During the fall and winter, when children spend the bulk of the sunlight hours sitting indoors at school or daycare, breathing recycled air in confined spaces and sharing crayons and toys, it’s only natural that the risk of illness is greater than it is during the summer, when disinfecting UV rays of sunlight are plentiful. Some families turn to nutritional supplements to boost their health during these dark months. Today, the Allentown Family Health Examiner takes a look at a few popular supplements and weighs in on the pros and cons of taking them. (Medical decisions should be made in conjunction with your family physician and / or nutritionist. This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice.)
One popular supplement during the days of the year when the sun’s rays in our area are less direct is vitamin D3, usually known simply as vitamin D. Because vitamin D is made naturally by the body in the presence of ultraviolet light (UV-B) from the sun, humans’ levels of vitamin D generally dip during the fall and winter before rebounding in the spring and summer. Indeed, experts warn that “more than 50 percent of the world’s population is at risk for vitamin D deficiency.” Vitamin D supplementation is thought to help fight tuberculosis, HIV, asthma, diabetes, complications of chickenpox, and respiratory tract infections. Although vitamin D is added to some foods, such as milk, it is fat-soluble and should be consumed along with fat in order to be optimally available to the body. Vitamin D supplements carried in oil include various products from Nordic Naturals.
Vitamin C was promoted for years by Linus Pauling, the only person to be the sole recipient of two Nobel Prizes. Pauling described the research supporting his vitamin C advocacy in great detail in his book, Vitamin C and the Common Cold. Vitamin C is available naturally in citrus fruits such as oranges and is abundant in leafy greens such as collard. Numerous commercial vitamin C supplements are available.
Omega-3 fatty acids are popular supplements year-round. These compounds are essential fatty acids that the human body does not produce. They have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and although they are not known for reducing a person’s chance of contracting infectious disease, they may mitigate the effects of such disease. For example, omega-3s have been shown to improve quality of life for chronic periodontitis patients; they may have a role in treating other chronic illnesses such as herpes. Individuals pursuing a vegetarian diet are likely to be deficient in their omega-3 intake. Fish oil supplements rich in omega-3s are made by Nordic Naturals, among other companies. For vegans, Dr. Andrew Weil recommends Neuromins DHA, which is microalgae.
One final supplement making a lot of news is another anti-inflammatory agent, curcumin. Curcumin is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric, and can be readily absorbed by the body when turmeric is heated in olive oil and added to food. Curcumin supplements, such as Enhansa from Lee Silsby, are also available. In addition to mitigating the inflammation associated with infectious disease, curcumin also has antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, particularly when consumed with EGCG (green tea extract). (For more about curcumin, please see this article.)