Sunday, February 19, 2012

Vitamin D for a Respiratory Infection

I'm 90% better from my sinus infection...and have been so for a week. A nine-hour nap followed by a good night's sleep helped last weekend; so has Mucinex. But last Monday, the day the antibiotics were out of my system, the glands in my neck were swollen. That's when I decided to use a trick from a year and a half ago when I had a cold: a megadose of vitamin D. There's some compelling evidence that vitamin D helps prevent colds and flu. In one study,

After 3 years, a total of 34 patients reported cold and influenza symptoms, eight in the vitamin D3 group vs. 26 in the placebo group (P<0·002). When we examined the seasonality of the symptoms, we found that the placebo group had cold/influenza symptoms mostly in the winter. The vitamin D group had symptoms throughout the year while on 20 μg/d [800 IU per day], whereas only one subject had a cold/influenza while on 50 μg/d [2,000 IU per day].(1) 

For what it's worth, John Cannell M.D. of the Vitamin D Council recommends keeping a stock of 50,000 IU vitamin D pills as a medicine (not a supplement) in case of flu. "...if you get this flu [H1N1], take 2,000 IU per kg of body weight per day for a week.  As I weigh 220 pounds, I would take 200,000 IU per day for seven days if I thought I had an infection with a 1918-like influenza virus."(2)

Of course, I don't have a 1918-like flu (nothing like that going around, and if it were, I'm sure it would kill me), but influenza is a respiratory infection, which I have. Among other things, vitamin D reduces inflammation, which is part of the problem of a sinus infection. Ear, nose and throat specialist Ralph Metson MD writes,

Remember the OMC from Chapter 2? That's the turnstile--the narrow area in the middle meatus through which the mucus drains from the sinuses into the nose. When the OMC gets blocked, in short order the mucus backs up and the doors from the sinuses (the ostia) become blocked as well, as shown in Figure 3.1. The cilia [they're like tiny fingers in your sinuses that move the mucus along] stop beating effectively, and drainage from the sinuses stops or is severely curtailed.(3)

How does the OMC become blocked? The caption for Figure 3.1 states,

The right side [infected] shows what happens when mucosa lining the sinuses becomes inflamed and blocks the OMC. Mucus trapped within the maxillary and frontal sinuses leads to bacterial overgrowth and sinusitis.(4)

If one could reduce the inflammation enough to let the mucus pass, it would give less quarter to bacteria. (Bacteria are normally in the sinuses--it's overgrowth that's the problem.(5))  When I saw the PA a few weeks ago, she gave me a steroid to reduce inflammation; I will try a higher dose of vitamin D to do so.


1. Correspondence from John F. Aloia and Melissa Li-Ng, Epidemiology and Infection, October 2007.
2. "Vitamin D and Influenza" by Michael Eades MD., Protein Power Blog, May 16, 2009.
3. Healing Your Sinuses by Ralph B. Metson MD with Steven Mardon. McGraw-Hill, 2005, p. 26.
4. Ibid, p. 27.
5. Ibid. p. 28.

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