Posts Tagged ‘Personal Health’

r-JUMP-ROPE-WORKOUTS-403xFBcreditBy A.C. Shilton for Men’s Journal

Forget any association you had with jump ropes and gym class. The jump rope is a powerful workout tool. It builds cardio fitness, balance, agility and bone strength. It’s also one of the best go-anywhere fitness accessories, fitting easily into even a crammed carry-on.

“It requires a lot of coordination and really works your cardiovascular system,” says Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, the women’s 2014 CrossFit Games winner. She likes to train with double unders, a common CrossFit move that requires you to jump explosively and spin the rope faster to pass it beneath your feet twice. This works your muscles harder and pushes your cardiovascular system towards its upper limit.

To get the most from your workout, make sure your rope is the right size. CrossFit HQ trainer Dave Lipson says that when you hold the rope under one foot, the handles should just reach your armpits. To maximize results, practice good form. “Hold your hands at 10 and 2 o’clock and at waist height. Revolve the rope from the wrists, not the shoulders,” says Lipson.

And if you’re shooting for double unders, we recommend buying a speed rope with bearings. Speed ropes start around $20 and spin faster than inexpensive licorice and beaded ropes.

Now here are seven jump rope workouts — most of which can be completed in a half hour or less — that will have you burning calories and building strength.

High-Speed Circuit
Fitness competitor, former ballerina and coach Dom Spain teaches outdoor bootcamp classes in Miami. She calls jump rope workouts the “no excuses” workout because, “if I have clients that say they don’t have time or don’t have the money for a gym membership, they can always do this.”

This workout is designed to give you just enough rest to keep pushing through all of the exercises, but not enough to let things get easy. It can be done in 30 minutes and requires only a jump rope.

  • Warm up by doing 30 seconds of jumping rope, 30 seconds of air squats, then a 1 minute plank hold. Repeat four times.
  • 1 minute of jumping and 30 seconds of push-ups.
  • 1 minute of backward jumping and 30 seconds of tricep bench dips.
  • 1 minute of side to side jumping (imagine your feet are bound together, and jump rope while hopping from side to side) and 30 seconds of lunges.
  • 1 minute of skipping rope (one foot lands as the other takes off) and 30 seconds of jumping squats.
  • 1 minute of single leg jumping (30 seconds on one leg, then switch), and 30 seconds of mountain climbers.
  • 1 minute of alternating high knee jumps (like the skipping rope move, but pull your knees up as high as you can), and 30 seconds of flutter kicks.

Take one minute of rest, then repeat the entire circuit. Cool down and stretch after two rounds.

female athleteKate Carr
President and CEO, Safe Kids Worldwide
Posted: 08/05/2013 9:58 pm

Sixteen-year-old Anna didn’t hesitate when I asked her about her love of soccer. “It’s my life,” she said matter-of-factly, and her reputation backed it up. Through hard work, tenacity and dedication, Anna is one of the top high school soccer players in the Washington, D.C. area with realistic aspirations of a Division I scholarship.

That’s why it’s so sad that our conversation took place when she was lying on a sports rehab table so far from the game she loves. This is her third knee surgery, which is shocking but not as uncommon as you might think among female athletes. In fact, female athletes are three times more likely to have ACL injuries than male athletes.

There are plenty of theories for this discrepancy, ranging from physical differences to hormone levels. Either way, there are stretches and exercises all athletes can do to help prevent these injuries.

I was at the rehab facility to film a video with U.S. Women’s Soccer player Ali Krieger, who you might remember from her game-winning penalty kick in the quarterfinals of 2011 World Cup in Germany. Ali, who was recovering from an ACL (knee) surgery, helped demonstrate seven exercises female athletes can do to help prevent knee injuries.

It’s a must-see for all of the athletes in your life.

Safe Kids Worldwide and Johnson & Johnson are working together to reach parents, coaches and kids with tips that can prevent the more than 1.35 million ER visits that occur as a result of a sports injury. For more information, read our research report or visit www.safekids.org

For more on fitness and exercise, click here.

For more by Kate Carr, click here.

Français : Tractions

Français : Tractions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 


Doctor of Physical Therapy,
PhD Candidate at the University of Southern California
May 05, 2013

Death bydeadlift!

