Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Avoiding The Flu This Winter, Or Summer

Some of my blog posts, and my interest, lies in natural means to reduce mortality rates, so I was pleased to hear recently that falling death rates in the UK have been significant enough to affect the shares of funeral parlours. Unfortunately, this article also stated that there was a recent rise in mortality rates because of a particularly nasty flu season. With winter arriving in Australia soon, I would like to share some ways to reduce the risk of catching influenza, which kills many immunocompromised each year.

I will start with a vitamin that has for a long time been associated with the prevention of infections...not vitamin C, but vitamin D. Researchers from Winthrop University Hospital found that giving vitamin D supplements to women of an Afro-Caribbean background (darker skin reduces vitamin D production) reduced common cold and influenza infections by 70% over three years. These researchers stated that the additional vitamin D increased stimulation of innate immunity, that is, the immunity that you don't have to take days to "learn" whenever your immune system meets a new disease-causing microbe. The drop in vitamin D production that comes with spending less time in the sun is a likely trigger of the "flu season", and partly why the elderly are more vulnerable to influenza as other health problems can mean spending less time outside. The news article describing this study also discussed research showing protective effects of vitamin D against multiple sclerosis, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Giant kelp, a vegetable rich in iodine.
Older research, published in 1945, shows a protective effect of iodine against influenza. When mice were exposed to the influenza virus, the disease was prevented by putting iodine solution on the snouts of the mice. It is said that students in some classrooms were once protected from influenza by iodine aerosol sprays, so why not the elderly in nursing homes? It is likely that many elderly people have suboptimal iodine levels, because while it is added to table salt, many doctors advise against salt consumption. A quote attributed to Dr Volney S Cheney also describes an ability of sodium bicarbonate to either prevent influenza or turn an often serious disease into a mild infection, while living in the shadow of the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918-19. In animal studies, another mineral, selenium, has been found to significantly cut down the severity of influenza infections. Selenium is one of the nutrients required for glutathione production, an antioxidant produced by our bodies which can prevent damage, to our immune cells and other tissues, caused by infection-induced inflammation. The top food source of selenium is Brazil nuts. While there are many herbs which can fight influenza, such as Pelargonium sidoides, I focused on affordable nutrients in this post because of the financial restrictions of many elderly people, who are usually the worst affected during the flu season.

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