By Dr. Mercola

woman coughingEach year Americans catch more than one billion colds, making the cold virus the most common infectious disease in the United States.

It accounts for more school absences and missed work than any other illness, and it’s the number one reason people visit their physicians — even though most physicians have little to offer in the form of treatment.

It’s a widespread misconception that colds are caused by bacteria. Colds are actually triggered by a virus, which means if your physician prescribes you an antibiotic, it will be absolutely useless.

More on this shortly, but before I delve into simple prevention and treatment strategies it’s important you know how colds are contracted in the first place.

How Do You Catch a Cold?

The most common way cold viruses are spread is not from being around coughing or sneezing, or walking barefoot in the rain, but rather from hand-to-hand contact. For instance, someone with a cold blows their nose then shakes your hand or touches surfaces that you also touch.

Cold viruses can live on pens, computer keyboards, coffee mugs and other objects for hours, so it’s easy to come into contact with such viruses during daily life.

However, the key to remember is that just being exposed to a cold virus does not have to mean that you’ll catch a cold. If your immune system is operating at its peak, it should actually be quite easy for you to fend off the virus without ever getting sick.

If your immune system is impaired, on the other hand, it’s akin to having an open-door policy for viruses; they’ll easily take hold in your body. So the simple and short answer is, you catch a cold due to impairment in your immune system. There are many ways this can result, but the more common contributing factors are:  

  1. Eating too much sugar and too many grains
  2. Not getting enough rest
  3. Using insufficient strategies to address emotional stressors in your life
  4. Vitamin D deficiency, as discussed below
  5. Any combination of the above

Vitamin D Deficiency: Another Reason You May “Catch” a Cold

It’s estimated that the average U.S. adult typically has two to four colds each year, while children may have up to 12! One reason for the widespread prevalence may be that vitamin D deficiency is incredibly common in the United States, especially during the winter months when cold (and flu) viruses are at their peak.

Research has confirmed that “catching” colds and flu may actually be a symptom of an underlying vitamin D deficiency. Less than optimal vitamin D levels will significantly impair your immune response and make you far more susceptible to contracting colds, influenza, and other respiratory infections.

In the largest and most nationally representative study of its kind to date, involving about 19,000 Americans, people with the lowest vitamin D levels reported having significantly more recent colds or cases of the flu — and the risk was even greater for those with chronic respiratory disorders like asthma.

At least five additional studies also show an inverse association between lower respiratory tract infections and vitamin D levels, and you can read about them in detail here. But the research is very clear, the higher your vitamin D level, the lower your risk of contracting colds, flu, and other respiratory tract infections.

It’s not surprising, then, that the average American gets so many colds each year, as current guidelines for optimal intake and normal vitamin D levels are far too low — and since most people do not get adequate sun exposure on a daily basis (which is what produces vitamin D in your skin) many are deficient. I strongly believe you could avoid colds and influenza entirely by maintaining your vitamin D level in the optimal range.

How Long Do Colds Last . and How Can You Make Your Cold Go Away Faster?

Most uncomplicated colds last between eight and nine days, but about 25 percent last two weeks, and 5-10 percent last three weeks. Even the most stubborn colds will typically resolve in a few weeks’ time; this is actually one of the ways you can distinguish a cold from allergies.

A cold will last, at most, a few weeks, but allergy symptoms can last all season.

How quickly you bounce back is typically defined by you and your collective lifestyle habits — and this does not mean popping over-the-counter cough and cold remedies or fever reducers. In fact, as long as your temperature remains below 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 degrees Celsius) there is no need to lower it.

Cold viruses do not reproduce at higher body temperatures, so a slight fever should help you get rid of the virus quicker and help you to feel better much sooner.

You should avoid taking over-the-counter pain-relief medications as well, as a study showed that people who take aspirin and Tylenol (acetaminophen) suppress their body’s ability to produce antibodies to destroy the cold virus. Aspirin has even been linked to lung complications including pulmonary edema, an abnormal build up of fluid in your lungs, when taken in excess.

