Friday, August 13, 2010

A "Sunny Cure" for the Cold and Flu?

A "Sunny Cure" for the Cold and Flu?
You may remember hearing about stories of Tuberculosis sanitariums of the 18 and 1900's where the main treatment was fresh mountain air and sunshine? Actually, there may have been more to it than we expected as leading research is now proving.

Why is it that winter and early spring are predictably the time we get more colds and flues? Why is it that they are also more symptomatic, longer lasting and more likely to be deadly? Even in the tropics the rainy season with its increased cloud cover is the time of increased illness!

New research by Dr. John Cannell, a psychiatrist that worked at a hospital for the mentally ill, is linking low Vitamin D levels with increased cold and flu susceptibility.

Dr. Cannell recognized that his patients could be having a Vitamin D deficiency from lack of sunshine due to the amount of time they spent indoors. He prescribed the men in his ward with 2000 IU of Vitamin D daily to supplement this deficiency.

In April of 2005, an influenza epidemic broke out at the hospital and amazingly his patients receiving the daily Vitamin D were left untouched!

He explains a possible reason for this is that Vitamin D enhances immunity as it decreases inflammatory action of cytokines and improves ability of the immune system to oxidize or destroy invaders. Vitamin D also stimulates anti-microbial proteins in the immune system which play a direct role in protecting the lung. (1)

Summer sunshine produces incredible amounts of vitamin D, which is actually a pro-hormone, that becomes activated when sunlight strikes the skin. Sunlight is divided into three rays of ultraviolet light: UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVB is the ray that is responsible for converting vitamin D into active hormone but also responsible for burning (which can cause skin cancer). The key is… DO NOT GET BURNED! There is a fine line between healthfulness and harmfulness and even slight reddening can increase risk for skin cancers.

Fair skinned individuals need far less sunshine exposure to activate the vitamin D. The darker the skin pigments the more difficult for the sun to penetrate. Thus, those with darker skin will often have Vitamin D deficiency in the winter.

We only get sufficient sun in the US for approximately 3 months of the year. If you are north of 35 degree latitude N or south of 35 degree latitude S you are likely to benefit from supplemental vitamin D from September to May.

Ultraviolet rays from sunlight or artificial light has shown to reduce incidence of viral respiratory infections. (1) Which means even tanning beds can improve vitamin D levels and immunity. I often recommend them as well for treatment of seasonal affective disorder during the winter as the extra light supports serotonin and balances mood; as long as the patient doesn't get burned.

Of course sunlight isn't our only source of Vitamin D but it is also found in our food as vitamin D3 especially in free range eggs, organ meats, and of course the infamous cod liver oil.

Cod liver has been used by grandmothers for centuries for protection of the cold and flu season- they were on to something! Cod liver oil contains vitamin D as well as being rich in vitamin A which is also a well known immune enhancer and mucous membrane protectant. It also has the benefit of the omega fish oils EPA and DHA which confer an anti-inflammatory effect. The recommended dose is 1 tsp per 50 pounds of body weight or 1 tablespoon per 150 pounds.

Cod liver oil should not taste "fishy". We like Carlson's or another brand that is identified as fresh by its clean taste. 

Krill oil, like fish oil, contains both of the omega-3 fats eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA), but hooked together in a different form. In fish oil these omega-3 fatty acids are found in the triglyceride form whereas in krill oil they are hooked up in a double chain phospholipid structure. (The fats in our own cell walls are in the phospholipid form.) Attached to the EPA leg of the phospholipid is a molecule of astaxanthin, an extremely potent anti-oxidant. The phospholipid structure of the EPA and DHA in krill oil makes them much more absorbable and allows for a much easier entrance into the mitochondria and the cellular nucleus. In addition to EPA and DHA krill oil contains a complex phospholipid profile including phosphatidylcholine, a potent source of reductive-stress-reducing choline, which also acts as a natural emulsifier.
Krill oil contains vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin D and canthaxanthin, which is, like astaxanthin, a potent anti-oxidant. The anti-oxidant potency of krill oil is such that when compared to fish oil in tems of ORAC (Oxygen radical absorptance capacity) values it was found to be 48 times more potent than fish oil.

Our preference in the office is the Krill oil.
It is very important to realize that vitamin D is an essential nutrient but it in excess it can be toxic- it is important to test before supplementing to make sure that levels aren't too high. Dr. Carrell found that a dose is between 2000-5000 IU daily was enough to curtail infections. This beats RDA recommendation of 400 IU daily!

Vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D or 25(OH)D) levels should be monitored with optimal levels at 40-50 ng/mL with the standard range being from 20-56 ng/mL. Important to keep your levels above 35 ng/mL as levels lower than 20ng/mL have been associated with chronic illness, cancer, and autoimmune disease.

We should also keep into mind that living healthfully is the most important factor to a healthy immune system and flu prevention. The flu often presents after New Years which follows the heavy feasting and partying season of the holidays. Is it possible that all this indulgence has an effect on the immune system's ability to protect you from invaders?

Certainly so!! A healthy immune system starts with healthy living. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle through clean diet, pure water, and frequent exercise along with periodic cleansing and fasting is as important if not more so than supplementing with vitamin D alone.

Make an appointment with us today to see how you can optimize your immune system.

Source: 1) Cannell John J. and Reinhold Vieth, et al. "Epidemic influenza and vitamin D." Epidemiology and Infection 134 (2006): 1129-40

Dr Rodger Niemi
Renaissance Chiropractic Center

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