Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Danger of Flu--Getting Pneumonia

About 5-20% of the US population gets the flu each year.  The worst months are usually between December and March.  A good portion of those that think they have the flu actually have another virus.  The CDC reported that in the first 3 weeks of January this year about 12,000 people were tested for the influenza virus and only 3,000 tested positive.

In general influenza may make you feel miserable and cause you to miss work, but isn't dangerous.   The symptoms of influenza include fever, headache, cough, chills, sore throat, nasal congestion, muscle aches, loss of appetite, and a general achy and lousy feeling, obviously no fun for anyone.  But the majority of people get better without any medication as their immune system fights the virus.  Anti-viral medication may reduce the symptoms by a few days, if started at the beginning of the illness. Most of the symptoms are actually caused by the immune system, not the virus.

But the danger is, 10% or more of people with influenza may get the serious complication of pneumonia, caused either by the influenza virus or more often by a secondary bacterial infection.  6.3% of those with influenza and pneumonia died in the third week of January this year.  The air sacs in the lungs fill with pus and other fluid, blocking the oxygen from getting into the bloodstream and out to the body.  If there is too little oxygen in the blood stream, the cells cannot work properly and can possibly lead to death.  This is the most common cause of death from influenza.

The symptoms of pneumonia include:
  • High fever
  • Shaking chills
  • A productive cough with thick or bloody phlegm
  • Shortness of breath with normal daily activities
  • Chest pain when you breathe or cough
  • Feeling suddenly worse after the flu
  • A general feeling of weakness and ill health 

  • If you're an older adult, you may have fewer and milder symptoms. Remember there is such thing as "walking pneumonia." You may even have a lower than normal temperature. Older adults who catch pneumonia also sometimes have sudden changes in mental awareness because of lack of oxygen to the brain.

     Pneumonia can be surmised from listening to the lungs, with the area filled with fluid having decreased breath sounds, where bronchitis has wet, moist sounds.  But the only way to truly diagonse is with x-ray, showing an opaque area where the fluid has accumulated.

    The people most at risk for pneumonia are those whose immune systems are weaker.  This includes the very young, the very old, people with chronic diseases, those who smoke, people with AIDS, immune systems which have been affected by birth defects, or those on certain medications which weaken the immune system, such as steroids like prednisone.   But old age is the greatest risk factor.  60% of those hospitalized for pneumonia are 65 and older, and 90% of influenza related pneumonia deaths occur in those aged 65 years or older.

    If you suspect that you may have pneumonia, definitely see a doctor and get on antibiotics.  Guaifenisen and nebulizer treatments with simple normal saline help moisten the lungs to be able to better cough up the fluid.  Steroid inhalers can reduce the inflammation. 

    Alternatively, high dose intravenous vitamin C will help, though it should be used in combination with antibiotics.  High dose vitamin A (not beta-carotene) of up to 100,000 IU/day for 3 days, then 50,000 IU/day until symptoms improve, will help strengthen the lining of the lungs to fight the infection.  Dr. Christopher's Lung and Bronchial formula helps to loosen and bring up mucus.  Bromelain and other digestive enzymes, when used between meals, reduce the inflammation.  Colloidal silver can act as a natural antibiotic.  Shiitake and Maitake mushrooms can help support the immune system.  And make sure to use probiotics any time you are on antibiotics.

    Eat well, sleep enough, wash your hands, exercise (but not TOO much), take Vitamin D and C, to build your immune system to prevent getting influenza and prevent getting complications such as pneumonia.

    Until we meet again,
    Dr. Judi

    Sunday, January 27, 2013

    The Incredible Health Effects of Berberine

    Berberine has been found to work as an antibiotic, and anti-fungal/anti-candida agent, reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, support the cardiovascular system, works as an anti-inflammatory, reduces fatty liver disease, reduces leaky gut syndrome, acts as an antidepressant, and has anti-cancer effects.  It also lowers blood sugar and reduces insulin resistance, in one study as effectively as metformin.

