I know that getting the flu is probably the furthest thing from your mind right now. But believe it or not, now's the time to "prep" your body against next winter's flu virus.
A new study published in the Clinical Journal of Nutrition shows that one tiny vitamin may cut your risk of getting the flu by 40 to 74 percent. But it also takes time to build up in your system...so you need to start now, so you ARE ready in time for flu season to hit!
Now, I know you may wonder, "Can't I just get a flu shot in November, like always?" And sure, you could do that and hope for the best. But it's not the smartest decision, especially if you're over 65. Here's why...
Flu shot fails for men and women over 65...
If you're over 65, I bet that your primary doctor urges you to get a flu shot every fall. And his intentions are in the right place; the flu can be very harsh on older men and women. In fact, adults over 65 account for about ¾ of the flu deaths every year.
But your well-intentioned doc may be leading you astray.
According to a new report by the Cochrane Collaboration, there's very little solid proof that flu vaccines effectively protect older adults. In fact, Cochrane scientists found that 74 out of 75 vaccine studies were biased and of poor caliber. Plus, according to Dr. Tom Jefferson (lead researcher and vaccine expert), the data that gets reported in the press is just plain wrong.
In a New York Times interview, Dr. Jefferson stated, "What you see is that marketing rules the response to influenza, and scientific evidence comes fourth or fifth." Jefferson also stated that "until we have all available evidence, it is hard to reach any clear conclusions about the effectiveness of influenza vaccines in older people."
But this really isn't new news. About five years ago, another analysis of 64 different studies uncovered basically the same thing. That time scientists found that flu shots--at best--reduced an elderly person's risk of hospitalization by only 27 percent.
Bottom line here folks is that the flu shots--although they're heavily marketed to older adults--probably don't protect you very much.
But here's the good news: Even if a vaccine can't protect you from the flu, something else can.
Tiny vitamin packs a wallop against flu...
Vitamin D is one of your best defenses against the flu. And it's always been a favorite among nutritionists like me. Vitamin D is the power vitamin that kicks your T cells into action. And these cells track down and kill foreign invaders, especially bacteria and viruses.
Recently, a study showed that vitamin D also packs a wallop against the flu. For this study, scientists divided healthy patients into two groups. One group received 1200 IU of D3 (the most active form of D) each day for four months. The other group received a placebo.
During the four-month period, 40 percent fewer participants taking D3 got the flu compared to the placebo group. Plus, the patients going into the study with the lowest levels of D got the biggest protection. These patients experienced a 74 percent reduction in the incidence of the flu. Interestingly, the researchers also found that the D3 patients with asthma experienced fewer asthma attacks compared with patients in the placebo group.
And these results only stem from a period of four months! I have a feeling that these results would have been even better had the participants received vitamin D supplements all year long. You see, vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that gets absorbed into your body through your intestinal tract. Plus, your body can store it for up to 60 days.
So really--even though spring is here--now's the time to kick your immune system into high gear and "prep" for flu season. I recommend taking up to 5,000 IU of D3 a day. And if the temperatures are warming up in your neck of the woods, spend some time outside without sunscreen. Just 30 minutes of sunshine will give you 20,000 IU of vitamin D. This limited amount of sun exposure is not only safe, but it's also healthy and will give you some added ammunition against next year's flu!