To read a detailed, technical chronicle of the foils of the flu shot, see my last blog. To summarize, the flu shot does not work but contains harmful toxins and preservatives like aluminum and mercury so thoughtful people avoid it. The pressing question is what really does prevent the flu? I will start with the boring stuff that everyone knows but does not want to do.
• Healthy Diet
• Getting enough sleep
These three basic steps are enormously effective at improving immune function but most people prefer the myth of a magic shot instead. Exercise is hard to squeeze in anytime but in the winter there are so many better weather excuses to avoid it. The truth is you do not have to train for the Boston marathon, just walk 25 minutes 4 or 5 days per week. My solution for this was to purchase some very comfortable ski pants. Now no matter how cold it is, I can walk comfortably with my dogs who never complain about the weather.
A healthier diet does not have to be intimidating either. Added sugar is the major immune suppressor in the diet. If you just cut that way down your immune function will pick up significantly. Eat fruit (fresh or dried) or put some raw honey (which has immune enhancing properties) in your tea to soothe your sweet tooth. This is the hardest step for me.
If you don’t build enough sleep into your schedule, your body will eventually correct that by making you sick so you have to sleep. By biggest problem with this is the &%$#%^ computer and e-mail. If I stay on too long, the e-mails run through my head when I’d rather be sleeping. In my practice I have noticed that turning off the computer is a particularly difficult problem for men.
Now for the more exciting, easier supplement strategies:
• Get your blood vitamin D level up to at least 60.
• Take vitamin C, probiotics and at least 15 mg of zinc daily.
• Keep a strong natural killer cell enhancer on hand in case you feel an illness coming on.
Robust vitamin D levels are highly associated with lower illness rates (including cancer). Blood levels over 30 or 32 ng/ml are considered “normal” but higher levels can protect against illness. Of course, the only way to know for sure if you have a decent vitamin D level is to have your doctor order a blood vitamin D test. Since about 70% of women and children are low, most doctors agree to this request and it is probably worth doing.
Vitamin D-3 (the natural version) is easily available in drops and pills. Several doctors I know recommend taking one large dose (25,000-30,000 IUs) immediately if you start feeling under the weather. For dosage recommendations for children, consult your pediatrician. Note that nutritional interventions to prevent illness do not work once the illness sets in. You must strike early when the immune system first notices a problem.
Consistently taking the immune trio of probiotics, vitamin C and zinc can keep up your defenses during the flu season. Keep probiotics in the refrigerator and find one that has at least 10 billion bugs. Take 500-2000 mg of vitamin C depending on age of the person and level of vulnerability to illness. You cannot overdose on vitamin C because when the body cannot absorb anymore, it causes diarrhea and out it goes. A good multiple vitamin/mineral may already contain the basic zinc most people need but you can take an extra 15 or 20mg daily during periods where you need an extra boost.
Keeping a strong immune enhancer on hand is a must because you know you are going to need it at 11:00 PM on a Tuesday night. Waiting 12 hours to get to the store (or days until it comes by mail) will be too late as the illness will have enough time to take hold. Viruses replicate very quickly and the more cells they have time to infect, the more serious the illness. Natural killer cells are the first line defense against viruses. Several products enhance these fighters and people have individualized responses to them. Some find one product works better for them than another. I will take one of these for a few days (or sometimes just one or two doses) if I feel like I am run down or fighting something.
My three favorite are:
• ProBoost Packets (http://www.proboostmed.com/faq.html)
• 4 Life Transfer Factor – Trifactor formula (http://www.amazon.com/4Life-Transfer-Factor-Classic-capsules/dp/B000OUY84U)
• American BioSciences ImmPower (http://www.vitacost.com/American-BioSciences-Immpower-AHCC).
The price of these products vary greatly but they all work great. Follow the directions on the bottle. This is a blog and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice. If you have questions, contact a knowledgeable medical professional.
Finally, use hand sanitizers frequently. Just kidding. These products have been found in studies to be as useless as the flu shot. You may as well rub your hands in the grass or on your pants. Better to wash your hands with plain old soap and water every once in awhile.
Just to let you know how long you need to wash your hands to significantly get the germ level down, imagine singing through a verse of “All the Single Ladies” or about 30 seconds. That is what it takes and unless you are preparing for surgery, you probably are not doing this.
Not to worry, while germs cause colds and flus, they are less responsible for illness then most people believe: Mainly because they are everywhere so one cannot avoid them. In one study, healthy volunteers were asked to play cards with other volunteers who had colds. (Warning: this is a gross study.) No tissues were provided so after awhile the cards were literally damp with the viral laden nasal discharge from the sick participants. The high virus exposure did not result in significantly more colds among the healthy volunteers.
As Pasteur said at the end of his life, “It is the environment”. It probably sounded better in French but after years of proving germs caused disease, in the end, he realized it was the environment the germs were introduced in to that often counted more than the bugs themselves. So, strengthen your environment and the germs will find somebody weaker to attack.