    Because people with diabetes are at risk for candida, high cholesterol and triglycerides, heart disease, inflammation, fatty liver, intestinal problems, mood disorders and cancer, they may want to consider taking berberine to not only assist in lowering blood sugar, but in protecting their body from all the risks associated with diabetes.

    (SpringTree Glucose Balance has 500 mg of berberine with each serving.)

    Berberine is a strongly yellow colored compound found in plants such as Oregon grape, Barberry, Goldenseal and others.  It has been used for centuries for both its medicinal properties and as a natural dye.
    Berberine is a nucleic acid-binding isoquinolone alkaloid with wide potential therapeutic properties.  Berberine prevents and suppresses proinflammatory cytokines, E-selectin, and genes, and increases adiponectin expression.

    Antibiotic properties
    Berberine has long been used as an antibiotic, such as in Goldenseal.  Studies have shown that it has effectiveness against Staphylococcus Aureus, and possibly against MRSA. 

    Antifungal and antiyeast properties
    Berberine has shown some activity against fungal infections, Candida albicans, yeast, parasites, and bacterial/viral infections. Berberine seems to exert synergistic effects with fluconazole (an anti-fungal medication) even in drug-resistant C. albicans infections. 

    Support of the cardiovascular system
    During the last few decades, many studies have shown berberine has various beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system.  Berberine lowers elevated blood total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and atherogenic apolipoproteins (Apo B).  It seems to improve arterial endothelial function.  Clinical and experimental studies show that berberine may be useful in congestive heart failure.

    Anti-inflammatory properties
     Berberine has significant anti-inflammatory activities.  It restores cellular redox by inhibiting gp91phos expression and enhancing SOD, the body's super anti-oxidant.  It suppresses pro-inflammatory cytokines and reduces pro-inflammatory gene expression.

    Profoundly positive effects in diabetes
    Exciting new research is showing that berberine has been shown to lower elevated blood glucose as effectively as metformin.  Using 500 mg. three times per day, there were significant decreases in hemoglobin A1C, fasting blood glucose, after meal (postprandial) blood glucose, and triglyceride levels.  The mechanisms of action include inhibition of aldose reductase, inducing glycolysis, preventing insulin resistance through increasing insulin receptor expression and acting like incretins.  A new study suggested berberine may overcome insulin resistance via modulating key molecules in insulin signaling pathway, leading to increased glucose uptake in insulin-resistant cells.

    Fatty liver disease
    Berberine reduces hepatic fat content in the rats of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Berberine also prevents proliferation of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), which are central for the development of fibrosis during liver injury.

    Berberine has drawn extensive attention towards its antineoplastic effects. It seems to suppress the growth of a wide variety of tumor cells, including breast cancer, leukemia, melanoma, epidermoid carcinoma, hepatoma, pancreatic cancer, oral carcinoma, tongue carcinoma, glioblastoma, prostate carcinoma and gastric carcinoma. Animal studies have shown that berberine can suppress chemical-induced carcinogenesis, clastogenesis, tumor promotion, tumor invasion, prostate cancer, neuroblastoma, and leukemia.

    Brain and Mental Health
    Berberine seems to act as an herbal antidepressant and a neuroprotector against neurodegenerative disorders.  As berberine is a natural compound that has been safely administered to humans, preliminary results have been found in clinical trials in patients with depression, bipolar affective disorder, schizophrenia, or related diseases in which cognitive capabilities are affected, with either the extract or pure berberine.   It increases noradrenaline and serotonin levels in the brain (rats) while inhibiting dopaminergic activity.  It may increase the number of serotonin transporters available in the brain, enhacing the reuptake of serotonin.  The half-life of berberine in vivo seems to be three to four hours, thus suggesting administration three times a day if steady levels are to be achieved.

    New experimental results suggest berberine may have a potential for inhibition and prevention of Alzheimers Disease(AD), mainly through both cholinesterase (ChEs) inhibitory and β-amyloids pathways, and additionally through antioxidant capacities.

    Intestinal Disorders
    As an antibiotic and antifungal berberine reduces intestinal dysbiosis (abnormal gut bacteria and yeast).  Berberine can ameliorate proinflammatory cytokines-induced intestinal epithelial tight junction damage (which causes "leaky gut syndrome") in vitro, and berberine may be one of the targeted therapeutic agents that can restore barrier function in intestinal disease states.