You should only use these medications when absolutely necessary, such as if you have a temperature greater than 105 degrees F (40.5 degrees C), severe muscle aches or weakness.

Hydrogen Peroxide: A Simple Trick to Beat a Cold

I don’t advise over-the-counter medications, but one simple treatment you can try that is surprisingly effective against upper respiratory infections is hydrogen peroxide.

Many patients at my Natural Health Center have had remarkable results in curing colds and flu within 12 to 14 hours when administering a few drops of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) into each ear. You will hear some bubbling, which is completely normal, and possibly feel a slight stinging sensation.

Wait until the bubbling and stinging subside (usually 5 to 10 minutes), then drain onto a tissue and repeat with the other ear. A bottle of hydrogen peroxide in 3 percent solution is available at any drug store for a couple of dollars or less. It is simply amazing how many people respond to this simple, inexpensive treatment.

So What Else Can You do to Recover From a Cold, Quicker . and Prevent One in the First Place?

As I said above, the number one way to conquer a cold (or flu) is vitamin D. Vitamin D is an amazingly effective antimicrobial agent, producing 200 to 300 different antimicrobial peptides in your body that kill bacteria, viruses and fungi. So optimizing your levels will not only help send a cold virus packing . it will help ward off cold viruses in the first place.

The best source for vitamin D is direct sun exposure. But for many of us, this just isn’t practical during the winter. The next best option to sunlight is the use of a safe indoor tanning device. If neither natural nor artificial sunlight is an option, then using oral vitamin D3 supplements is your best bet.

Based on the latest research, many experts now agree you need about 35 IU’s of vitamin D per pound of body weight. This recommendation also includes children, the elderly and pregnant women.

However, keep in mind that vitamin D requirements are highly individual, as your vitamin D status is dependent on numerous factors, such as the color of your skin, your location, and how much sunshine you’re exposed to on a regular basis. So, although these recommendations may put you closer to the ballpark of what most people likely need, it is simply impossible to make a blanket recommendation that will cover everyone’s needs.

The only way to determine your optimal dose is to get your blood tested. Ideally, you’ll want to maintain a vitamin D level of 50-65 ng/ml year-round.

For an in-depth explanation of everything you need to know before you get tested, please read my latest updates in Test Values and Treatment for Vitamin D Deficiency.

Dietary Strategies to Kick a Cold

If you feel yourself coming down with a cold or flu, this is NOT the time to be eating ANY sugar, artificial sweeteners or processed foods. Sugar is particularly damaging to your immune system — which needs to be ramped up, not suppressed, in order to combat an emerging infection.

So if you are fighting a cold, you’ll want to avoid all sugar like the plague, and this includes sugar in the form of fruit juice and even grains (which break down as sugar in your body).

Ideally, you must address nutrition, sleep, exercise and stress issues the moment you first feel yourself getting a bug. This is when immune-enhancing strategies will be most effective.

So when you’re coming down with a cold, it’s time to address ALL of the contributing factors immediately, which includes tweaking your diet in favor of foods that will strengthen your immune response. Good choices include:

  • Raw, grass-fed organic milk, and/or high-quality whey protein
  • Fermented foods such as raw kefir, kimchee, miso, pickles, sauerkraut, etc, which are rich in probiotics, or good bacteria. Scientific research shows that 80 percent of your immune system resides inside your digestive tract, so eating probiotic-rich foods, or taking a high-quality probiotic, will help support your immune system health.
  • Raw, organic eggs from free-ranging, preferably local, chickens
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Coconuts and coconut oil
  • Animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil
  • Locally grown fruits and vegetables, appropriate for your nutritional type
  • Mushrooms, especially Reishi, Shiitake, and Maitake, which contain beta glucans (which have immune-enhancing properties)
  • Garlic, a potent antimicrobial that kills bacteria, viruses and fungi. Ideally this should be in fresh form, eaten raw and crushed with a spoon just before eating.
  • Herbs and spices with high ORAC scores: Turmeric, oregano, cinnamon, cloves (for more on ORAC, visit www.oracvalues.com)
  • Make sure you are drinking plenty of fresh, pure water. Water is essential for the optimal function of every system in your body and will help with nose stuffiness and loosening secretions. You should drink enough water so that your urine is a light, pale yellow.

