Vitamin D Supplementation & Our Immune Systems

As we move deeper into the winter months, and holiday eating, our immune systems tend to struggle and flail to fight off  colds and flus.  Some of our immune systems are able to outwit the critters, and some are not.  There is a lot of attention and marketing geared towards ‘immune support’ and what actually contributes to a strong immune system, and what behaviors or supplements truly confer protection.  Among these immune supportive strategies is Vitamin D supplementation, which has been getting quite a bit of press in the past few years as the latest immune tonic. 

Primarily, the active form of Vitamin D is made in the skin in response to UV exposure.  However, in the winter months, our days and our time outside get shorter.  We are exposed to much less UV stimulation during the winter months, and at some latitudes (such as the Seattle area at 47 degrees N) not at all.  As such, we make less Vitamin D during this time of year and the only way to get what we need is via supplementation. 

There have been many studies demonstrating its positive effects on our immune systems including breast and colon cancer prevention.  Part of how this works is that active Vitamin D ‘turns on’ the part of our immune system that keeps a lookout for viruses or other cells that can cause illness. 

Additionally, it decreases inflammation via this same part of the immune system, with our T-cells.  It is the inflammatory process itself that we call a ‘cold’ or ‘flu’.  The symptoms we recognize as fever, chills, mucous, and fatigue are our body fighting off the critters, which is the inflammatory process that our body creates to boil ’em up and kick ’em out.  Rather than fully shutting this process off, Vitamin D helps this process to be more efficient and fine-tuned. 

Potentially, Vitamin D supplementation (in the absence of naturally-made Vitamin D due to UV exposure) may not only improve our body’s initial defense but also decrease the severity of what we experience when we do get sick. 

I attached this link to a recent study regarding Vitamin D and its use in Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus to address this concept of ‘decreased inflammation and severity’, as well as food for thought about how Vitamin D may work in blood sugar management overall.

Type 1 Diabetes, unlike Type 2 which many of are familar with, is an autoimmune condition.  This means that the body and immune system is essentially attacking itself.  If we can use Vitamin D therapeutically to affect the way our immune system overreacts and attacks our own bodies, we can also use it to minimize what we experience when our immune system reacts to and fights back against critters. 

For many of us, the first step is having Vitamin D levels tested.  If your practitioner is not familiar with the test, request to have your serum 25-OH Vitamin D levels screened with your next round of routine blood work.  Although the labs have different ranges for what is ‘normal’, having a Vitamin D level over 50 ng/mL is considered optimal for the desired immune function.  If your levels are lower than that, discuss appropriate supplementation and food sources with your provider.  Generally speaking, adults benefit from 2000-4000 IU daily and kids benefit from 400-1000 IU daily, but it depends on your levels, time of year, and other health concerns to pick just the right dose for you and your family. 

Here’s to having a healthy winter season! 

If you want to know more about Dr. Sunita and her practice, visit:

Hyland’s Teething Tablets Recall

Some of you may have heard of or read the following FDA press release regarding Hyland’s Teething Tablets:

and the press release in response from Standard Homeopathic who makes the Hyland’s products:

For those of you that are concerned about using this product, there are a few things that you should know:

– The company has voluntarily taken the product off the market due to the FDA warning.  The FDA has not actually evaluated this product for safety and efficacy; rather it appears that it has ‘flagged’ Belladonna and this product as potentially toxic due to a few reports. 

– The product is a homeopathic preparation containing homeopathic doses of Belladonna.  In its pure plant form, Atropa belladonna (Latin), is poisonous.  Despite its potential side effects in crude form, it can be used therapeutically by herbalists and naturopathic physicians who are familiar with its use and appropriate dosing.  More commonly it is used homeopathically to avoid toxicity and side effects. 

– Homeopathic dosing and use indicates that a substance has been diluted to generally one part per 1,000,000,000,000 parts of water.  In other words, the substance itself is not being used to treat, rather its ‘energetic imprint’.  Homeopathic remedies are routinely used safely and effectively by trained practitioners in infancy, pregnancy, and many other stages of life. 

– It is possible to have side effects or to ‘prove’ a remedy (exhibit the symptoms the substance would create in larger doses) if excess amounts of the remedy are taken (e.g. a child eating a whole bottle of teething tablets).

– Atropine is a medication that is partly derived from Atropa belladonna that has many medical uses such as: dilating pupils, speeding up one’s heart rate as part of resuscitation, or to counteract symptoms of organophosphate (pesticide) poisoning. 