Pungent terminology to some, but if you’re a CrossFitter, it’s pure humdrum. There have been endless articles and blogs that have advocated for or against CrossFit. Those for it wax eloquent on its perceived benefits, like improving physical strength, endurance, range of motion and even appearance. So, you’re saying when you combine a strict diet minimizing dairy products and simple carbohydrates and work out harder and with more intensity, it yields results? Shocker (and that, ladies and gentlemen, is sarcasm at its finest).

The drawbacks of CrossFit are not as apparent. Due to a lack of prospective data, there is no definitive information attributing CrossFit to injury; rather, there are simply anecdotal reports associating CrossFit with — amongst other things — shoulder, back and knee pain. However, the associations between injury potential with the particular lifts and exercises performed during a typical class are painstakingly clear. Fortunately, it can all be addressed through improved quality control, but unlike Drake, it starts from the top.

There are currently no guidelines by any nationally-recognized authority (e.g. NSCA, NATA, ACSM, NCSF) that one can use to inform themselves about CrossFit training methods. Furthermore, potentially due to the minimal qualification requirements, the coaches may not always have the skillset or knowledge base to promote (and/or individually tailor) form in order to prevent injury. This is compounded by the fact that there are inadequate guidelines to prepare novice CrossFitters and potentially insufficient individual attention due to large class sizes. As many CrossFit programs are predicated upon competition amongst the class members, performance (e.g., time and/or repetitions) also often supersedes health. In other words, if you want to be first in the WOD (workout of the day), you may have to push through pain, injury and/or fatigue. It may be the essence of competition, but with high-intensity exercise, injury is inevitable if not done with the proper form. Athletes (novice and experts alike) should thus be cognizant of choosing facilities that offer coaches who are accredited by nationally recognized authorities. With that said, here are just a few typical CrossFit exercises to be cautious of:

Deadlift

An effective lift that targets the hamstrings and back extensors. However, if fatigued, or during competition, mechanics can get sloppy, particularly characterized by the back rounding out and the bar moving too far from the body. This can result in excessive strain (and pain) to the hamstrings, as well as the back muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Having the back bent during the loading and unloading phase can potentially lead to a herniated disc. Focus on maintaining a neutral spine, all the while keeping the bar close to the body.

Power Clean

Similar to deadlifts, power cleans are an Olympic lift, yet the complex movement pattern appears to make it even harder to master. Ex-NFL strength and conditioning coach Dan Riley notes that “the inherent dangers unique to this movement can make it a potential hazard … It places the muscles, lower back, tendons and joints in a vulnerable position.” In fact, even with perfect form, the load from the power clean, particularly during the descent phase, may result in excessive forces to the knee joint. If form degrades and the back begins to arch, the body relies more on the hamstrings and back to eccentrically (muscle lengthening contraction) control the weight, potentially leading to excessive strain and injury to these structures. If performing the power clean, be sure to maintain a neutral spine, bend sufficiently at the knees, and progress very slowly until a good technique is mastered. This may help limit excessive force transmission through the body. It is also advised that those with pre-existing knee pain steer clear of this lift.

Kettlebell Swing

The force to propel the kettlebell is supposed to be derived from the hips. If the weight is too great, or one begins to fatigue, they often compensate by overstressing the upper body — neck and shoulders — during the ascent, and the back — just as in the power clean — during the descent. Furthermore, if the stance is too wide and the knees begin to fall inward, it can result in excessive load to the lateral knee joint. If the stance is too narrow, it will minimize the ability to open the hips, likely resulting in a variety of compensatory (and deleterious) movement patterns. Correct selection of stance width, and having the feet slightly externally rotated can help avoid these pitfalls.

Muscle Up

The ring muscle up is the quintessential CrossFit exercise, requiring flexibility and strength of the core and shoulders as well as mental strength and confidence to complete the task. Though it is a combination of a pull up and a dip, many individuals whom are able to perform both exercises seamlessly have great difficulty in transitioning between the two and thus completing a muscle-up. During the pull phase, one requires core strength to complete a kip pull up, else there will be compensation by the shoulders. During the push phase, the elbows have to stay tucked in close to the body, otherwise it places the shoulders in more of an open-packed position, leaving them — and the rotator cuff, in particular — vulnerable to injury. Make sure to master both ring-based pull ups and dips prior to progressing to a muscle up. It is advised that individuals with pre-existing shoulder injury or instability take particular caution.

