#11) Will You Get the Flu this Winter?

Yaakov Levine, NTP

The information provided in this article is intended to give a general overview of the topic and is not intended as medical advice. For information specific to your situation, or health concerns, please consult with your medical doctor.  

Nutritionally Speaking: Article #11, Will You Get the Flu this Winter?

With the current warm (during the day) and dry weather it is hard to believe that the official start of Fall is a few days away. With the shorter and hopefully rainier days will come the next round of flu and cold symptoms. The pharmacies are already advertising their deals for flu shots.

I have heard some folks say that all they have to do is get a flu vaccination, and they will not have to worry about this potential illness. With all of our upcoming holiday traveling, stress, sugary treats, many of us will have compromised immune systems and need more than the annual flu vaccine to stay healthy. As we age we need to be a bit more proactive to support our immune system. A nutrient that helps support immune function is vitamin D

We produce Vitamin D in our skin (especially our torso area, which most of us do not regularly expose)) when it is exposed to the suns rays. Have you noticed that the darker and  colder times of year are also the cold and flu season? Do you think there is a connection between the lack of sun exposure and subsequent Vitamin D production and the time we are most susceptible to these viruses? This is not a coincidence. Vitamin D supports a healthy immune system, and if not available from the sun, can be obtained from food or from  a dietary supplement at your local health food store.

Maintaining an adequate level of Vitamin D  is a challenge for most of us, even in the summer,  especially here in the NW. The most at risk for Vitamin D deficiency are adults and children that spend most of their time inside and/or lead a sedentary lifestyle, which often leads to reduced immunity and obesity. I suggest spending time outside with skin exposed (when the sun is out) to have the opportunity to produce some of your own Vitamin D. Get a blood test for Vitamin D, though we rarely see blood test results showing adequate Vitamin D especially this time of year. Adequate levels of vitamin D are required so our bodies can produce AMP’s (Anti-microbial peptides), proteins that directly kill viruses.

Food sources of Vitamin D are salmon, sardines, mackerel and eggs. One option is to take a good quality Cod Liver Oil (available in liquid or capsules) which has naturally occurring Vitamins A & D. Make sure any vitamin D supplements you take are Vitamin D3 which is the natural form and more usable by your body then the synthetic D2 as is found in fortified food products. There are many absorbable vitamin D products available at stores that primarily sell dietary supplements, stores that will have better quality supplements then the less expensive, often synthetic versions at department or drug stores. You get what you pay for..if it’s cheap, it may not offer any benefits.

Here are some additional suggestions for the cold and flu season:

A long used homeopathic flu remedy; Oscillococcinum is a proven remedy especially if taken at the onset of flu symptoms, keep some in the house to have available for immediate use with onset of symptoms. Reports support the use of the homeopathic remedy Nux Vomica as a potential remedy for the H1N1 flu virus.

There have been many studies on Elderberry syrup or extract showing that this remedy prevents the flu and cold viruses from reproducing, reducing the length and severity of the illness.

A long time cold/flu  preventative formula is called Wellness Formula from Source Naturals and is used in a low dose to prevent illness, and at a larger dose when ill to support recovery. There are many other formulas available at your health food store.

Maintaining a healthy level of zinc is critical for a healthy immune system. As we age we see a corresponding lower level of zinc, and stomach acid, which leads to digestive issues as well and susceptibility to disease. There are many types of zinc supplements and lozenges available which can help you fight the cold/ and flu and support digestive health.

Cultured or fermented foods, including full fat/ yogurt (without added sugar), kefir, and cultured vegetables such as sauerkraut support the digestive system and in turn support normal immune function.  Around 80% of our immune system is in our gut, so a healthy inner ecology….digestive system can be the key to a cold/flu free winter.

These are just a few tools for your fight against the seasonal colds and flu. I also suggest employing the following suggestions from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control):

.Wash your hands often.

.Cover your sneezes with a tissue or your sleeve.

.Don’t touch your eyes.

.Drink plenty of fluids.

.Take a sauna.

.Get plenty of fresh air.

There are many ways to avoid and fight the seasonal cold and flu viruses. The supplements and remedies and foods I have described are available at the “healthier” food and supplements stores in our area.  Increase the healthy fats in you diet, eat your (vitamin/mineral rich) Organic vegetables, reduce your intake of sugar and white flour and processed foods. For additional information on avoiding the seasonal cold/virus please contact me at nutritionallyspeaking@gmail.com or (541) 895-2427.

The new Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage store (201 Coburg Rd. Eugene) where I am  the Nutritional Health Coach (NHC) on staff is now open! When you are next in Eugene, stop in for a visit.

Yaakov Levine, NTP