Can this supplement help you fight a cold or the flu?

Can this supplement help you fight a cold or the flu?

It’s that time of the year. It’s hard to get through the day without encountering someone who is sick in some capacity. And while you’ve likely been advised to wash your hands and take some Vitamin C or Zinc supplements to ward off sickness, a new study is offering a different suggestion.

The research, published in BMJ, was a review of past trials by researchers from Queen Mary University in London. They looked at data from 25 studies and over 10,000 participants.

The researchers found that taking a different kind of supplement, namely Vitamin D, was actually associated with a 12 percent reduction in the proportion of people with at least one “acute respiratory infection.”

They found those who most benefited from taking this type of supplement were individuals who were vitamin D deficient. Their risk of developing an infection was actually cut in half.

It’s well known that Vitamin D can help protect your bones, but this new research brings to light a new benefit, helping your immunity. But it doesn’t come without some skeptics.

In fact, many argue that while vitamin D is important, the research doesn’t necessarily support the idea that you should run to the supplement aisle at your local store.

Instead, Sarah Katula, an advanced nurse practitioner at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, says it’s important to incorporate Vitamin D into your diet naturally, if possible.

“Vitamin D levels can be much lower in winter months due to less sunlight,” she explains. “I always recommend for my patients to get at least 20 minutes of sunlight a day without sunscreen so that they can fully synthesize the Vitamin D. It’s important to note that amount of time can vary based on skin color and location.”

But what if natural sunlight isn’t a possibility?

“If going outside and soaking up some sun isn’t possible, there are a wide variety of foods that are a good source of Vitamin D. My top recommendations include fatty fishes, sardines, salmon, tuna, eggs and even mushrooms.”

And while many foods say they are fortified with Vitamin D, Katula says proceed with caution. “Many foods fortified with the Vitamin D like juices and cereals are also high in their sugar content and preservatives. I recommend staying away from these sources of the vitamin and opting for foods that naturally include it.”

Bottom line – we really can heal ourselves with our food. But if you can’t add it into your diet naturally, a supplement is still a good route to go to ward off the cold or flu. And while many are known to hibernate in the winter, thinking it’s best to stay inside on a chilly day, perhaps a little sunlight will do you good!

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  1. Truly hearsay and possibly coincidence, but the doc put me on a once weekly dose of vitamin D (50,000 IU) a year ago because of a deficiency shown in a blood test and after several decades of colds that had dragged on for a month or more, the cold I got this winter was in and out in 4 days. YMMV.

About the Author

Jackie Hughes
Jackie Hughes

Jacqueline Hughes is a former manager, media relations at Advocate Aurora Health. Previously, she was the public affairs and marketing manager at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL. She earned her BA in psychology at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Jackie has 10 plus years experience working in television and media and most recently worked at NBC 5 in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, going to the movies and spending time with her family.