Swine flu is currently at the forefront of our health concerns. Experts are predicting a pandemic this season. The White House estimates that roughly 90,000 people will die of the swine flu – more than twice the number in a typical flu season. Vaccine manufacturers are working overtime to create a flu vaccine; this vaccine is expected to be ready by the middle of October.
The symptoms of the swine flu are pretty much identical to the symptoms of regular influenza, including a cough, fever, achy muscles, fatigue, and headaches, so it will be difficult to tell the difference – and perhaps beside the point. Also, just like the regular flu, swine flu is spread through airborne droplets from coughing, or from direct contact with a person who has swine flu.
It is important to know who is most likely to contract swine flu. Those at highest risk include:
- Children aged 6 months up to their 19th birthday (but the younger the child the higher the risk).
- Pregnant women.
- People 50 years of age and older.
- People of any age with heart or lung disease (asthma, COPD, emphysema), or diabetes.
- People with weakened immune systems.
Since the swine flu is a new strain of the flu that we have not been exposed to yet, we have yet to develop immunity, and everyone is at risk of contracting the swine flu. This is why people are so concerned about the swine flu this year.
There are many people who are leery of the swine flu vaccine for various reasons. It is not my intention to persuade those who are ready to take the vaccine not to take it. But there are other ways to prevent the swine flu using natural methods, and to decrease its severity if it does hit. Simply doing nothing and passively relying on the body’s ability to heal itself is foolish. We need to actively support the body’s ability to fight off the swine flu.
First off, we can look at the common sense basics that apply pretty much to all common upper respiratory tract diseases (common colds, influenza, etc.) These include:
- Decreasing your intake of sugars and other simple carbohydrates. These have been proven to suppress the immune system by reducing the white blood cell count for up to 24 hours.
- Drinking plenty of water…ideally, at least 1 ounce per 3 pounds of body weight per day. (150 lbs = 50 oz of water.)
- Getting plenty of sleep.
- Washing your hands often, particularly if you are around people who may be sick.
- Optimizing your nutritional status
This last one is a bit vague…after all, if you’re eating well or at least taking a multivitamin, don’t you have good nutritional status? The short answer, almost without exception, is “no.” The food we eat nowadays is generally deficient in vitamins and minerals for various reasons. And multivitamins are helpful, but I consider multivitamins a good basic “insurance plan,” when the goal is just health maintenance. In this case, our goal is to prevent the swine flu, so it is good to tailor nutritional supplementation accordingly.
The most discussed natural method of preventing the swine flu this year is vitamin D supplementation. Vitamin D is often found in food in doses that are laughably low compared with what our body needs. Certain coldwater fish are the only significant dietary source of vitamin D. The best source of vitamin D is the sun. Light-skinned individuals can produce up to 20,000 IUs of vitamin D merely by spending 15 minutes in direct sunlight, while one cup of fortified milk provides only 100 IUs of vitamin D. The recommended daily allowance of vitamin D is 200 IUs for adults, 400 IUs for children – but this is only to prevent bone diseases like rickets and osteomalacia, not to optimize immune function.
There is significant evidence nowadays linking low vitamin D levels in the body to low immunity. Indeed, some health care professionals and scientists – myself included – consider the lack of sunlight exposure in the winter months (and the resultant lack of vitamin D absorption) a significant reason why colds and the flu are so prevalent at this time.
It is a good idea to get your vitamin D levels checked right now. They should be above 50 ng/mL. If you are an adult, and your vitamin D levels are low, start high-dose supplementation of 5,000 IUs per day, then check again in 3 months. Or get plenty of sunshine- at least 15 minutes of direct sunlight on as much skin as possible every day.