To Your Health
October, 2010 (Vol. 04, Issue 10)
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All of these influences enable the immune system to work in a highly efficient manner, reducing risk of infection and reducing severity of infections should they strike. These immune pathways are also important in preventing cancer.

In fact, higher blood levels of vitamin D are associated with reduced risk of breast, prostate, colon and other cancers. Several intervention studies have shown that vitamin D supplementation is associated with a reduction in cancer incidence of approximately 50 percent and that supplementation of 2,000 IU per day slows the progression of localized prostate cancer in a high percentage of male subjects.

Vitamin D Deficiency

While optimum vitamin D status seems to protect against influenza and other conditions, vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased risk of infections, such as influenza and tuberculosis. In one study, volunteers inoculated with live attenuated influenza virus were more likely to develop fever and serological evidence of an immune response in the winter. Vitamin D deficiency also has been reported to predispose children to respiratory infections. Ultraviolet radiation (either from artificial sources or from sunlight) has been shown to reduce the incidence of viral respiratory infections. The same holds true for cod liver oil supplementation, which is a rich source of vitamin D.

Think Prevention

Vitamin D sun - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark I believe it is important for health practitioners to establish patients' baseline vitamin D blood levels. Evidence strongly suggests that a level above 85 nmol/L is highly protective against osteoporosis, cancer, multiple sclerosis and various infectious processes. Vitamin D toxicity is a concern only when blood levels of vitamin D rise above 200 nmol/L. Recent research indicates that supplementation with 1,400 IU of vitamin D per day appears to be sufficient to raise vitamin D level to the 85 nmol/L level in most patients. And at the first sign of flu-like symptoms, one expert - based on personal experience and that of family members - suggests supplementing with 2,000 IU of vitamin D per kilogram of body weight for three consecutive days.

Anyone who's suffered through the flu knows that it's not only potentially dangerous; it can be downright miserable. Ask your doctor to assess your current vitamin D status and discuss the value of vitamin D supplementation, particularly during the flu season. Whatever your strategy, it won't eliminate your risk altogether, but why not do everything you can do naturally to protect yourself and your loved ones?

Boosting Immune Function: From A to Z

citrics - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Vitamin D isn't the only ally in the battle against influenza and other immune-related conditions. Supplementation with vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, selenium and zinc appears to boost immune function (even in elderly patients) and, in some studies, has reduced the incidence of respiratory infections. And studies have shown that concurrent supplementation with certain antioxidants can even enhance the protective effects of the influenza vaccine. As such, I recommend a high-potency multivitamin/mineral to virtually all adult patients that contains 1,000 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E (succinate), 100 mcg of selenium, 10,000 IU beta-carotene, 15 mg of zinc and a B-50 complex, among the list of all vitamins and minerals from "A to Z." Such a multivitamin/mineral should also include vitamin D, of course, which has received attention in recent studies for its powerful affect on immune function.

James Meschino, DC, MS, practices in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and is the author of four nutrition books, including The Meschino Optimal Living Program and Break the Weight Loss Barrier.