Friday, September 25, 2009

To Flu or Not to Flu

As autumn rolls around (these beautiful trees are in my back yard!) the big health concern on everyone's mind (besides the so-called new health plan Congress will never agree on) is the H1N1 influenza virus. I would say Swine flu, but that's no longer politically correct, so we can please the hog farmers :-) Even though this new strain of flu is generally very mild, it has been surrounded by a lot of fear. It is quite a friendly little virus, passing easily from one person to another, so if it comes around your neighborhood, you are quite likely to be visited.

Joking aside, there have been deaths from this virus, just as there are every flu season. This one seems to be more serious for pregnant women, which is a major concern. So there is a rush to get a vaccine out to protect those at risk.

And the question on everyone's mind is, should I get the vaccine or not? Is it safe? Will I have problems if I get it? Will I get pneumonia, or even die, if I don't vaccinate?

The hard fact is, no one knows. Ever since there was a higher number of people who suffered from Guillain-Barre Syndrome (ascending paralysis) who had received the 1976 flu vaccine, the safety of the flu vaccine has been suspect in the minds of the public. And because the flu vaccine causes an inflammatory reaction that often feels like the flu, a lot of people say they feel worse when they get the shot than they do from the flu.

But there are others who swear by the flu shot, and feel it has made a big difference for them. They are ready to be vaccinated yearly, because they have had good results.

For most people, getting the flu can cause them to feel miserable and often put them to bed for a few days, but rarely is it serious. It is generally more serious for those with weakened immune systems, such as the chronically ill and the very elderly, and infants who are not being breast fed. And rarely, someone seemingly healthy gets very sick and may die. But this is rare enough that most of us don't worry a lot about getting the flu.

But because of the hype surrounding the H1N1 flu virus, more of us are considering the possibilities of ourselves or our loved ones being possible victims of a more severe illness.

However, the vaccine for the H1N1 virus is being pushed through trials quickly, and no one knows the long-term effects. Is it going to be safe? We hope so, but we don't really know.

So what do we do?

This is a decision that each person must make within their own heart. There is something inside that will give us guidance about if the vaccine is the best thing for us and our families.

However, whether we get the vaccine or not, there are many things we can do to protect ourselves and prepare our immune systems to be able to fight whatever may come. Here are a few things that may help prepare you:

1. Wash your hands. With soap. Frequently. Of course. We've known this since kindergarten. But it works! Better than the alcohol anti-bacterial gels. However, both hand washing and alcohol gels work only to kill the germs in that moment. The next thing you touch will contaminate again. So I recommend a product called PureWorks Antibacterial Foam. It is non-toxic, and not only kills germs for several hours, but kills the germs on things you touch as well. I'm not a distributor, but I buy and use the product in my office.

2. A good multi-vitamin mineral supplement. Making sure the body has what it needs to be healthy is important. I would recommend my new line of supplements, but they are still in manufacturing. But even the CostCo or Sam's Club brand are good. If you do get sick, take two a day.

3. Extra Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin D. These are all important for a healthy immune system. Unless you are pregnant, consider taking 10,000 IU of Vitamin A during the flu season. If you get the flu, increase the dose to about 100,000 IU a day for 3 days (not longer). Vitamin A has virus fighting properties. If you are pregnant, it is recommended you take no more than 5,000 IU a day, or it could be toxic to the baby.
Take about 1,000 mg. of Vitamin C a day. If you start to get sick, increase it to 1,000 mg. every hour while you're awake. It that gives you diarrhea, back down to the level where it stops.
Vitamin D is very important for a healthy immune system, and most of us are deficient, even if we get enough sun. I recommend in general 1,000 IU a day, though some may need more. Ask your doctor to check your 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels.

4. Dramatically reduce sugars and refined carbohydrates this flu season. Sugar, besides using up essential minerals, has a depressing effect on the immune system. The sugar from one soda can inactivate the macrophages (that destroy viruses and bacteria) for up to four hours.
And don't depend on artificial sweeteners as a substitute. They have some toxic effects and are stressful to the body.
However, raw honey and xylitol have anti-bacterial and viral properties. And stevia and agave nectar are safe to use. Xylitol comes in a nasal spray as well to reduce bacteria in the nose and sinuses.

5. Take time for relaxation and Get enough sleep. Stress, more than anything else, makes us susceptible to getting sick. When we burn the candle at both ends and don't allow time to rebuild, we are more apt to get sick. Our bodies break down during the activities of the day (catabolism) and use the rest and sleep time to rebuild (anabolism). Make sure your body has adequate time to rebuild itself.

These simple things can be extremely effective in keeping us well this fall and winter. Take care and be flu-proof!

Until we meet again,
Dr. Judi


Laura said...

This was the best education on the topic I have read so far! It's all so confusing! We chose to get the flu vaccine, but I'm waiting on the H1N1. I've noticed my best defense, since I've been going to you, is finding out what foods my body is sensitive to & avoid them. My asthma has dramatically improved, as well as my stomach problems & I rarely get sick compared to before. I know my immune systen is stronger when I don't eat these foods. The supplements have made a big difference to me also. Thanks for all the great advice.

Laura said...

I forgot to ask yesterday....should we increase the same vitamins for kids during the flu season & what are the safe doses?

Dr. Judi said...

In a child over 5, 5,000 IU of Vitamin A a day is safe during the flu season, 10-20 mg. of zinc, 400-1000 IU of Vitamin D, 500 to 1000 mg of Vit. C.

We have homeopathic shots at our office that help the defense mechanism protect against the flu and fight the flu if you get it.

We are starting Low Dose Antigen immunotherapy shots at our clinic this month to reduce allergies. I'm really excited about them because they work quite well.