By Clive Lindley-Jones | December 7, 2009 5:13 pm
Sometimes, it is hard to take each new mega-scare story seriously when you don't have the job of advising governments or preparing hospitals for the worst case scenario. With so much spin whistling around and everyone required to watch their backs knowing, if they are in the public eye, that whatever they say, someone will attack them for it, it can be hard to know what is true and what is spin in The Great 2009 Swine Flu Story.
It is now well over five months since the World Health Organisation declared the first global flu epidemic in 41 years, moving towards the first influenza pandemic of the 21st century. Despite being a spring start (in the northern hemisphere) which often augurs a more serious pandemic, this one seems, so far, to be turning out to be somewhat less all encompassing than feared, although it is probably a bit too early to relax. What confuses many is that it is either a disease that you can have for a few days and get over easily or, for the unlucky few, one that you can get seriously ill and even die from. Unlike most common strains of flu which regularly kill 8000, mostly older and immune-impaired people, every year in the UK, this time it seems to be the young or the pregnant who are most at risk from serious or fatal illness.
What can a person do? There are serious question marks hanging over the vaccine and two main anti-viral drugs, Osteltamivir (Tamiflu) and Zanivir (Relenza), carry some strong risks of unpleasant side effects[C1] ,the most common being vomiting, nausea and dizziness - and the most worrying being psychiatric side-effects in children. They are of little use, accept perhaps for the most severely affected.
I see part of my job to be keeping my ear to the ground on such issues and help you make informed decisions on possible alternatives, where they are available, to the herd's rush to follow whatever the latest government or media trend is.
Nutrition expert Dr. Paul Clayton recently outlined the drugs vs nutrients debate on this particular issue very well in his newsletter, pointing out the rapid way in which clinical resistance emerges for these types of drugs. Once Tamiflu started being used to treat H5N1 (bird flu) in 2003/4 resistant strains of the virus cropped up within months and Tamiflu-resistant strains of swine flu have emerged ALREADY, making it look like these anti-viral drugs will be little more than an expensive distraction. Clayton is a proponent of 1-3, 1-6 beta glucan, a natural ingredient extracted from baker's yeast that enhances innate immunity and has been shown to protect against influenza virus in rats and pigs so far and looks, in Clayton's view, encouraging.
Nutritionist Patrick Holford has his own six point plan for building immunity if you get the flu. He wisely suggests you:
1. Load up on fruit and veg - aim for at least five portions a day and pick a rainbow selection of colours to get a good range of nutrients.
2. Have a clove or two of garlic a day - this is naturally anti-viral and anti-bacterial.
3. Eat sufficient protein - aim for lean (preferably) organic meat, fish, game, quinoa (a South American grain), eggs, pulses combined with grains, dairy foods or tofu.
4. Herbs and spices contain immune-supporting nutrients - for example, add turmeric to rice; grate ginger into stir fries or on to vegetables; make tea from the Cat's Claw herb; add aloe vera to drinks.
5. Avoid sugar - it can suppress the immune system.
6. Supplement a high-strength multivitamin and mineral complex and an antioxidant formula containing vitamin C, zinc and immune-boosting phytonutrients such as bilberry or bioflavanoids.
These all seem sane, logical things to do and probably have a strong chance of keeping you flu-free or even reducing its effect should you get it, while hugely reducing the risks from serious side effects that the vaccination, so under-tested, may carry. Patrick has more sane advice on how to boost your immune system in his book of the same name.
London GP, Dr. Richard Halvorsen, author of The Truth About Vaccines, doesn't think swine flu vaccination is a great idea either and he explained why in a good article in the Times.
So if you are worried about staying healthy in these trying times, don't panic, there are many reasonable ways to fight back that have a lot more science behind them that the sceptics would have you believe.
A recent study on a combination of natural immune supporters showed encouraging results. This study tested the effects of a combination of ascorbic acid, green tea extract, lysine, proline, N-acetyl cysteine, selenium among other micronutrients on cells infected with influenza.
So your best plan is to stay healthy and avoid infections where ever you can. Avoiding sugar and junk fats, keeping your own levels of vitamin C. well-boosted, and having supplies of Vitamin C and an extract of elderberry called Sambucol handy. This has been shown to be effective at stopping viruses penetrating the walls of your cells and can reduce the degree and severity of swine flu.
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