Friday, May 22, 2009

Vitamin D for Swine Flu

While it does seem the immediate danger has passed from swine flu, was the recent scare a sign of things to come? Stories abound of the 1918 flu pandemic that occurred in three distinct waves, and similarly began in the spring. The second wave of the 1918 flu happened in the fall and was far more deadly. So perhaps those of us interested in what-ifs should spend this summer reading and preparing ourselves, just in case the cooler fall weather brings more than bountiful harvests and giggling trick-or-treaters.

An article by Dr. John Cannell regarding his experience with a flu epidemic in the state mental hospital where he works is especially thought provoking. He describes how the flu struck and spread rapidly through the mental hospital, and how he searched for reasons to explain why the patients in one ward in particular seemed to avoid the illness. He found a correlation between Vitamin D supplementation in those patients and low incidence of flu and other respiratory infections. While this sample of patients was too small to be considered statistically relevant, it piqued his curiosity and he decided to look into the role of Vitamin D further. You can read the entire article here.

In the end, he collaborated with several renowned researchers to publish an article in the highly respected medical journal, Epidemiology and Infection. The conclusion was that Vitamin D may indeed be an important part of preventing millions of deaths from an imminent flu pandemic.

The authors distinguish between physiologic doses of Vitamin D, which are 5,000 units per day, useful in preventing colds and flu, and pharmocological doses of 2,000 units per kilogram of body weight per day for three days, which they say can be used to treat patients who already have the flu.

For anyone worried about the potential of swine flu to become more virulent over the summer and spread more rapidly come this fall and winter, I highly recommend this article as required reading material. (Click here) Vitamin D is synthesized by the body in repsonse to sunlight, and in the cooler weather when we're out in the sun so much less, most of us need a supplement. Now's the time to learn more and decide if you should have a quality Vitamin D supplement as part of your flu preparedness.