And what about the old wives’ tale of chicken soup for your cold?

Chicken soup can help reduce your symptoms. Chicken contains a natural amino acid called cysteine, which can thin the mucus in your lungs and make it less sticky so you can expel it more easily.

Processed, canned soups won’t work as well as the homemade version, however.

For best results, make up a fresh batch yourself (or ask a friend or family member to do so) and make the soup hot and spicy with plenty of pepper. The spices will trigger a sudden release of watery fluids in your mouth, throat, and lungs, which will help thin down the respiratory mucus so it’s easier to cough up and expel.

Three Cold-Busting Lifestyle Strategies

Vitamin D, check! Hydrogen peroxide, check! Healthy diet, check! We’ve covered several of the primary “weapons” you should have in your cold-fighting arsenal, but there are others, too.

  1. High-Quality Sleep, and Plenty of It

    Pay attention to how you are sleeping. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, or enough restorative sleep, you’ll be at increased risk for a hostile viral takeover. Your immune system is also the most effective when you’re not sleep-deprived, so the more rested you are the quicker you’ll recover. You can find 33 secrets for a good night’s sleep here.

  2. Regular Exercise

    Regular exercise is a crucial strategy for increasing your resistance to illness. There is evidence that regular, moderate exercise can reduce your risk for respiratory illness by boosting your immune system. In fact, one study found that people who exercised regularly (five or more days a week) cut their risk of having a cold by close to 50 percent. And, in the event they did catch a cold, their symptoms were much less severe than among those who did not exercise.

    Exercise likely cuts your risk of colds so significantly because it triggers a rise in immune system cells that can attack any potential invaders. Each time you exercise you can benefit from this boost to your immune system.

    Ideally, establish a regular fitness program, such as Peak Fitness, now, to help you ward off colds and other illness.

    However, if you’re already feeling sick don’t overdo it. Over-exercising can actually place more stress on your body, which can suppress your immune system — and you don’t want that either. You might just go for a walk if you are coming down with a cold, or simply tone down your regular workout.

    Any rise in body temperature will be an unwelcome climate for a viral invader, though, so some exercise is likely to be beneficial.

  3. Address Your Emotional Stress

    Emotional stressors can also predispose you to an infection while making cold symptoms worse. Finding ways to manage daily stress as well as your reactions to circumstances beyond your control will contribute to a strong and resilient immune system.

    My favorite tool for this is the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), a system that helps balance your body’s subtle energies and repair emotional “short-circuits.” EFT may even help you overcome cold symptoms.

Supplements That Send Pathogens Packin’

Supplements can be beneficial for colds, but they should be used only as an adjunct to the lifestyle measures already discussed.

Some of the more helpful options for cold (and flu) — above and beyond vitamin D — are:

  • Vitamin C: A very potent antioxidant; use a natural form such as acerola, which contains associated micronutrients. You can take several grams every hour till you are better unless you start developing loose stools
  • Oregano Oil: The higher the carvacrol concentration, the more effective it is. Carvacrol is the most active antimicrobial agent in oregano oil.
  • Propolis: A bee resin and one of the most broad-spectrum antimicrobial compounds in the world; propolis is also the richest source of caffeic acid and apigenin, two very important compounds that aid in immune response and even fight cancer.
  • A tea made from a combination of elderflower, yarrow, boneset, linden, peppermint and ginger; drink it hot and often for combating a cold or flu. It causes you to sweat, which is helpful for eradicating a virus from your system.
  • Olive leaf extract: Ancient Egyptians and Mediterranean cultures used it for a variety of health-promoting uses and it is widely known as a natural, non-toxic immune system builder.

