With the school year about to begin, one of the biggest news items here in Italy concerns what is commonly referred to as “swine flu” (or, more appropriately, the “novel H1N1 virus,” since this flu virus is actually a mishmash of a few different flu strains—human, bird AND pig). How do we protect ourselves, especially those of us who are at a greater risk than the general population?
To be honest, I am not really concerned for myself, since my exposure will probably (?) be minimal compared to others…I am much more concerned for my friend Sherlock who, because of her job, has to commute by train to northern Italy at least once a week…and that is the main reason why I decided to do a bit of research and write this post.
I do believe that we can take a few extra precautions, aside from the usual, obvious ones, such as: washing our hands frequently and thoroughly, carrying a hand sterilizer around with us at all times, never touching our eyes/nose/mouth when out in public (supermarkets, etc.), avoiding folks who are coughing and sneezing, eating and sleeping well, having a healthy diet, eating lots of garlic and onions so we can keep sick people at bay, etc.
In addition to all of that, Sherlock and I are currently taking a lyophilized bacterial extract designed to stimulate our immune systems to fight against respiratory tract infections. It increases the production of our T cells and also of our IgA, IgG and IgM, so I suspect that my total IgG may be on the high side when I go in for my next set of blood tests. This is the second year I have taken these capsules, with good results, by the way.
I also believe that our daily intake of curcumin, with its antibacterial and antiviral properties, will help stave off the flu for both of us…or make it less virulent if we happen to become ill. Oh, and let’s not forget the flu vaccine that, according to today’s news report, will be available at the end of October (in Italy).
Last but not least, Sherlock and I are also taking extra vitamin D, which leads me to the main point of today’s post.
Based on epidemiological evidence and on the 1940s (!) finding that mice that receive diets low in vitamin D are more susceptible to experimental swine flu infection than those that receive adequate vitamin D (see: http://tinyurl.com/n7ytwy), the Public Health Agency of Canada is currently investigating whether or not vitamin D supplementation could help prevent the H1N1 flu. I should note that Health Canada already has an ongoing study on vitamin D and the prevention of seasonal influenza.
Another excerpt (from the above link): new research suggests that vitamin D induces the production of antimicrobial substances in the body that possess neutralizing activity against a variety of infectious agents including influenza virus.
Well, I am not going to wait for the results of the Health Canada study. It makes a lot of sense to me to take enough vitamin D to help my body fight off this and other viruses, so I have decided to increase my vitamin D supplementation a notch or two…making sure, of course, that I don’t go too near the upper tolerated limit. Too much of a good thing…as the saying goes…!
A good source of all-you-wanted-to-know-and-more information on vitamin D is the Vitamin D Council, see here: http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/ And here is the specific link to the Vitamin D Council’s Executive Director (an MD)’s responses to public questions about the H1N1 virus: http://tinyurl.com/mrssnk
Quite a bit of information on this novel virus, including symptoms and at-risk groups (people with asthma, diabetes, suppressed immune systems, heart disease, kidney disease, neurocognitive and neuromuscular disorders and pregnancy), can be found here: http://www.cdc.gov/H1N1flu/qa.htm