woman with the sniffles, colds

Avoiding colds and flu is challenging. Physicians will tell you that vaccination is the only protection against influenza. Frequent hand washing is the other standard recommendation.

Unfortunately, immunization is imperfect. The CDC reports that this year’s flu shot is about 48 percent effective overall. Hand washing is important, but it does not protect you from someone’s cough or sneeze launching airborne viral particles in your direction, resulting in colds or flu.

Cod Liver Oil Against Colds:

There is another option. Mothers have been dosing their families with cod liver oil for hundreds of years. Although they never performed double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, they were convinced that this “tonic” offered some protection from upper respiratory infections.

Now scientists have figured out how cod liver oil might have helped. This fish product is rich in vitamin D.

Boosting Vitamin D to Prevent Colds and Respiratory Infections:

A study in the BMJ (Feb. 15, 2017) suggests that vitamin D supplements can boost resistance to respiratory infections.  The investigators analyzed 25 randomized controlled trials with more than 11,000 volunteers. What they found upon analysis is that vitamin D was most beneficial for those who had low blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D at the outset.

The scientists also detected much greater protection against respiratory viruses among those who took their vitamin D supplement every day instead of once a month or once every few months (a “bolus” dose). They conclude:

“Our study reports a major new indication for vitamin D supplementation: the prevention of acute respiratory tract infection. We also show that people who are very deficient in vitamin D and those receiving daily or weekly supplementation without additional bolus doses experienced particular benefit.”

Who Might Benefit from Vitamin D Supplements?

How many people might be low enough in vitamin D to benefit from supplements? The CDC Second National Report on Biochemical Indicators of Diet and Nutrition found that almost 70 million Americans had 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels below the optimum (at least 20 ng/mL). In fact, more than 20 million tested below 12 ng/mL, a level that signals frank deficiency.

Why is vitamin D insufficiency so common? Sun exposure is the primary source for vitamin D. With concerns about skin cancer, people are covering up more, avoiding the sun and slathering on the sunscreen. This reduces the amount of vitamin D their bodies make during the summer.

In the winter, people in northern regions make little, if any, vitamin D. That’s why mothers in northern climates gave their families cod liver oil in the winter, even though they did not understand the reason it worked.

Learning More About Vitamin D:

If you would like to know more about this critical nutrient that functions as a hormone in the body, we invite you to read our Guide to Vitamin D Deficiency. Many physicians still believe that Americans don’t need supplements if they eat a well-balanced diet. Very few diets provide adequate levels of vitamin D, however. Consequently, people should have their level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D checked to see if it is adequate, especially during cold season.

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  1. Leigh
    Ohio, U S A
    Reply

    I was prescribed vitamin D about five years ago due to insufficient levels in my system. The previous winter, I was constantly sick with head and chest colds. For the next five years, while on the vitamin D, I rarely got sick and if I did it was short lived. I was taken off the vitamin last fall because of too much calcium in my system and beginning in December I have had one cold after another. I want my vitamin D back!

  2. JP
    WA
    Reply

    Do you think that cod liver oil might be more beneficial than vitamin D supplementation?

  3. HelenM
    Modesto
    Reply

    I am 79, take 10000units of D daily, very seldom have a cold. In the last ten years I have had the flu once; ditto for the preceding ten years. No flu shot. I also take a gram of vitamin C daily. About every second or third year I will have a cold. Tho I feel like I am in the throes of a major illness, the duration is much shorter than it used to be. Scientific experiment with one subject. Be your own experiment: try some D and see what happens. Remember D3, not D2. 2, btw, is what is used in those meds that you are given on an infrequent basis. They raise the level of 125Hydoxl, not 25.

  4. Rick
    Reply

    Synthetic vitamin D will not save you from a sore toe let alone a cold. Unless your body produces the vitamins you need from the nutrients you eat you are wasting your money as a matter of fact they could be harmful due to the possibility that your immune system would or could view the Synthetic Vitamin D as a pathogen which in many cases it probably is. Citric acid produced exclusively by Bayer is obviously a pathogen as it causes mutations and damage to lymphocytes and by doing so shortens life spans

  5. Malcolm
    Reply

    I, my wife, my three daughters and numerous co parishioners have been taking 5-10,000 units of D3 daily through the winter months (and the summer when working at night) since 2006. There have been no colds or virus among us in that time. Wife is a school teacher and used to bring the flu or colds home several times a year. When she started D daily she stopped taking the flu shots. I had one shot in 1966 and because of the severe and long flu that resulted from it, have never had another. The bird flu a few years ago that nearly emptied wife’s school for a week never touched us.

  6. Max
    Reply

    My observation and consequent use of hydrogen peroxide as part of oral care to ward off colds: I have been preceding brushing with this as a rinse for several years. In these many years, I have yet to get beat down by a cold. Also, in this time, I have done without flu shots with a couple of exceptions.

  7. Helen
    Columbia SC
    Reply

    I have been prescribed Vitamin D for general health and also for dry eyes. I tried the fish oil “horse” pills and found they were very difficult to swallow and had a nasty “burping” affect on me. Then I visited a Health Food store and found BARLEANS liquid fish oil. Each tablespoon contains 1,500 mg of fish oil and it tastes like melted lime sherbert ice cream! A delicious way to consume the necessary Vitamin D………..
    Thanks for all you do for us Helen

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