Remember This Tip: Wash Your Hands Sensibly

Washing your hands frequently is one of the easiest ways to wipe out germs and viruses and reduce your chances of becoming sickened by them. Thorough hand-washing truly is an important step, as you are at far greater risk of passing on an infection by shaking someone’s hand than even by sharing a kiss.

One report even found that regular hand washing may be more effective than drugs in preventing the spread of respiratory viruses such as influenza.

When you wash up, plain soap and water will do. Do not make the mistake of using antibacterial cleansers, as their widespread use is leading to strains of resistant bacteria, or “superbugs,” which cause the ingredients to lose effectiveness for the times when they really are needed, such as for surgeons prior to surgery.

Further, the active ingredient in most antibacterial products is triclosan, an antibacterial agent that kills bacteria and inhibits bacterial growth. But not only does triclosan kill bacteria, it also has been shown to kill human cells.

Antibacterial soaps are also no more effective than regular soaps. One study found people who used antibacterial soaps and cleansers developed a cough, runny nose, sore throat, fever, vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms just as often as people who used products that did not contain antibacterial ingredients. So please avoid making the mistake of using antibacterial liquids and soaps.

Too Much Hand-Washing Can Backfire .

There is another important caveat to remember, and that is your skin is actually your primary defense against bacteria — not the soap. 

So resist the urge to become obsessive about washing your hands. If you wash them too frequently you can actually extract many of the protective oils in your skin, which can cause your skin to crack and bleed.

It is rare for a germ on your skin to cause a problem — it is typically only an issue when you transfer that to your nose, mouth or an open wound like cracked skin. So obsessive-compulsive washing can actually increase your risk of getting sick by providing an entryway for potentially dangerous pathogens.

So mild to moderate washing is wise, but excessive washing, especially with harsh soaps, will actually be highly counterproductive.

Avoid the Antibiotics!

More than 300 different viruses can cause colds, so each time you have a cold it is caused by a distinct virus (i.e. adenovirus, rhinovirus, parainfluenza virus, coronavirus). A virus is much smaller than a bacteria; it is a tiny cluster of genetic material surrounded by a protein wrapper.

There are currently NO drugs available that can kill these viruses. Antibiotics, including penicillin, do not have any effect on viruses, but unfortunately have been vastly over-prescribed for this very (useless) purpose. That, coupled with the excessive use of antibiotics in agriculture, has contributed to a steep rise in antibiotic-resistant diseases.

Antibiotic-resistant infections now claim more lives each year than the “modern plague” of AIDS, and cost the American health care system some $20 billion a year!

Further, according to one meta-analysis, the health risk from over-use of antibiotics is also a very personal one, as opposed to simply raising the occurrence of antibiotic resistance in the general population over time.

Whenever you use an antibiotic, you’re increasing your susceptibility to developing infections with resistance to that antibiotic — and you can become the carrier of this resistant bug, and spread it to others.

So please, if you have a simple cold remember that an antibiotic will do far more harm than good.

When Should You Call Your Physician?

Sinus, ear and lung infections (bronchitis and pneumonia) are examples of bacterial infections that do respond to antibiotics. If you develop any of the following symptoms, these are signs you may be suffering from a bacterial infection rather than a cold virus, and you should call your physician’s office:

  • Fever over 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 degrees Celsius)
  • Ear pain
  • Pain around your eyes, especially with a green nasal discharge
  • Shortness of breath or a persistent uncontrollable cough
  • Persistently coughing up green and yellow sputum

Generally speaking, however, if you have a cold medical care is not necessary. Rest and attention to the lifestyle factors noted above will help you to recover quickly and, if you stick to them, will significantly reduce your chances of catching another one anytime soon.

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vitamin d capsuleLow levels of vitamin D have again been linked with reduced survival rates in patients with heart failure.

