't waiting for more science. My wife and I began taking 5,000-8,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily, and we have found at the first sign of a runny-nose cold we take 50,000 IU of vitamin D3 and our cold symptoms usually subside within minutes. That much vitamin D may seem to be problematic, but physicians inject 300,000 IU among postmenopausal females for wintertime bone protection without side effect.
Putting vitamin D into practice
Recently, our 7-year-old son began to develop symptoms of a cold and an earache. We started with 5,000 IU of chewable vitamin D and then gave another 5,000 IU a few minutes later. Our son was also given some elderberry syrup, reported to be helpful for the flu, along with some vitamin C. We soaked Q-tips in hydrogen peroxide and placed them in his ear canals to kill off germs and then instilled an herbal ear drop that provided garlic oil. Within a short time the earache and other symptoms were gone.
This regimen continued for about three days as symptoms began to reappear upon awakening in the morning -- that is, until our son was given his vitamin D. He didn't miss a day of school and no doctor's office visits for antibiotics were required. Special note: If earache symptoms persist, don't be so stubbornly committed to self-doctoring that you allow your child to suffer permanent hearing loss.
When our son was about 2.5 years of age he awoke in the middle of the night crying with a fever of 101.8 degrees Fahrenheit. We broke up vitamin D tablets, mixed them with water and instilled about 5,000 IU in a bulb syringe orally. Within minutes he began to shake with the chills, a sign his fever was breaking. Within 15 minutes he was sound asleep in his bed.
The vitamin D revolution is underway, and it has promise for addressing many maladies, including childhood food and peanut allergies, for pregnant women to reduce the risk of lower respiratory tract infections, wheezing and asthma in their offspring, and for tonsillitis, just to mention a few of its many applications. Learn to use vitamin D for your whole family and they will really call you Doctor Mom. To learn more, I've written a free family guide to vitamin D, available here.
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