When it comes to vitamins, it can all be a bit confusing as to which ones help prevent which ailment. However, there are some vitamins we can all rely on to know their purpose and preventable abilities, such as vitamin C which is well known for being the best for supporting us through colds and flu. But is this entirely true? Is there a more effective vitamin that can help with preventing us from catching colds and flu?
If latest research is anything to go by, the answer is yes and it may be surprising to hear that it’s actually vitamin D. Our ideas of vitamin D are usually synonymous with bone health which is entirely true, but it has emerged that vitamin D has been vastly underestimated in its important role of improving our immune systems.
Vitamin C vs. Vitamin D
While getting enough vitamin C is helpful towards preventing colds, we are led to believe that we need more of it to get better and improve immunity. The real truth is, we get plenty of vitamin C in our diets. Easily obtainable and common foods such as fruits (strawberries, melon, tomatoes and citrus fruits) and vegetables (green leafy vegetables, cauliflower, broccoli and brussels sprouts) all contain high levels of vitamin C so a balanced healthy diet will supply more than enough.
On top of that, vitamin C isn’t as effective at improving our immune systems as we are led to believe. While it can help towards fighting a cold, it actually makes little impact.
Latest studies have shown a link between low vitamin D levels and higher cases of common respiratory infections. While it’s essential for bone health, vitamin D is multi-purposeful and is thought to be much better than vitamin C in its immunity role. A study was conducted involving 19,000 participants using data from a national health survey between 1988 and 1994. It showed 36% of those with low levels of vitamin D in their blood were more likely to report having a recent upper respiratory tract infection than those with higher levels.
Although these studies are just coming through and more research needs to be done, there are more and more strong links between chances of catching colds and low levels of vitamin D.
Getting Enough Vitamin D for Our Body
The problem is that vitamin D is much harder to produce in the body. With reduced exposure to sunlight in many countries especially in the winter, a large percentage of people have a vitamin D deficiency, therefore not getting the full benefits of what vitamin D can do for their immune systems.
This is why diet and supplements are key to getting the sufficient amount of vitamin D we need in order to help prevent colds and flu more efficiently.
Foods such as egg yolks, canned tuna, liver, cod liver oil, fortified milk, and fortified cereals can give you a boost of vitamin D along with supplements ‒ and a dose of sunlight as vitamin D forms in our skin in response to the sun’s rays (just 10 minutes is enough). While upping your vitamin D intake may help towards preventing yourself from getting sick, a consistent daily intake is needed for it to have a successful effect.
Vitamin D and The Common Cold
While more and more research is pointing to increasing your vitamin D levels to fight cold and flu, it’s important to realize that it only helps to boost the immune system and isn’t a preventative measure in itself. Living a healthy lifestyle with a varied, healthy diet and regular exercise is needed to strengthen our immunity and to ward off the nasty bugs and viruses that get into our body.
The research is promising but it has its limits as to what the ideal level of vitamin D is for supporting immune system responses to infection. All they know is that making the conscious effort to increase depleting vitamin D levels is a must for overall health. So if you want to know how to prevent a cold this winter, reach for the vitamin D instead of the vitamin C and see if it makes a difference.