Death by. An obvious exaggeration that in CrossFit terminology means to add a single repetition each successive minute until failure. However, the term, and this method of exercise, symbolizes the CrossFit mantra of forging elite fitness, seemingly by pushing yourself past your preconceived limit. Adherence to the CrossFit program and performance of its exercises undoubtedly generates results, but if done improperly, even though the chances of actual death may be low, the likelihood of injury appears high. I would thus be amiss to advise against CrossFit exercises and the associated diet, so rather, I take aim at the CrossFit structure that clearly fails in ensuring that their coaches place emphasis on long-term health and wellness, rather than simple performance metrics. Because frankly, it’s hard to be elite with a herniated disc.

Personal trainer showing a client how to exerc...

Jamie Galloway
Personal trainer, fitness coach
and lifestyle consultant
Posted: 08/28/2012 8:00 pm

Last year a new client came to me with a problem. She should have been in incredible shape — she was running 50+ miles a week, doing yoga daily and training for her first triathlon. Despite her best efforts, however, she found her performance had plateaued or even decreased. Digging deeper, I asked about her mood and sleeping habits. “The smallest things annoy me,” she said. Her sleep, diet and performance at work were all out of whack too. Her problem: overtraining.

I’ve made a career out of working out and I spend a lot of time motivating my clients to love it as much as I do. Fortunately for me, your body and brain want to help me out. When we exercise we release endorphins — the chemicals that make us feel good — into our brains. Endorphins have both pleasurable and addictive effects, and many regular exercisers feel compelled to work out more and more and even feel guilty if they miss a day’s training. Dialing your training back can be difficult and overtraining can easily creep up on you.

Put simply, overtraining is a breakdown in performance that occurs when the body is pushed beyond its capacity to recover. If you don’t allow your body adequate time to recover, then you run the risk of undoing all your hard work at the gym or on the track. To be clear, overtraining is not a problem of too much training, but of too little rest and recuperation. Gains in your strength and fitness don’t happen just because you had an incredible workout, they happen because you rested, ate and recovered afterward.

Reduced performance in the gym isn’t the only symptom of overtraining, in fact, there are too many to list in this article, but I can highlight the main ones: fatigue, decreased athletic performance, weakened immune response, sleep disturbances, irritability, reduced libido, changes in appetite. Starting to sound like fun? No, I didn’t think so.

If some of these sound familiar to you and you think you may be overtraining, all is not lost. Below are some simple things you can do to get back on (or perhaps off) track.

  1. Get more sleep, ideally eight hours a night, and especially after a heavy training session.
  2. Make sure your diet is on point, that you’re consuming enough calories and that you take the time to prepare healthy post-workout meals.
  3. Take breaks from training, you’ll be stronger and more energized when you come back to it.
  4. When you do come back, change things up. Play with different training regimes but don’t just do everything the same or you’re more than likely to end up back where you started.

Try and apply the same commitment to recovery that you apply to your workouts. Give your body the time it needs to rebound and repair and you’ll find yourself with more energy, enhanced performance and a better disposition. Less is sometimes more.

For more by Jamie Galloway, click here.

For more on fitness and exercise, click here.

Follow Jamie Galloway on Twitter: www.twitter.com/trainwithjamie


Physician; Writer; Associate Professor,
Georgetown University
Posted: 08/29/2012 8:17 am

A single rebound changed teenager Tracy Yatsko’s life. It was Jan. 10, 2005. Two minutes to go till half time in a hard-played game where she — a tenth-grade starting forward for the Tamaqua Lady Raiders of Penn Township, Penn. — left the ground momentarily while jumping for the ball, and then, on her descent, ball in hand, the collision: the back of her skull smacking into the head of the opponent who’d been guarding her. She recalls a brief visual blackout — less than a second — but she didn’t lose consciousness and even managed to get off another shot at the basket. Even so, feeling dizzy and nauseous, she opted for the bench for the rest of the game, just as a precaution.

