How is Vitamin D related to Respiratory Infections?

That dreaded sore throat or sinus headache, choked up trachea and cough accumulated in the lungs – all these are symptoms of respiratory infections, infections that affect those organs involved in breathing. The most common of these include the common cold, the influenza, bronchitis, tuberculosis, pneumonia and sinus infections. Nowadays, newer ones are emerging such as the bird flu and the swine flu – types of influenza originally known to affect birds and animals, hence the name.

Many studies have emerged that indicate the interrelationship between Vitamin D levels and the risk of suffering from a respiratory infection. In addition, it has been observed that respiratory infections are more likely to occur in the Winter when the Vitamin D levels in our body are at their lowest. However, they can strike anytime of the year.

According to the CDC, adults get 2-3 respiratory infections per year while children get much more since their immune system is still very much under development. Antibiotics deal with bacterial infections and are therefore, not effective on most respiratory infections since they are virus borne.

The receptors of Vitamin D have been found on cell’s surface where it receives chemical signals that direct the cell to take action in a certain way- either undergo division or perish.

Same is the case with the cells in our immune system and respiratory tract. Vitamin D increases antimicrobial proteins that kill virus and other germs that are ready to invade our body. In addition, it also brings down the levels of inflammatory proteins known as cytokines. On one hand, Vitamin D reduces the inflammation while on the other it equips your body to fight the invading enemies – an excellent combination!

Studies do not directly indicate that low levels of Vitamin D cause respiratory infections; however, they do show that those who suffer from respiratory infections have low Vitamin D levels. Other studies have indicated that COPD and asthma patients are at a higher risk of suffering from respiratory infections, especially, if they are deficient in Vitamin D3.

A 2009 study looked at the interrelationship between Vitamin D levels in adults and respiratory infections involving more than 18000 adults.  The observations included:

  • Those with the lowest Vitamin D levels had 55% higher chance of suffering from a respiratory infection compared to their counterparts
  • Those with 30 ng/ml (75 nmol/l) were the most fortified against respiratory infections.
  • People with vitamin D levels of 30 ng/ml (75 nmol/l) had the most protection against getting respiratory infections.

This research successfully established the relationship between Vitamin D and Respiratory Infections.

A study on young adults in Finland observed that those who had low levels of Vitamin D in their blood reported more sick days owing to respiratory infections when compared those with higher levels.

Another study conducted with athletes observed that those who had lower levels of the VitaminD reported more respiratory infections that had relatively more severe symptoms and lasted for longer time compared to their peers with optimum Vitamin D level.

If you experience symptoms of respiratory infection, do not take Vitamin D in place of your prescribed medicines. If you wish to start supplementation, consult your doctor. Do not self medicate.

Moreover, wash hands frequently with soap and use hand sanitizers. In case of epidemics such as swine flu, wear a good quality mask when going out and have a balanced diet.

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