The study, conducted at the University Medical Center, Groningen, in the Netherlands, also suggested that low levels of vitamin D are associated with activation of the Renin Angiotensin System (RAS – a pivotal regulatory system in heart failure) and an altered cytokine profile.

Vitamin D concentration was assessed in plasma samples from 548 heart failure patients. According to the researchers, patients with lower concentrations had a higher risk of death or required re-hospitalization, whereas patients with higher concentrations had lower survival risks for these endpoints.

Researcher Licette Liu said on NutraIngredients.com:

“This study provides compelling evidence that a high vitamin D status is associated with improved survival in heart failure patients.

Until an intervention study has been designed and completed, it seems that we should advise patients with heart failure to maintain appropriate vitamin D levels by taking supplements, by eating oily fish or eggs, or simply by exposure to sunlight.”

Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to osteopenia, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, fractures, common cancers, autoimmune diseases and infectious diseases. There is also some evidence that the vitamin may reduce the incidence of several types of cancer and type-1 diabetes.

Sources:

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

Along with eating healthy and exercising, if you want to maintain a healthy heart making sure your vitamin D level is optimized is crucial. This is an incredibly simple step, yet one that stands to make an immense difference in your health.

The research is pouring in on just how important vitamin D — which is the only known substrate for a potent, pleiotropic (meaning it produces multiple effects), repair and maintenance seco-steroid hormone — is for your heart health.

In this latest study, researchers found that low levels of vitamin D lower your chances of surviving heart failure, and previous studies have found the vitamin can also lower your risk of developing heart disease in the first place.

Want to Lower Your Risk of Dying from a Heart Problem by 378 Percent?

If you do, it’s time to get your vitamin D levels checked, and if they’re low get out in the sun, spend some time in a safe tanning bed, or consider supplementing with vitamin D3 to get them optimized.

Researchers have found that people with the lowest average vitamin D levels had a 124 percent greater risk of dying from all causes and a 378 percent greater risk of dying from a heart problem — so optimizing your levels will keep you out of this risk bracket.

You see, vitamin D has beneficial effects way above and beyond the bone benefits that are typically touted. In terms of heart disease, there are a number of protective physiological mechanisms triggered by vitamin D production through sunlight exposure, including:

  • An increase in your body’s natural anti-inflammatory cytokines
  • The suppression of vascular calcification
  • The inhibition of vascular smooth muscle growth

Researchers from Finland have also showed that when compared with the participants with the highest vitamin D, those with the lowest levels had a 25 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease or stroke. And when only stroke was looked at, those with the lowest levels had twice the risk as those with the highest.

Women who take vitamin D supplements also lower their risk of death from heart disease by one-third, so you can see the research is incredibly strong in support of optimized vitamin D.

Vitamin D Lowers This Major Risk Factor for Heart Disease and Stroke

Arterial stiffness, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke — two of the most common killers in the United States — is associated with vitamin D deficiency.

Yet when black teens — 95 percent of whom were vitamin D deficient — took the 400 IU of vitamin D per day recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, it was nowhere near enough to bring their levels into a healthy range. In the study, only the teens who took 2,000 IU of vitamin D a day became vitamin D “sufficient,” instead of “deficient.”

This latter point is important because if you listen to the government’s recommendations about how much vitamin D you need to stay healthy you’ll likely come up far too short to receive these amazing benefits to your heart.

As of right now, the conventional RDAs are only:

  • 400 IU for infants, children and adolescents
  • 200 IU for adults up to age 50
  • 400 IU for adults aged 51 to 70
  • 600 IU for seniors over 70

These are a far cry from what is actually needed for optimal health.

Based on the latest research, many experts now agree you need about 35 IU’s of vitamin D per pound of body weight. This recommendation also includes children, the elderly and pregnant women.

However, vitamin D requirements are highly individual.

How to Take Advantage of Vitamin D’s Benefits

Your ability to convert sunlight into vitamin D is dependent on several factors, such as the color of your skin, where you live, and how much sunshine your skin is exposed to on a regular basis. So, although these recommendations may put you closer to the level of what most people likely need, it is virtually impossible to make a blanket recommendation that will cover everyone.