    Consider Berberine as one of your regular supplements, especially if you have pre-diabetes or diabetes.

    Until we meet again,
    Dr. Judi

    Friday, January 18, 2013

    Preventing and Treating the Flu and Other Viruses Naturally

    This season is supposed to be the worst flu season in ten years.  It is true that there is a lot of illness going around this winter, however, most people don't actually have the flu.  The "stomach flu" is not actually from the influenza virus; it is caused by other viruses.  The influenza virus causes respiratory illness, however, what most people consider the flu may actually be just a bad cold.

    Most people who actually get the flu are sick for a week or two and get better.  Most people who get colds are sick for a few days to a couple of weeks and get better.  However, if the immune system is weakened, colds and the flu can worsen and become bronchitis or even pneumonia.  Most of the deaths caused by the influenza virus are caused by pneumonia, because antibiotics cannot kill a virus.

    The majority of illnesses in winter are viruses.  The flu and colds are from viruses.  Even most bronchitis is related to viruses.  However, if the immune system is weak, it is easier for a viral infection to become a bacterial infection, and turn into a more serious infection.

    If the immune system is strong, it can usually fight off a bacterial infection even without antibiotics.  Humanity has survived for millenia without antibiotics, because the immune system works.  Antibiotics should be reserved for serious infections that are more prone to overwhelm the immune system.  Using antibiotics for minor infections keeps the immune system weak and causes antibiotic resistance, so that when a major infection comes it is harder to find an antibiotic that works.

    The flu shot is still controversial.  Some people swear it is what keeps them from getting sick.  Others say they get sicker when they get the shot.  I'm sure it depends on each individual's system whether the vaccine helps them or not.  But the truth is, the influenza vaccine has never been proven effective or completely safe.  There is mercury in the multidose vials, and aluminum, formaldehyde and other toxic additives in it.  If you get the single dose vial, instead of mercury you get 2-Phenoxyethanol, an anti-bacterial agent being used as a replacement for the preservative Thimerosal (mercury). This has it's own level of toxicity.  If a person already has a heavy toxic load, known or unknown, the flu shot might worsen the immune system and cause other problems.

    If you decide not to get a flu shot, or even if you do, how do you protect yourself from the winter viruses?  By reducing your exposure and building your immune system.  The following are things you can do to keep yourself healthier during the winter virus season.

    Reducing Exposure

    We are all aware of these--don't leave the house if you are sick, don't go into crowds, wash hands frequently, don't shake hands, avoid being around sick children and others, etc. 

    Cochrane Collaboration research shows that washing your hands frequently is THE BEST way to curb the spread of respiratory infections. Dr. Tom Jefferson of Cochrane told the magazine Der Spiegel… "This method can fight against the 200 pathogens that bring about flu symptoms as well as against gastrointestinal viruses and completely unknown germs. One study done in Pakistan has shown that hand-washing can even save children's lives."
    But since all of these aren't always possible, it is important to build the immune system, so even if you do get sick it is not a serious illness.

    Remember, getting sick is not a bad thing.  If your immune system is healthy, getting sick actually builds your immune system so that it is resistant to getting that illness in the future.  So if you have a healthy immune system and you get the flu this year, it is better than a vaccine at preventing the flu next year.

    Building the Immune System

    Vitamin C--the old standby, but that is because it does make a difference.  For prevention in children use a 500 mg chewable tablet a day, in adults 1,000 to 2,000 mg per day. 

    If your child starts to get sick, increase the dose to 500 mg every 2 hours.  As an adult use 1,000 mg every 1 to 2 hours.  It seems like a lot, but if you study animals, who make their own vitamin C, when they get sick their levels go much higher than this.  When you are sick your body can handle more vitamin C than when well.  It needs more.  If you get diarrhea you can back off, but I haven't seen that happen to those on high doses when they are sick.