– Due to its action on our nervous system, many of the symptoms of toxicity are consistent with interfering with our parasympathetic nervous system (‘rest and relax’) and enhancing our sympathetic nervous system (‘fight or flight’).  Some of these side effects are:  increased heart rate, dilated pupils, constricted breathing, dry mucous membranes, decreased saliva, decreased digestive function and constipation, dizziness, nausea, or seizure. 

– From a clinical perspective, I have used this product safely with hundreds of little ones, without reports of side effects or toxicity.  At the same time, I have been trained in the use of homeopathic remedies, am very familiar with prescribing them, and talk with my families about how to use them appropriately.  Neither the FDA press release, nor my commentary here, should replace a conversation with your pediatric provider about any treatments that you administer to your little ones. 

Take care, Dr. Sunita

Seattle Vaccination Workshop

With naturopathic family physician & licensed midwife Dr. Sunita Iyer ND, LM and naturopathic family physician & licensed acupuncturist Dr. Michelle Obertacz ND, LAc

Confused about the vaccination schedule and how to make sense of it for your family?  Wondering how to evaluate your child’s and your family’s risk?

Thursday November 18, 2010 6:00pm-8:00pm Vaccination Workshop (Seattle)
We will review the current vaccine schedule, how to evaluate your family’s ‘risk’, public health vs. private health concerns, how to make educated decisions for your family that you can live with, and conventional and natural ways to address reactions. 
Rainbow Remedies, 409 15th Ave E., Seattle, 98112 (Capitol Hill, Seattle)

 How to Register:

Please email to register.  The maximum class enrollment is 20 participants.  

 The cost is $20 per person, which can be paid day-of, or via Pay Pal to or

We will provide the healthy snacks, handouts, and resources for more learning. 


To learn more about:  Dr. Sunita: and

Dr. Michelle: or

Labor vs. Marathon

I spend a lot of time with women in visits talking about their overall health, nutrition, and exercise- and how important all three are in terms of healthy pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and lactation.  What I see is that women who keep their bodies healthy inside and out tend to have smoother, healthier pregnancies and postpartum recoveries. 

However, in terms of the labor, it’s hard to prepare for what it will be like.  Being healthier gives you more stamina and strength, but it doesn’t mean you will get an easier, faster, or more straightforward labor.  A lot of that depends on babies, their position and readiness to be born.  It also depends on your bones, your genetics, your mindset about pain and labor, how much support you have, or how safe you feel. 

Still, when it’s hard (and labor is generally hard work, hence the term ‘labor’), a fit and healthy person withstands that intensity biochemically, mentally, and emotionally quite beautifully.  In pregnancy, it doesn’t hurt to approach the preparation for labor a bit like preparing for an athletic event, as you will need the physical, mental, and emotional fortitude that it brings. 

So I thought I would share this link to a blog written by an elite marathoner, Kara Goucher, on her adventures as a new parent and her answer to the question: “Which one is harder- a marathon or labor?”:

Drinking While Pregnant

Thought I would share this article from today’s New York Times:

‘Pregnant? Want a glass of wine?

A study released today in The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health suggests that might be just fine.

Using data from the Millennium Cohort Study in Britain, a data-rich look at 11,500 children born in the U.K. during the first two years of this century, researchers at University College in London concluded that the children of women who drank “lightly” — meaning up to one to two drinks a week — during pregnancy did no worse on cognitive tests at age 5 than children of mothers who did not drink at all. Actually, they did slightly better on the tests, which included things like “naming vocabulary,” “picture similarities” and “pattern construction.”

The children of mothers who went beyond “light drinking,” however, had noticeably lower scores.

This is not really news, of course, but rather codification (and a bit of specific detail) of what we already knew. Doctors have long said that a little is not a problem — the problem is defining “a little.”

Will this change your feelings about alcohol and pregnancy? Or will a pregnant woman holding a beer still set off your alarm bells?’

To link to this article and commentary:

Upcoming Fall Workshops

Thursday September 16, 2010  6:30-8:30pm: Vaccination Workshop

We will review the current vaccine schedule, how to evaluate your family’s ‘risk’, public health vs. private health concerns, and how to make educated decisions for your family that you can live with.

Thursday October 28, 2010  6:30pm-8:30pm: Family First Aid

We will discuss common family first aid concerns, natural remedies that you want to have on hand, and how to use them.   I will be co-presenting with my colleague Dr. Michelle Obertacz ND, LAc and we will also have a Seattle-based talk on this topic.


Herban Wellness, 103 Lake St. S, Kirkland 98033 (Downtown Kirkland)

How to Register:

Please email to register.  The maximum class enrollment is 20 participants.

