Can taking vitamin D lower your chances of getting a cold or the flu? The answer is - maybe. But before you start popping pills, remember that the best prevention is the basics you've been hearing:

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Use hand sanitizer.
  • Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night to boost your resistance.
  • Sneeze into your sleeve or elbow to keep from spreading germs to others.
  • Get a flu shot if you are in a high risk group.
  • Pay attention to flu symptoms and go to your doctor if you think you've got it.
  • But what else can you do to stave off sickness? Well, an inexpensive over-the-counter vitamin D supplement may help you lower your chances of getting sick by boosting your immune system. But remember, the studies are not definite. Taking vitamin D is not a guaranteed guard against the cold or flu. But vitamin D supplements are inexpensive and might give you a boost.

    Vitamin D: New studies suggest that people with low blood levels of vitamin D are more likely to get sick. Researchers think that vitamin D may play a role in boosting immunity. But don't ask about foods for vitamin D.  There just aren't very many foods that are good sources of D. We're supposed to make vitamin D from the sun. But most of us don't get out in the sun enough to make the vitamin D we need. So that leaves us with supplements.

    Aim for 1000 to 2000 IU's (International Units) of vitamin D a day. Here's how to get it:

  • 1000 to 2000 IU's of Vitamin D a day
  • Multivitamins = 400 - 800 IU's
  • Calcium plus D supplements = 200 - 400 IU"s
  • If you take a multivitamin every day, take a look at how much vitamin D it has. You're probably getting around 400 IU's a day from your multi. But you may be getting as much as 800 IU's if you're taking a women's formula. If you take a calcium tablet that has vitamin D in it, add that on to your daily total. If your total is not in the 1000 to 2000 IU range, you can easily add on a separate vitamin D tablet. They come in amounts ranging from 400 to 2000 IU's.  The tablets are tiny and you can get good quality vitamin D supplements at most major grocery or drug stores.

    Beth Kitchin, MS, RD
    Assistant Professor
    UAB Department of Nutrition Sciences