Monday, March 21, 2011

Blog #31 The Flu Cometh

Recently, I was congratulating myself on not getting sick for 3 or 4 years. Yes, nutrition and lifestyle really works, I told myself smugly. So when clients brought their sick children to my office, I did not think much about it. Half the people I have run into over the last month had one contagious illness or another. Many had the flu, despite the fact that they had gotten a flu shot. Funny how 40% of Americans get the flu shot, yet the number of people getting the flu does not seem to go down.

This was a particularly tough year for those who “believe” in the flu shot as the one offered did not actually contain the virus responsible for this year’s stomach flu. Personally, I would sooner believe in the Easter Bunny- there is more supporting evidence plus the chance of getting chocolate. But, it is just this type of bold, maybe even obnoxious statement that may make people wonder if I would reconsider my position if I actually got the flu.

Someone asked me a related question at a recent workshop. “What if you had immune deficiency, wouldn’t you get the shot then?” she wanted to know. Viewed logically, having immune deficiency does not make an ineffective shot work better, it only makes the recipient more desperate and willing to consider unproven technology. An understandable case of fear overriding logic.

I responded that I would be even less likely to get the shot because it can contain aluminum and mercury, both of which are immune suppressants. Plus, there are several viruses in the shot which elicit an immune response. Why use up immune resources mounting a response to viruses you are not going to run into that year anyway? Easy words to say when one is healthy. What a scary minefield life is when you pick up everything.

A few busy weeks passed. I took several trips involving cancelled planes, broken down trains and taxicabs with an inch of water on the floor. I was once again feeling thankful for handling it all when I woke up one day feeling extremely tired and crabby. Such is life, I told myself. Though I am fairly even tempered, everyone gets cranky and being tired makes sense given my schedule, so no big deal. As the day wore on and I found myself muttering and cursing over very minor issues, like a stuck drawer, I started to get suspicious.

There is a messenger molecule in the body called IL10. It is in a class of compounds called cytokines. Cytokines deliver all sorts of messages that modulate immune function and IL10’s message makes people feel tired and depressed. It is basically a shut down message telling your body to slow down and rest because the immune system is trying to fight off something. In other words, man the hatches, a storm is acomin’.

By early afternoon, I started thinking that I hated my life and work and need to find something else to do. While anyone can have a similar passing thought, the ferocity of my discontent finally registered. I am getting sick, I realized. As soon as I recognized the early signs provided by IL10 and probably a number of other cytokines, I took action. My acute prevention cocktail is 20,000IUs of vitamin D3, 1000mg of vitamin C, a probiotics, 30mg of zinc, 2 My Community (Host Defense) and 2 Transfer Factor Plus (4 Life). This group of nutrients has warded off any number of illnesses but the key is catching the virus before it has invaded the system too far.

Viruses cannot replicate themselves so they take over your cells and use them as incubators. They are little pieces of DNA or RNA (depending on the virus) and they inject themselves into the nucleus of a cell. Now their DNA or RNA is telling the cell what to do, not yours. Just like the movie, “Alien” but at a teeny tiny cellular level.

Once a virus has taken over a cell, the cell stops being useful to you and does nothing but churn out viruses. The immune system’s job is to identify rogue cells, destroy and discard them. The cold or flu symptoms are the result of the immune system coming in to clean up and heave ho the dead cells. (Think runny nose or diarrhea.) If enough cells have been infected, the symptoms are pretty ugly. The virus is trying to stay ahead of the immune system by infecting as many cells as fast as it can while the immune system is targeting and blowing up viral replicating factories as fast as IT can. The battle is on. No wonder you feel terrible.

The reason a cure for the common cold is evasive is that the cold itself partially reflects necessary clean up. The immune system has identified the interloper and is in the process of tossing it out. At that point you can only reduce the severity and length of the symptoms. By strengthening the immune system response, the viruses can tossed out before they invade more cells and cause more of a mess. The big opportunity is prevention. Was I too late?

By late afternoon, I was desperate for a nap but still had 2 more clients to see. Finally, the work day ended. I stood up feeling a little dizzy and crankier than ever. My stomach cramped and rumbled. It was not happy. I suspected I was fighting the stomach flu which appears to be this year’s flu. After an uncomfortable interlude in the bathroom, I was sure. I felt off but not terrible yet. Time to rethink immune support.

The best strategy for fighting stomach bugs is good bugs. I had three different probiotics in the refrigerator and took an aggressive 200 billion bugs. This was two capsules as I had VSL3 on hand (www.VSL3.com). Before bed I took another probiotics and 2 more Transfer Factor.

The next few days I felt a little wobbly and tired. But all and all, I would say nutrition helps.

Here are my flu statistics:

Number of hours feeling crabby and depressed 36
Number of nights of restless sleep 1
Days feeling shaky and tired 2
Extra trips to the bathroom 3
Weight lost Half pound (It's back)
Percent of regular vitamins taken during flu period 50%
Extra Vitamin D3 (taken as a single dose) 20,000 IUs
Number of good bugs taken per day for 3 days 200 billion
Amount of Transfer Factor taken per day for 3 days 4
Amount of My Community taken per day for 3 days 4
Diet changes Bananas In Green Juice Out
Missed days of work 0
Cost of avoiding possible neurological and immune damage by skipping the flu shot Priceless

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