Next day, though, the dizziness and nausea were still there. She attended school, finding that “I couldn’t concentrate, and I just wasn’t there,” but after a second night’s sleep, feeling better and hoping she’d weathered the worst of that head bump, she decided to suit up and start another game for the Lady Raiders. That was the breaking point. She made it through the game, but afterward, while changing in the locker room, she blacked out and fell to the ground. “I couldn’t hold myself,” she recalls. It was frightening, as it was now clear this was something she wasn’t just going to shake off.

From that first trip to the emergency room, says her mother, Linda McCarroll, “life was never the same.” Or, as Tracy puts it: “That’s when everything started.”

It was a concussion, and Tracy knew it, because she’d suffered one before, while still in the seventh grade. An MTBI, or Mild Traumatic Brain Injury, as it’s known in the medical literature. That earlier MTBI she did shake off — or at least the symptoms went away after 10 days or so. But “mild” can be a misleading term. Yes, there are more serious types of brain injuries, but the concussions that occur in contact sports can have effects that — despite the “mild” label — last a lifetime.

As Tracy has experienced for herself. Initially, she spent the rest of her junior year at home, literally on the couch. “I couldn’t go to the bathroom by myself. I had to cover the windows with sheets because of the light.” She has suffered constant migraines, nausea, vomiting, and had difficulty concentrating. She had to spend many days in the hospital, seeing dozens of doctors, getting all kinds of diagnostic tests. She had been on hundreds of medications, her mom says, some of them with terrible side effects. She lost many friends “because they were out having fun and I was stuck at home.”

As kids return to school and embark upon a new school sport season, stories like Tracy’s have put MTBIs — as well as other sports-related injuries — at the center of a debate that asks whether the price of getting hurt for the game is too high.

Journalists have begun focusing extensively on the toll among professional athletes, especially football players. But other experts — including the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which held a special meeting on Capitol Hill in 2010 — are concerned about the effects on younger athletes.

For student athletes, studies are producing alarming numbers. One estimates that between
2001 and 2009 more than 2.6 million children in the U.S. were treated for sports-related injuries. Of them, more than 170,000 suffered from traumatic brain injuries.

That sounds like a lot, but they’re the tip of the iceberg, says, Dr. Dawn Comstock, of the Center for Injury Research and Policy, at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio. Many injuries, she says, are never reported: “Nobody really knows how big of a burden sports-related injuries are.”

Part of the story is a lack of awareness — even now — says sports-medicine expert Dr. Clarke Holmes, of Nashville, Tenn. “Many young athletes don’t know what concussions are,” he says. Many, he says, may experience a head injury, but then believe “that if they haven’t lost consciousness then they should be okay.”

Except that they’re often not okay, a fact that may be especially important for girls to understand. Says Dr. Holmes: “There is some evidence to suggest that girls may be more likely to have concussions and that their concussions may be more severe.”

Severe is certainly what Tracy’s concussion turned out to be. Grade III. The worst. It’s been more than seven years since that fateful game and she’s still paying for it — paying for wanting to play the game she loved. Perhaps the hardest part was being told she couldn’t play sports anymore. Ever. Sports was everything to Tracy: “I was a huge athlete. I was really good in basketball and track.” So when the doctor announced her sports days were finished, “it ruined my life. That’s when the depression set in. I thought my life was over,” she said, holding back tears even now.

Indeed, many young athletes would agree that sports are what defines them. It gives them a certain social cachet and represents real achievement, as well as embodying real-life values like teamwork and competition. Sports can also be a ticket to scholarships, higher education, and exciting careers — if you’re really that good. Tracy was that good.

That’s why many athletes are reluctant to report their injury. They risk being misunderstood as weak or lacking in motivation. They fear being sidelined, losing their chance to shine, to show what they are made of. “That’s just how we grow up,” says Tracy today. “We grow up saying ‘suck it up and get back in the game.'” Remembering the winter of 2005, Tracy says she was worried that her trainer would “sit me out of the game” if she said too much. “I kept quiet, but I shouldn’t have played.”

