Getting a cold is a sure-fire way to ruin a few days and quite possibly a few weeks.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t stop when we get a cold. This is a level of illness that most people don’t consider to be sufficiently bad that they can take huge amounts of time off work, or get out of social commitments.
Thus, you will spend the next few days dragging yourself out of bed with a headache, aching joints and a scratchy throat. You’ll cough and sneeze through meetings, you’ll enjoy zero sex with your partner and you’ll have to put your training on hold. If you have a wedding to go to, or a night out planned, then you can expect that to be wholly unenjoyable.
The worst part is that colds are so hard to predict or counter. There is famously no cure for the common cold and avoiding them is hard when you work in an office full of sneezing people.
So, what is the best defence? New research suggests that the answer might be vitamin D.
According to a study recently published in the British Medical Journal, supplementing food with vitamin D could significantly cut NHS costs. In the UK, where sun exposure is relatively low, fortifying food with vitamin D might be able to prevent millions of colds and many deaths.
In the study, participants with low levels of vitamin D (25 nanomoles and below) were given a supplement. This halved their rate of respiratory infections. Those with normal or high levels of vitamin D experienced a drop of 10%.
These respiratory infections include flu, bronchitis and pneumonia. The researchers also estimated that taking a daily or weekly vitamin D supplement could mean 3.25 million fewer instances of colds and respiratory infections in a population of 65 million.
What to Do
So, should you add vitamin D to your own diet? If you are based in a part of the world where you are exposed to more sunlight, then your need may be less dire. But bear in mind that those with higher levels of vitamin D still saw a 10% improvement. At the same time, vitamin D is also good for increasing testosterone, potentially improving sleep and perhaps boosting the mood.
In short, vitamin D is one of the better options for boosting your immune system and has no downsides. I would also like to speak from personal experience for a moment. Just over 1 year ago, I added a vitamin C + D supplement to my diet. I am a relatively healthy: I work out regularly, eat well and am not particularly stressed. Normally, I will get a cold once or twice a year. However, since using the supplement, I have gone an entire year without getting a cold. This is the first time that has ever happened.
On a holiday to Berlin, I stopped taking my vitamin supplement for 2 weeks and that is the first time I’ve had a cold since.
The problem with n = 1 ‘studies’ like this is of course that there is far from enough data to draw conclusions. However, I can say that my own personal experience backs up what has been found in the studies and for that reason, I am confident in recommending vitamin D supplementation to… well everyone.
For those who would rather take a more natural approach, consider trying to get more sun exposure by walking regularly and sitting in the garden when the weather allows. Consuming oily fish and eggs can also help to raise levels.