The only accurate way to determine your optimal dose is to get your blood tested. Ideally, you’ll want to maintain a vitamin D level of at least 50ng/ml and perhaps as high as 80-90 ng/ml year-round.

If you’ve never had your levels tested, I strongly suggest you make it a priority to do so. Vitamin D deficiency is widespread in the United States, where the late winter average vitamin D is less than 20 ng/ml — a very serious deficiency state. It’s estimated that over 95 percent of U.S. senior citizens may be deficient, along with 85 percent of the American public, including all ages from newborns through adulthood.

Fortunately, vitamin D deficiency is incredibly easy to fix, and as I said earlier the only accurate way to determine your optimal dose is to get your blood tested. You can get your blood tested by your physician (be sure you get the correct test called 25(OH)D, or 25-hydroxyvitamin D), or if you’re interested you can join the D*action study.

D*Action is a worldwide public health campaign, aiming to solve the vitamin D deficiency epidemic in one year through focus on testing, education, and grassroots word of mouth.

When you join D*action, you agree to test your vitamin D levels at home twice a year during a 5-year program, and share your health status to demonstrate the public health impact of this nutrient.

There is a $60 fee each 6 months for your sponsorship of the project, but you can get a 15 percent discount by entering “Mercola” on your order form. The fee includes a complete new vitamin D test kit to be used at home (except in the state of New York), and electronic reports on your ongoing progress.

From there, and no matter how you choose to get your levels tested, I encourage you to watch my free one-hour vitamin D lecture to find out what your vitamin D levels should be, and how to keep them optimized for your heart, and overall, health.

Related Articles:

  Why Your Heart Attack Risk May Increase This Winter .

  Important Vitamin Deficiency Linked to Arterial Stiffness

  How Vitamin D Protects Your Heart

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vaccineThe U.S. government plans to spend close to $2 billion in order to pay researchers and biotechnology companies to develop new drugs, vaccines and equipment to shorten the six- to nine-month time frame currently needed to make a flu vaccine.

U.S. health officials plan to persuade more Americans to get vaccinated against the flu this fall. The CDC is recommending flu vaccine for all Americans ages six months and older, except for people with egg allergies and some other conditions.

The Wall Street Journal reported:

“To meet anticipated demand, manufacturers are producing between 160 million and 165 million doses this year, more than ever before … The CDC is accelerating development of two new tools to speed production of vaccine …

One involves optimizing seed strains of virus used to make vaccine … Another is a new method to determine the amount of antigen — the ingredient that prompts an immune response — in a vaccine vial.”

Sources:

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

Of all the places $2 billion in government funds could be spent, using it to bring flu vaccines to market faster may be one of the most wasteful uses of that amount of money to date. One dramatic example is the flu shot, which has been proven ineffective time and time again, not to mention the myriad of side effects, some serious, that they cause every year.

If the U.S. government really wanted to make a dent in flu cases this fall and winter, they would put that money toward a massive public education campaign on the importance of optimizing your vitamin D levels.

Now that would be a strategy that would not only dramatically decrease the flu but also help save lives that are being lost prematurely from a completely preventable condition: vitamin D deficiency.

The government has once again pledged their allegiance to the vaccine makers, and will be supporting them full force this flu season, as they do every year.

What You Need to Know Before the Flu Shot Campaigns Begin .

This year the vaccine manufacturers are making up to 165 million doses of flu vaccine — more than ever before. To use up this unprecedented supply, the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging all Americans over 6 months to get vaccinated, unless they have an allergy to eggs or other limited conditions.

That’s right. Every man, woman and child is expected to line up and roll up their sleeve for the  flu shot . which this year contains a mix of three strains of flu — H1N1 (swine flu), H3N2 (a new variant of seasonal flu) and influenza B.

This is important information to know, because if you had doubts about receiving the experimental swine flu shot last season, it is now being automatically dished out with every flu vaccine in the United States.