“There is no shame in being hurt,” says Dr. Holmes. “If you hide an injury then you are not only hurting yourself, but also your team. Because you’re out there playing and you are not 100 percent, and you can let the team down. You could miss an assignment, not know a play that you should, you could be a step slow.” More importantly, he says, “You could predispose yourself to another injury, or even a second concussion.”

This is an important piece of the picture. Once a concussion has occurred, the player becomes as much as four to six times more likely to suffer a second concussion. And having a second concussion, studies have shown, can be even more traumatic, resulting in permanent brain injury from the cumulative trauma.

That’s why medical and athletic organizations are quite serious about when the appropriate time is to return to play. Guidelines vary, says Dr. Holmes, and each case should be looked at individually, but in general the athlete has to be completely symptom free for some time before being allowed back in the game. Depending on the initial symptoms, it can be as little as 20 minutes for a very mild first concussion with no loss of consciousness, to more than three months for a third concussion, according to some guidelines. Or it can be, as in Tracy’s case, never being allowed in the game again.

The guidelines, from organizations such as the American Academy of Neurology, and the Colorado Department of Education, vary. But they all agree that athletes should take time off following an injury and that premature return to play can harbor serious consequences. As serious and catastrophic as brain herniation and death.

Unfortunately, says Dr. Comstock, not many are taking heed. According to one study she authored, 40.5 percent of high school athletes with a concussion returned to play too soon. And males — true to stereotypes of being more “macho” — were more likely than females to not follow these guidelines. That study, in the journal Brain Injury, also showed that during the 2007-2008 season alone, 15.8 percent of football players who suffered a concussion and lost consciousness returned to play the same day.

But it is not just the athletes themselves who are eager to put injury aside and get back in the game. Coaches and parents are as much to blame. “I see how parents can get so involved in a game,” says Linda, “and sometimes coaches and parents can make the wrong decisions.”

She and Tracy are trying to tell their story to anyone who would listen. Tracy even testified before a congressional committee and told her story at the Brain Injury Association of Pennsylvania. “There have been a lot of coaches who’ve changed the way they’ve coached because of Tracy,” says Linda with pride in her voice. “They’ve been much more careful. They don’t put their player back into the game if there is any injury, whether it’s a head injury or it looks like they have a sprained ankle. Because of Tracy they’re really thinking twice and just admiring the message that she’s been putting out there.”

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a brain injury caused by a bump, jolt, or blow to the head. It can happen due to a fall, or after hitting another player.

Symptoms of Concussion

Early symptoms may include: Headache, Dizziness, Confusion, Nausea, Vomiting, Vision Changes, Ringing in the ears, Sensitivity to light.

Late symptoms: Memory disturbances or loss, poor concentration, irritability, chronic migraines, sleep problems, personality changes, chronic fatigue, depression.

If you think your child had a concussion:

– Seek medical help at once. The doctor can help assess the severity and help determine when it is safe to return to play.
– Keep your child out of play until a health care professional says it is okay to go back.
– Report all concussions to your child’s coach, including previous ones, or those suffered playing another sport.
– Consider baseline neuro-psychiatric testing at the beginning of the season. Repeat testing after an injury can more precisely show the degree of damage and help with rehabilitation.

A concussion can happen in any sport activity. The top offenders are contact sports. “Player-to-player contact is the number one mechanism for injury,” says Dr. Comstock.

Higher injury rates, including concussions, are found in: football, ice hockey, boys lacrosse, soccer, basketball, girls lacrosse and field hockey.

For more by Ranit Mishori, M.D., MHS, click here.

For more on personal health, click here.

Follow Ranit Mishori, M.D., MHS on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ranitmd

Some athletes are choosing water and real food instead of sports drinks and processed bars and gels.

By Alastair Bland
The SALT, NPR Food Blog
Posted 7/16/2012

As the world’s greatest athletes gear up for the 2012 Olympic Games in London this month, viewers like us are likely to see a spike in televised ads for sports drinks, nutritional bars, and energy gel — that goop that so many runners and cyclists suck from foil pouches.