The cost is $20 and I will provide the healthy snacks, handouts, and resources for more learning.

Upcoming Lectures

Hello!  I have finally selected some dates and times…..

* Sunday May 2nd 1-3pm: Preconception Workshop at Maya Whole Health Studio in Fremont. 

I will be co-presenting with Geraldine Lee LM, CPM.  Here is the link to the flyer:

* Saturday May 22nd 10am-12pm: Food Introduction Basics and Allergy Prevention at the Puget Sound Birth Center in Kirkland.  I will be discussing how to approach food introduction consciously and hopefully without fear!

* Saturday June 5th 10am-12pm: Vaccination Workshop at the Puget Sound Birth Center in Kirkland.  I will be discussing the current vaccine schedule and how to make educated decisions for your family.

Please email to register for the Food Introduction and Vaccination Workshops.  There is a $10-25 suggested donation per family and I will provide the healthy snacks, handouts, and resources for more learning.  The maximum class enrollment is 15. 

I hope to see you there!

Upcoming Lectures and Events

As part of my commitment to do some more teaching this year, I am excited to be offering a few lectures on topics related to natural pediatric and family health for all of you to learn from and enjoy! 

The feature topics for this Spring will be:

  • Supporting Your Family’s Immune System with the Seasons
  • Food Introduction Basics and Preventing Food Intolerances
  • Vaccines and Making Sense of the Schedule for Your Family

These dates and times for these lectures is yet to be determined, and will take place at the Puget Sound Birth Center in Kirkland, WA unless otherwise specified.  Healthy snacks and beverages will be provided, and the cost per family is $15.

Stay tuned for more details on these lectures and more!  If you would like to find out more about Dr. Sunita, please visit:

Thank you!

H1N1- What your family needs to know to stay healthy this year

You have probably at least heard about, if you are not actively following, all of the press regarding H1N1 or ‘Swine Flu.’  Despite the volume of news regarding this brewing pandemic, it is difficult to pick apart the facts, assess your family’s risk, and make decisions about prevention and vaccination. 

In order to get your investigation underway, here are a few guidelines and resources that I have compiled.  Please know that this information does not take the place of a detailed, informed conversation with your family physician about your concerns.

 In case you are not already aware, the commonly reported symptoms of ‘Swine Flu’ include:

∮       High fever

∮       Lethargy and lack of appetite

∮       Runny nose and sore throat

∮       Cough

∮       Body aches and chills

∮       Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting

 You may experience several or all of these symptoms, and many of these symptoms are not unlike our garden-variety flu.  If you or someone in your family is affected, please contact your family physician right away to find out how you can prevent transmission to others as well as recover as quickly as possible. 

 With all of that said, prevention is the best medicine.  Depending on your level of exposure to sick individuals, whether you are a healthcare worker, you are pregnant, you care for small children, or your own health is already compromised by other health concerns, you may be a good candidate for the H1N1 vaccination.  In many locations, the vaccine will be administered in large clinics or hospital-based settings, and both your family physician and local hospitals should be able to direct you to the best place to receive the vaccination if you choose to receive it. 

Whether you choose the vaccination or not, there are some key points in terms of preventing illness in your family during this flu season, or helping a family member recover more quickly:

∮       Regular exercise

∮       Frequent hand washing with soap and water

∮       Minimize exposure to sick people, covering your nose and mouth if exposed

∮       Plenty of sleep & adequate hydration

∮       Vitamin C & Vitamin D (please discuss specific dosing with your physician)

∮       Diet considerations: whole live fruits and veggies, low sugar, minimize dining out, prepare your own food when you can 


 Some resources for more information include:

Center for Disease Control Guidelines:

American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists:


If you want to discuss immune system boosting, prevention, this and other vaccinations for your family, please visit to find out how to contact and schedule an appointment with Dr. Sunita

 Be well!

Natural Mom & Baby Event

Come join me for this special event at Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy in Redmond, WA designed to address common concerns of Eastside moms and babes. In addition to presenting one of the seminars, I will be available to meet-and-greet if you have any questions afterwards!

Schedule of events: 11am-3pm
Enjoy complimentary…
– 15-minute consultations with a health practitioner (advance sign up required)
– Free Samples
– Child health seminars:
• 10-11am | Learn How to Boost Your Child’s Immune
• 12-1pm | Natural Remedies for Allergies
• 3-4pm | DHA’s & Brain Health

Please visit for location and contact information. 

Hope to see you there!

For more information about Dr. Sunita, please visit