Vitamin D helps to combat tuberculosis, flu and other infections

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that continues to claim significant numbers of lives around the World. Before the advent of antibiotics, many tuberculosis sufferers were shipped off to ‘sanitoriums’: often rurally-located facilities where individuals would typically spend a year or more to rest, eat well, and hopefully overcome their illness.

While rest and a healthy diet were thought to be the cornerstones of treatment, some have suggested that another maybe beneficial element of sanitorium life was its potential to allow exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D, produced in response to sunlight, is known to have immune-enhancing effects. In one study, for instance, a single dose of vitamin D (2.5 mg/100,000 IU) led to improved immune function against the tuberculosis organism [1].

It is now known that vitamin D (produced in response to sunlight) stimulates the secretion of natural antibiotics known as ‘anti-microbial peptides’. This gives vitamin D the potential to combat a range of infections.

Recently, the role of vitamin D as an anti-infective agent was assessed in the form of a review [2]. 13 studies were reviewed, of which 9 were ‘double-blind and placebo-controlled’ ” generally regarded as the best study design to discern whether a treatment has a real benefit or not. Some of these studies assessed the role of vitamin D in the treatment of tuberculosis.

Overall, the results showed that vitamin D therapy shows considerable potential in the treatment of tuberculosis. The results also showed vitamin D can be effective for the treatment of other infections, including flu and viral upper respiratory tract illnesses (e.g. cold). In addition, adverse events due to vitamin D supplementation were rare.

This review suggests that ensuring optimal vitamin D levels (through appropriate sunlight exposure, diet and, if necessary, supplementation) is likely to help ensure optimal protection from infectious diseases. This has particular relevance in the winter, then vitamin D levels tend bottom out. In fact, lower levels of vitamin D may well be a factor in why it is that infection diseases (such as cold, flu and pneumonia) tend to be more common in the winter. Awhile back I wrote about a study which found lower levels of vitamin D to be associated with a greater need to take sick days due to upper respiratory tract infections (e.g. cold and sore throat). For more about this, see here.


1. Martineau AR, et al. A Single Dose of Vitamin D Enhances Immunity to Mycobacteria American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. 2007;176:208-213

2. Yamshchikov AV, et al. Vitamin D for Treatment and Prevention of Infectious Diseases: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials Endocr Pract. 2nd June 2009 [Epub ahead of print].

4 Responses to Vitamin D helps to combat tuberculosis, flu and other infections

  1. Dentist Thousand Oaks 24 June 2009 at 12:17 am #

    Nice article post. In the midst of AH1N1 flu pandemic, people should also remember to drink vitamin D to their preventive measures. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Joanne of Open Mind Required 25 June 2009 at 7:21 pm #

    I note that many of the people Weston Price visited who had began consuming westernized food (sugar, flour, jams, etc.) had increased rates of tuberculosis.

    I question the paradigm that tuberculosis is an “infectious” disease. I’m more inclined to view it as an “opportunistic” disease. Therefore, anything that improves the internal terrain and immune system would necessarily reduce the chance of developing tuberculosis.

    Fasting has proven to be an excellent treatment for tuberculosis.

  3. Joanne of Open Mind Required 25 June 2009 at 7:27 pm #

    Here’s a link I found of Herbert Shelton’s views on tuberculosis and its treatment:

  4. Margaret Wilde 27 June 2009 at 1:26 am #

    I was discovered to have pulmonary TB as a child in the 50s when a mass radiography unit came to my school, where there proved to have been an older child with TB from whom I and others had caught the illness.

    I had it for many years on and off and spent a long time in 2 different sanatoria as well as having a year’s bed-rest at home. I was actively discouraged by the chest doctors from being out in the sun at all and told always to cover up. I was told that if the TB bacilli had become dormant and ‘walled-off’ inside my lungs that sunlight could wake them up again and restart the illness again, and so I did as I was told. I have no idea at all whether this advice held or holds water. – Maybe among the medics who visit this site someone may have some informed knowledge about it?

  5. Dr Indira 3 April 2010 at 4:53 pm #

    My daughter, who is a resident doctor in paediatrics, had a ptb in Jan 2009. She finished her first treatment in september 2009. In Jan 2010, she had a relapse of ptb. Now when we checked her vitamin D levels, they showed onlly 4.3 ng/ml. She is taking vitamin D3 supplementation along with her treatment. any advise? She works in government hospital which is highly infected with infections. Many resident doctors are now getting infected with tb.
    She still has to study for one more year in the hospital to complete her post-graduation. any suggestions to prevent future exposure to this disease

  6. Dr John Briffa 3 April 2010 at 5:27 pm #

    Dr Indira

    That’s a very low vitamin D level indeed, and may be increasing your daughter’s susceptibility to infection (inclduing TB). I can’t give personal advice, but generally speaking I suggest individuals aim to get their vit D levels above about 50 ng/ml (125 nmol/l). My experience tells me that several thousand IU per day are likely to be required. Increase sun exposure is a good idea too.

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