Powerade, in fact, is the official sports drink of the 2012 Olympics, and if it’s true what these kinds of ads imply, processed sports foods and neon-colored drinks are the stuff that gold medalists are made of.

But sports nutritionists and pro athletes don’t all think so. David Katz, physician and nutrition expert at the Yale University School of Medicine, says sports drinks generally aren’t much better than sodas. “[Sports drink companies’] marketing is based on the gimmick that somehow this extra load of sugar and calories will turn you into an athlete,” he says

Perhaps no brand has so loudly touted its product as an enhancement to physical prowess as Gatorade. One of its most effective sales pitches asserts that its sweet and colorful drinks can rehydrate a body more efficiently than water. Leslie Bonci, a dietary advisor to several Major League Baseball teams and a consultant for Gatorade, explains, saying that the body can absorb Gatorade more quickly than it can water alone. She adds that the sugar in Gatorade provides needed calories absent in water.

“Gatorade is a source of fluid, it’s a source of energy, and it’s a source of electrolytes,” she says. Electrolytes are minerals essential in helping the body retain water — and it’s true: We can’t live without them.

But the electrolytes in Powerade and Gatorade occur naturally in many other foods, like fruits, vegetables, grains, milk and coconut water.

Katz warns that the sugar content of sports drinks is far more likely to cause unwanted side effects than it is to propel you to the finish line of a race.

Like tooth rot, for example, or that stubborn layer of blubber that clings to our waistlines in spite of our most vigorous efforts to dispatch it. After all, makers of sports drinks, bars and gels encourage people to consume their products not just during exercise, but before and after, as well.

For example,the website for GU Energy — a popular brand you may know from discarded foil wrappers plastered to the asphalt — advises sucking down one of its 100-calorie gel packs before a workout, then again every 45 minutes during the workout. For your post-workout meal, there is GU Recovery Brew.

GU Energy did not respond to our inquiries about their products by press time, but sports nutritionists aren’t so sure about the suggestion to slurp the gels.

“The sports nutrition industry just tells us to eat, eat, eat,” says Stanford University nutrition coach Stacy Sims. “They don’t care how big you are or whether you’re a man or a woman or if you’re trying to lose weight.” (Full disclosure, Sims co-founded her own sports nutrition company called Osmo, which makes powdered sports drinks for hydration and recovery, and are purportedly easier on the body than syrupy energy gels.)

Walk onto any school field on weekends, and you’ll see kids drinking sports and energy drinks, too, even though pediatricians advise good old fashioned water.

Mountain biking legend Gary Fisher says these “engineered nutrition” products keep many amateur athletes on the tubby side. “I see guys who really put in the miles, and they have a gut that never goes away,” Fisher says.

Fisher says he prefers roast beef sandwiches, burritos, nuts, and bananas during bike rides, and afterward, he often eats a large helping of chicken or fish served beside a salad dressed with olive oil.

And Scott Jurek, the record-holding vegan ultra-marathoner featured in the 2009 bestseller Born to Run, enjoys smoothies prior to his 30-mile training runs, scarfs rice balls and hummus wraps en route, and afterward feasts on quinoa, tempe, brown rice, and beans — all vegan recipes included in his new book, Eat and Run.

Jurek says gels, which are easy to pack and carry, may be convenient if no real foods are available. His favorite gel product is by Clif, which also happens to be one of his sponsors.

But Sims at Stanford says unless you’re flat out of gas with miles more to go, don’t do goo.

“The fact is, every time you take a gel, you’re doing the exact opposite of what you want to do,” says Sims, who has worked with cycling stars Andy Schleck and Lance Armstrong. She says densely sugared foods dehydrate the body and cause overheating.

But that’s supposedly where Gatorade comes in, rehydrating parched athletes and resupplying the body’s depleted electrolytes.

How important is hydrating anyway? Can it be reduced to a specific formula? Timothy Noakes, a South African sports nutrition doctor, says dehydration is a simpler condition than sports drink companies have hyped it up to be. He says athletes can generally “listen” to their bodies and drink water when they feel thirsty.