Already, Australia has banned this year’s flu vaccine for children under the age of 5 due to an unusually high number of children suffering adverse effects such as vomiting, spiking a high fever, and convulsions.

Peter Collignon, professor of infectious diseases at the Australian National University, has also gone on record stating that a recent clinical trial uncovered issues with the swine flu vaccine — adverse effects that are identical to those suffered by the Australian children who reacted to the seasonal vaccine.

Sweden and Finland also recently sounded the alarm because young patients suddenly developed the sleeping disorder narcolepsy after being vaccinated with the H1N1 swine flu vaccine. France, Germany and Norway are now also tallying cases, and the EU has launched an investigation.

But children aren’t the only group that seem to react more violently to the trivalent vaccine that contains the H1N1 component.

In the United States, a special government committee has been created to investigate last year’s H1N1 monovalent vaccine for signs that it may be associated with a higher rate of certain kinds of reactions. What the committee found out provisionally is that there were three signs of trouble with the H1N1 swine flu vaccine used last year.

Barbara Loe Fisher, founder of the National Vaccine Information Center, explained:

“One was Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), which we know has been associated with influenza vaccine since 1976 when the first swine flu vaccine was used. There is [also] a sign of a blood disorder called thrombocytopenia. Thrombocytopenia is when your blood cannot produce enough platelets. It’s an autoimmune type reaction.

The other is Bell’s palsy. That’s a facial paralysis. It’s a neuroimmune reaction.

The government is saying they don’t know if these are true signals or not, but there were some red flags that were raised.”

Unfortunately, instead of using the $2 billion in funding for further testing to make sure the vaccine is safe considering blatant “red flags” have already been raised, the government is moving full-steam ahead with their plans for a three-in-one flu shot this season, and is even paying the drug companies to figure out how to bring it out even faster.

You’ve probably already seen the signs at your local drug store advertising they’re here . and this is only the beginning.

All the Risk . for No Benefit?

You should know that anytime you receive a flu shot, you are taking a risk. In order to get the perceived benefit that you or your family is being  protected from the flu (which is only a perception, as I’ll explain below), you are being injected with numerous substances even above and beyond the three flu viruses — substances with known risks to your health.

Toxic substances found in various flu vaccines include:

  • Dangerous levels of mercury in the form of thimerosal, a deadly preservative that is 50 times more toxic than regular mercury
  • Ethylene glycol (antifreeze)
  • Formaldehyde – a known cancer-causing agent
  • Neomycin and streptomycin (antibiotics)
  • Aluminum — a neurotoxin linked to Alzheimer’s disease
  • Polysorbate 80 (Tween80T) – which can cause severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis
  • Phenol (carbolic acid)
  • Resin and gelatin – known to cause allergic reactions
  • Triton X100 (detergent)

So every year that you get a flu shot, you are taking a risk that one or more of these substances, or the flu viruses themselves, will cause a problem in your body.

The payoff you get for taking this risk?

Well, the pharmaceutical industry would love for you to believe that the flu vaccine is going to somehow magically protect you from dying from the flu.

But in fact the evidence couldn’t be clearer — the flu vaccine doesn’t work at all in the elderly, and the data is flimsy at best when it comes to children and adults. In other words, you’re taking all the risk for little to no benefit.

For instance, one recent review looked at the effectiveness of immunizing nursing-home workers to protect the elderly in their care. After reviewing five studies conducted between 1997 and 2009, the results show the vaccination campaigns had NO EFFECT on the number of confirmed influenza cases.

The researchers also concluded that vaccinating staff has no proven impact on reducing the number of related pneumonia cases, or pneumonia-linked deaths — which, by the way, accounts for the vast majority of what the CDC counts as “flu deaths.”

Said lead researcher Dr. Roger Thomas:

“What troubled us is that [shots] had no effect on laboratory-confirmed influenza.

What we were looking for is proof that influenza … is decreased. Didn’t find it.