    If you get the influenza virus and it is hitting you hard, get high dose (40-60 grams) intravenous vitamin C from your local integrative doctor (  This will usually turn the flu around so that you start to get better rather than worse.  If your doctor does ozone autohemotherapy and ultraviolet therapy ( that will add to the effectiveness.

    Vitamin D--the majority of the US population is low in Vitamin D unless they are supplementing, because of the fear of the sun, sunscreen, covering ourselves up, and the angle of the sun in the more northern latitudes.  In my patient population in Utah probably around 90% are lower than optimal, even when they are taking Vitamin D. 

    Ask your doctor to take your level--it is a simple blood test.  In the winter, for full immune protection, we want a level between 60-100.  To keep it at that level you may need 5,000 to 10,000 IU per day.  Most supplements have around 400 IU.  Most people need more than that.  There is one study which shows that adequate levels of vitamin D is more effective than the flu shot in preventing flu.

    If you do get a virus, double your dose of Vitamin D until you are better.  It will lessen the damage done by the virus and support the immune system in fighting it.

    Vitamin A and Beta Carotene

    Getting 5,000 IU of Vitamin A and 10,000 IU of Beta Carotene a day during the flu season supports your immune system and assists the body in fighting off viruses that you may pick up even before symptoms start.

    If you do get a virus, use 50,000 to 100,00 IU of Vitamin A (NOT Beta Carotene--look at the labels) a day for 3 days.  This can be very effective in assisting your immune system to get rid of the virus.

    Other antioxidants

    A good multivitamin/mineral with zinc, selenium, and vitamin E (preferably mixed tocopherols) is also helpful.


    Various herbs and other plants have been used in many indigenous cultures for centuries to support the immune system.  Some of the best: 
    • Astragalus--100 to 150 mg/day for prevention, 3 times a day if you get sick.
    • South African geranium (umckaloabo)--especially with bronchitis, 20 mg/day for prevention, 3 times a day if you get sick
    • Diamond Mills Yeast, baker's yeast, medicinal mushrooms (such as maitake) which all contain Beta-glucan, or Beta-glucan supplements themselves.  I take Diamond Mills Yeast, 1/3 tsp a day, found at animal feed stores.  It is also found in the supplement EpiCor.  Maitake Gold beta-glucan is another source.
    • Echinacea--beware of the source--use liquid extract or product made from the fresh aerial portion of the plant, which should be printed on the label.
    Adequate Sleep

    Sometimes we find ourselves unable to sleep.  This can be related to hormones, anxiety, depression, stress, etc.  Consider using a combination of melatonin, herbs such as valerian root, and 5-HTP.  Homeopathics such as Calms Forte may also work.

    More often we just don't allow ourselves to go to bed on time.  There is always more work to do, or one more TV show to watch, or having to catch up on Facebook, or an exciting book to read.  Flu season is especially the time when you make a choice to get enough sleep.

    Time for Stress Relief

    I find that the only time I get sick is when I choose to be overworked and overstressed.  Meditation, letting go of fears and worries and recognizing that love is all there is, taking time for healthy and relaxing recreation, recognizing that it is not the end of the world if I don't get everything done are more important to keeping well than any precautionary measure or supplement.

    When I am stressed, depressed, angry, upset, or anxious I don't feel well.  When I recognize where my thoughts and feelings are taking me, I choose to deliberately feel the emotions, and then choose to change my perspective.  Stress, worry and negative thinking don't change anything.  So I choose to believe everything is going to work out in the end, even if it seems hard right now, and it does!  Change your thoughts, look at life through rose colored glasses, be a Pollyanna, count your successes rather than your failures, be as kind and loving to yourself as you are to others.

    When I get sick, it is a sign to me to slow down.  If I go to work or out doing errands I expose everyone else to my illness.  I get over it much faster if I just take a day off, relax, find my inner peace and sleep.  Lots of things don't get done, I don't make any money, others are disappointed that I'm not there doing my work, but by doing this I get better much faster and I don't get sick as often.  It works out in the end.

    Take life one day at a time and know that your body has the capacity to heal itself!

    Until we meet again,
    Dr. Judi