Author, ‘How To Live 100 Years Without Growing Old’
Posted: 05/24/2012 10:15 am

No question, doctors and patients are now joining the vitamin D revolution in large numbers. More and more doctors are ordering tests to determine vitamin D blood levels and more patients are reading about the positive benefits of vitamin D in news reports. There have been more than 3,000 published studies and reports involving vitamin D listed at the National Library of Medicine in just the past 14 months.

Now, pediatricians at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore say all children need to be screened for vitamin D deficiency. This means vitamin D is going big time.

What’s the vitamin D revolution about and why should you join it? It’s about the rediscovery of a sun-made vitamin-hormone that was first recognized in 1922 to avert bone softening in children, what is called rickets.

Overlooked at that time was the fact that most vitamin D-deficient children with rickets had impaired immune systems. Only recently have researchers begun to investigate the role of vitamin D in maintaining an optimal immune response. In particular, vitamin D activates an army of white blood cells called neutrophils, which represent 50-70 percent of the total white blood cell volume and are the first responders to any infection in the body.

Vitamin D for colds and flu

Dr. John Cannell, founder of The Vitamin D Council, has noted that seasonal bouts of the flu and winter colds are not spread from person to person as commonly believed. Colds and the flu do not progress from town to town, and an individual in a family may come down with a viral infection while others remain healthy. Nor are colds “caught” by being out in chilly weather. In fact, medical literature points to the wintertime cold and flu season as simply a downturn in human immunity as vitamin D levels drop due to the diminished intensity of the sun combined with more time spent indoors as the outdoor temperature becomes chilly.

A relatively recent study found just 800-2,000 international units (IU) of supplemental vitamin D, by weight just 20-400 micrograms, reduced wintertime cold symptoms from 30 in 104 subjects given an inactive placebo tablet to just nine in 104 subjects given vitamin D. That is quite a striking difference.

Modern medicine is agonizingly slow in providing conclusive evidence as to whether vitamin D is the big antidote to the common cold and wintertime viral infections. But your family doesn’t have to wait; vitamin D is relatively inexpensive, and concerns about overdosing are poorly-founded.

The biggest concern among doctors is that mega-dose vitamin D will cause a condition called hyper-calcification. But it takes about a million units of vitamin D for this to occur in healthy adults. Intake of 40 1,000-unit vitamin D pills a day would be required to produce toxicity in an adult.

Our family isn’t waiting for more science. My wife and I began taking 5,000-8,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily, and we have found at the first sign of a runny-nose cold we take 50,000 IU of vitamin D3 and our cold symptoms usually subside within minutes. That much vitamin D may seem to be problematic, but physicians inject 300,000 IU among postmenopausal females for wintertime bone protection without side effect.

Putting vitamin D into practice

Recently, our 7-year-old son began to develop symptoms of a cold and an earache. We started with 5,000 IU of chewable vitamin D and then gave another 5,000 IU a few minutes later. Our son was also given some elderberry syrup, reported to be helpful for the flu, along with some vitamin C. We soaked Q-tips in hydrogen peroxide and placed them in his ear canals to kill off germs and then instilled an herbal ear drop that provided garlic oil. Within a short time the earache and other symptoms were gone.

This regimen continued for about three days as symptoms began to reappear upon awakening in the morning — that is, until our son was given his vitamin D. He didn’t miss a day of school and no doctor’s office visits for antibiotics were required. Special note: If earache symptoms persist, don’t be so stubbornly committed to self-doctoring that you allow your child to suffer permanent hearing loss.

When our son was about 2.5 years of age he awoke in the middle of the night crying with a fever of 101.8 degrees Fahrenheit. We broke up vitamin D tablets, mixed them with water and instilled about 5,000 IU in a bulb syringe orally. Within minutes he began to shake with the chills, a sign his fever was breaking. Within 15 minutes he was sound asleep in his bed.

The vitamin D revolution is underway, and it has promise for addressing many maladies, including childhood food and peanut allergies, for pregnant women to reduce the risk of lower respiratory tract infections, wheezing and asthma in their offspring, and for tonsillitis, just to mention a few of its many applications. Learn to use vitamin D for your whole family and they will really call you Doctor Mom. To learn more, I’ve written a free family guide to vitamin D, available here.

For more by Bill Sardi, click here.

For more on natural health, click here.