The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease. -Thomas Edison
Flu season is right around the corner. It’s time I shed some light on what to know about protecting you and your family against it. Let’s start by breaking down the term “flu season.” What exactly does that mean?

Why is flu seasonal?

Have you ever asked yourself this question? Think about this. We have football season, holiday season, even wedding season. But unlike the flu, football actually goes away part of the year. Does the flu virus take a hiatus in the summer? Does it mysteriously leave the planet and take a vacation in outer space? Obviously not. It begs the question then. What makes flu seasonal? The bulk of this answer lies with a little hormone called vitamin D.
The sun sits roughly 93 million miles from earth and supplies our planet with all the energy necessary for life.
It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver. -Mahatma Gandhi

The sun is the single best source of vitamin D. No, it is not milk folks. This is the crux behind why flu is seasonal. Flu season is in the winter, the precise time of the year when flu thrives. This is a result of having less direct sunlight reaching our skin. As we near winter months, the northern hemisphere of earth tilts away from the sun causing it to sit lower in the sky. As a result, we get less sunlight in both duration and intensity. Guess what? Southeast Asia also has a flu season. It’s exactly during their monsoon season, which lasts several months of the year. Coincidence? Nope. Less sunlight means less vitamin D.

How does the sun provide vitamin D?

The sun blasts ultraviolet light. It is this type of light that is responsible for our body’s manufacturing of vitamin D. In the interest of skipping over much biochemistry, I will gloss over steps of how UV light “magically” becomes vitamin D.
For my fellow science nerds out there the top image is the molecular structure of cholesterol. The lower image is vitamin D. See how similar they are?
We have all heard of saturated fat. It’s the type of fat you want to limit in your diet. However, you need some for various reasons. One is that saturated fat is a precursor for cholesterol production. Your liver makes all the cholesterol your body requires, but only if you get enough saturated fat in your diet. Egg yolk is a perfect source of this. Once your liver converts saturated fat into cholesterol the magic happens. UV light from the sun hits your skin and converts some of the cholesterol made by your liver directly into vitamin D. So, from saturated fat to cholesterol to vitamin D. See? Biochemistry is as easy as pie!
Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live. -Jim Rohn
In order to get adequate levels of vitamin D from sunlight exposure you must be in the sun for at least 30 minutes each day when the sun is highest in the sky. This happens to be mid-day. A good rule of thumb is if your shadow cast from the sun is shorter than you are tall, you’re in optimal UV exposure. Make sure your arms and legs are exposed with no sun screen. After 30 minutes you can apply sun screen.

Vitamin or Hormone?

You may have noticed that I previously referred to vitamin D as a hormone. That’s because it is. Hormones are chemicals that come in various forms but they all pretty much do the same thing. They tell cells to do work. Our immune system has two halves. One is antibody mediated and the other is cell mediated. The latter half is the immune system we’re born with. It grows in strength as we come into contact with various germs and other invaders. It is this half that directly fights colds and, yup you guessed it, the flu. Certain illnesses like hepatitis, HIV, polio, and yellow fever result in the body’s immune system to develop a specific antibody to identify and eliminate that particular infection. However, our bodies do not fight the flu with antibodies. Our innate immune system fights the flu. This is comprised of our white blood cells we’re all born with. These cells have specific sites on their surface where vitamin D attaches to. It’s kind of like a helipad. Since hormones tell cells to do work, the vitamin D that attaches to the cell allows it to be more effective at fighting a plethora of illnesses, notably the flu. So why take a vaccine for the flu? A vaccine’s purpose is to cause the body to manufacture an antibody to fight that particular infection. However, as I said above, our immune system does not produce antibodies in the presence of influenza. Therefore, vitamin D sufficiency is far more effective at protecting us against the flu.

So? Where is the evidence?

I’ll cite a few references providing credibility for the above statements. If you’d like more I will gladly provide them. First, a study published in 2006 concluded three independent research groups have shown that vitamin D dramatically stimulates genetic expression of antimicrobial and antiviral activity in human monocytes and neutrophils[1]. These are the exact cell types that comprise your innate immune system. This is not the result of a vaccine.

Health is not valued until sickness comes.

-Thomas Fuller

Another study published results of a three-year trial of vitamin D supplementation. One group supplementing 800 IU/day of vitamin D reduced the incidence of colds and flu by 70% in test subjects. In the group taking 2,000 IU/day the incidence of colds and flu was reduced by nearly 100%. Only 1 in 104 subjects developed cold or flu[2].

In order to be sufficient, you need to supplement 5,000 IU/day of vitamin D. This varies based on your body weight. However, the data clearly indicates that this daily dose is most effective of maintaining sufficient levels of vitamin D.

There is overwhelming evidence that vitamin D sufficiency far outweighs the efficacy of the flu vaccine at protecting against flu.
Amazingly, an article titled “Efficacy and effectiveness of influenza vaccines” published in the Lancet of Infectious Disease performed a review of meta-analysis of existing research on the topic. (A meta-analysis is a compilation of data from various publications and summarized in one article). The article quotes, “there are no randomized control trials showing the efficacy of flu vaccine in people aged 2-17 or people aged 65 or older[1].” Not one randomized control trial. That basically means the evidence for the efficacy of the flu vaccine simply does not exist. This study was published in 2012. The type of vitamin D that I supplement and carry in my office is Innate Choice. I supplement this every day. For $1/day you and your family can enjoy vitamin D sufficiency in each dose. A daily dose of just ten drops provide you with the necessary 5,000 IU of vitamin D necessary for optimal immune function. Each bottle has a month’s supply.
[1] Cannell, J et al. (2006) Epidemic Influenza and Vitamin D. Journal of Infectious Disease and Epidemiology. 134 (6) p. 1129-1140 [1] Aloia, J et al. (2007) Epidemic Influenza and Vitamin D. Epidemiology and Infection, Vol 135 (7) p. 1095-1098 [1] Osterholm, M. et al. 2012. Efficacy and Effectiveness of Influenza Vaccines: a systematic review of meta-analysis. Lancet of Infectious Disease (12) p. 36-44