Flu D’fense

A common question for everyone these days is, “If I don’t get vaccinated, what should I do to stay healthy?” Some basic things you can do for prevention have been written up by Marq in his post, tranquil way to keep germs at bay. In addition to his suggestions, I would add the herb elderberry (no, it’s not just berries that are good for old people).

Elderberry is high in anthocyanins, which are flavonoid pigments found in all dark purple, blue, and red fruits and vegetables. These flavonoids act as an immune enhancer, powerful antioxidant, and also have an anti-inflammatory effect which helps to temper aches and pains. Elderberry can be found in liquid form and is very palatable for both adults and kids.

We all know about vitamin C, but perhaps the most exciting and latest vitamin in the news these days for prevention of the flu is vitamin D. With the weather looking a little like Seattle lately, I’m longing for the yellow orb in the sky that’s been hidden for days. Where did the sun go?

Without the sun shining down on us in the fall and wintertime, we lack the most effective source of vitamin D. Optimizing vitamin D levels during this season is one of the best things we can do to protect ourselves against the flu.

It is not a coincidence that the incidence of H1N1 decreased during the summertime, only to rapidly increase in the fall leading to an emergency declaration by President Obama.

What does vitamin D do?

The most well known role of vitamin D relates to bone health, as it is essential for both the absorption and utilization of calcium and phosphorus.

Recent research has shown that vitamin D also plays a very important role in mediating our immune response. With ample levels of vitamin D, our bodies are able to increase its natural supply of anti-microbial peptides (AMPs). These AMPs are our body’s natural way of killing bacteria and viruses. The AMPs provide an immediate and frontline defense against an infection.

Even more exciting is that research also shows that vitamin D is able to control the immune system from over-reacting once it has been activated. When you are fighting off an infection, your body produces cytokines. These are signaling molecules that help fight the infection by producing inflammation and fever.

This normal immune response works perfectly so long as your immune system doesn’t go into overdrive. A continual production of inflammation doesn’t just stop at fighting the infection, but may go on to break down healthy cells. Vitamin D works to prevent this from happening.
So with optimal levels of vitamin D, your body has a strong, immediate defense against colds and flu, while also being protected from an over-reactive immune response.

So you want to get vitamin D?

Did you know about twenty minutes of sun exposure to UVB rays (without sunblock) gives you about thirty times more vitamin D than a serving of salmon?

Without sun exposure, you can opt to eat tremendous amounts of salmon every day (very fishy), or you can just supplement with vitamin D (much easier). The current Adequate Intake for vitamin D still stands at 200 IU. This amount is just enough to prevent rickets.

Ask your doctor to test your blood levels of vitamin D before you begin supplementation. This will help your doctor to determine a proper dosage for you to achieve optimal levels. It is recommended to maintain blood levels of vitamin D within the range of 50-80 ng/ml.

Guard yourself against the flu with vitamin D, don’t let the flu get you.
For more information about vitamin D, visit vitamindcouncil.org.
For up to date information about H1N1 and vaccinations, cdc.gov/h1n1flu/infectioncontrol.

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