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 ( 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

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Blog #30 The Trouble with Traveling

Having a detective mindset means having an inquisitive nature and asking a lot of questions. “Why should I care if the IRS clarifies the sub part F regulations?” I asked my husband the tax attorney recently. Or, “why does it cost $1,400 to join a sorority?” this to my daughter, the college sophomore.

So, it is not surprising that when I was at the airport this week-end on my way to teach a course in New York, I found myself asking, why, oh why, oh why? I watched with utter perplexity as a line of people allowed themselves to be lead into a milliwave machine and radiated.

According to Dr. Russell Blaylock, a physician and writer, TSA naked body scanners can cause sperm mutations and increase the risk of breast cancer. The Pilot’s Association has reportedly sent a letter to its members urging them to opt out of the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT). Other sources report that the ionizing radiation by the machines concentrate on the skin increasing the risk of skin cancer.

This all sounds ominous to me and I figure I should at least wait for some good long term safety data before getting ready for my milliwave close up. So, I was dismayed to watch one person after another dutifully and passively walk in to the mystery machine and get zapped. Not a single person opted out.

I was bracing for a body cavity search or whatever other indignity I was going to be subject to for opting out when I noticed there were two lanes and you could just avoid the X-ray machine. So, I did.

Why are people not objecting? The acceptance by so many of the invasive and unsafe is distressing to me. Ask questions. Object when things don’t make sense. Get patted down but do not add to your chances of getting cancer which are already 1 in 3 over a lifetime.

Depressed by this full scale display of submissiveness, I trudged to my gate. On the way, I saw a man drinking a tall beer at one of the many generic bars. The scene would not have been notable except for the fact that it was 11:00 in the morning. Yes, traveling has gotten to the point that a beer with breakfast is about what you need to get through a typical airport experience.

I realized I was hungry and went searching for food. The places I can most reliably depend on finding edible food at airports is Cibo and Starbucks. Cibo has small salads, mini chicken Cesear chicken wraps, tiny hummus containers, veggies with dip and Be Kind bars. They have reasonable portions. Most of the other places that have single salads that could feed a family of four or lunchmeat sandwiches. What can I say? Lunchmeat is gross. Sadly, this terminal did not have a Cibo, which meant looking for a Starbucks.

Of the chains usually represented at the airport, I have been surprised to find myself sometimes looking for Starbucks, even though I do not drink coffee. This morning, I stood in a long line to order their very tasty oatmeal. I threw away the brown sugar packet but added the nuts and dried fruit. It was made with water and was delicious.

I walked back to my gate and enjoyed every bite. But, I still needed something. Maybe a beer.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Blog #29 Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick: The Bonus Material

After writing a book there is a big hunk of empty time while waiting for it to be printed and released. That time for me is happening right now. The down time should be welcomed because of the exhaustive push of deadlines along with my regular work schedule. But, of course, I am too excited to be sitting around waiting so I had to come up with a productive way to fill the time.

My kids are all in college so I can only call and annoy them so much. I took a few baths, trimmed back the liriope (a fast spreading ornamental grass used in landscaping) and sold stuff of my husbands that he almost never uses on Ebay. That took a week and I still have four months left until the June 6th release.

My publisher (Workman) puts out some interesting books and while I had read some before signing with them, I had not had a chance to read any since. I decided to look at books that were in the same health genre as mine. The title, “Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick,” by Gene Stone caught my attention immediately. At least half of the people I have talked to over the last few weeks have been sick so I decided to see what he had to say on the subject.

Most of the hardly-ever-get-sick people I know do what you would expect, they exercise, think bright and happy thoughts, eat a diet full of whole foods (some vegans, others animal eaters) and take a handful of supplements everyday. Stone chose to reveal the secrets of 25 people who concentrated on one main area to maintain their health and avoided those with complex regimens.

I am not going to be a book spoiler though if you are the health conscious type you can probably guess ½ of them. (That could be a fun game to play at your next party if charades is not going well.) Reading it made me think about my own personal keep healthy tricks. Consequently, I am adding my very own bonus secret: mushrooms.

Naturopaths and herbalists have long recommended certain mushrooms for immune enhancement but the exact reason they worked was not discovered until recently. Dr. Ikekawa, arguably the father of mushroom science, discovered that the cancer rates of families of Enoki mushroom growers had remarkably low cancer rates compared to the rest of the population. The cancer rate in the men from mushroom growing families was 1/3 (or 2/3rds less) than other men in the same area. Women had ½ the predicted cancer incidence. If there was a drug that could claim this near miraculous cancer reducing capability, it would be the best selling medicine in the country. Ikekawa isolated the chemical responsible for the immune protecting properties of this little fungi and the science mushroomed from there.

We now know different mushrooms have different immune enhancing compounds. Some prevent cancer, others fight tumors, still others increase first line defense against illness or decrease inflammation. There are species that produce antibiotic compounds and one even helps nerve regeneration. This last one is called Lion’s Mane and it is a white mushroom that grows on trees and logs.

In Blog # 18- What to do to prevent the flu, I mention three great immune enhancers. One, Immpower (American BioSciences) is extracted from specially cultivated mushrooms and has been studied in cancer and AIDS treatment as a natural killer cell enhancer. Natural killer cells are part of the immune system that respond first when an illness threatens. I have used this product for years and it is very effective as a first line defense against colds and flus. I take two twice per day for a few days if I feel run down or am being exposed to a particularly high amount of germs in a stressful environment such as traveling. Whenever I fly, inevitably I am sitting right next to someone who is copiously sneezing and snorting. Then I think about the one cubic feet of air being filtered for the 280 people on the plane and I take out a bottle of mushroom extract and pop a few for peace of mind.

Last year, I discovered Paul Stamets and his company Host Defense. Stamets is a mushroom nerd. There is probably a more technical term for his avocation like fungologist. All I know is if you ever read anything he has written it makes you want to go out and eat mushrooms by the handfuls. After reading one of his treatises last week, I ran out and bought a half pound of shitake mushrooms to sauté. He talks about mushrooms like they are the most luminous and magical plants in the world.

His classic mushroom mixture product for general immune enhancement is called My Community. Host Defense has a line of mushrooms but My Community is the place to start for beginners. If you are having a hard winter, immune-wise, consider taking two per day. If you are having an awful winter, double that dose. If you are still having trouble, you might have to take a deeper look at your sleep, eating and exercise habits and brush up on those happy thoughts.