We looked for proof that pneumonia is reduced. Didn’t find it.

We looked for proof deaths from pneumonia are reduced. Didn’t find it.”

This is only one example of many. Study after study continue to show that flu vaccines are virtually useless for preventing illness and mortality from the flu, and you can read about five more such examples here.

Let’s Get Real: Here’s What You Really Need to Do to Prevent the Flu

There is a massive attempt to defraud and deceive people to generate profits from flu vaccines, and the U.S. government is helping to fund and promote this system.

Fortunately, we are able to penetrate this veil of misinformation, as we did so effectively last year during the swine flu campaign. Last year the United States contracted for the manufacture of over 170 million doses of swine flu vaccine. Probably the most significant accomplishment of this Web site was that we were able to contribute to the fact that only 90 million doses were used in the United States.

This year, we want to start early by warning people about the new plan … and the safer alternative . so the number of people exposed to potentially harmful and useless flu vaccines drops even lower.

I urge you to take your time and really make an informed decision before you rush to get this year’s flu shot for yourself or your family, and while you’re at it, tune in to the latest studies on vitamin D, which are strengthening the evidence that it is a potent preventive measure against colds and influenza.

There is so much compelling evidence that I believe optimizing your vitamin D levels is one of the absolute best strategies for avoiding infections of ALL kinds, including the flu.

As one recent study showed, a group of children taking vitamin D3 was 58 percent less likely to catch influenza A. That’s a higher effectiveness than any flu vaccine can claim, and doesn’t come with a barrage of potentially devastating side effects!

Most children, teens, adults and elderly in the United States are vitamin D deficient, especially during the winter months when sun exposure is at a minimum for many. So I urge you to get your and your children’s vitamin D levels tested, and if found deficient, follow my recommendations for optimizing your levels.

Do this, and you’ll all be far less likely to catch any cold or flu this year.

So let’s get the word out. Ditch the flu vaccine and optimize vitamin D instead.

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 Comments (39)

vitamin d against cancer, sunlightVitamin D influences more than 200 genes. This includes genes related to cancer and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis.

Vitamin D affects your DNA through the vitamin D receptors (VDRs), which bind to specific locations of the human genome.

Reuters reports:

“Vitamin D deficiency is a well-known risk factor for rickets, and some evidence suggests it may increase susceptibility to autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes, as well as certain cancers and even dementia.”

Sources:

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

Reuter’s information is actually a bit misleading as other scientists have identified a total of nearly 3,000 genes that are upregulated by vitamin D. The particular study referenced above identified 200 genes affected, but it’s not clear if that is in addition to the ones already identified, or if they simply confirmed many of the ones found by others.

One thing’s for sure: Vitamin D is one of the major keys for disease prevention and for optimal health.

The Astonishing Power of Vitamin D to Transform Your Health

In recent years vitamin D has emerged as a star of the “vitamin” world. For example, there are currently over 800 studies showing vitamin D’s effectiveness against cancer. Optimizing your vitamin D levels can literally cut your risk of several cancers by 50 percent!

Further, middle aged and elderly people with high levels of vitamin D could reduce their chances of developing heart disease or diabetes by 43 percent.

How Does Vitamin D Do What it Does?

Vitamin D is actually a “prohormone,” which your body produces from cholesterol. Because it is a prohormone, vitamin D influences your entire body — receptors that respond to the vitamin have been found in almost every type of human cell, from your brain to your bones.

So what modern science has now realized is that vitamin D does more than just aid in the absorption of calcium and bone formation, it is also involved in multiple repair and maintenance functions, touches thousands of different genes, regulates your immune system, and much, much more.

Just one example of an important gene that vitamin D up-regulates is your ability to fight infections, as well as chronic inflammation. It produces over 200 anti microbial peptides, the most important of which is cathelicidin, a naturally occurring broad-spectrum antibiotic.

This is one of the explanations for why it’s so effective against colds and influenza.

In addition, since vitamin D also modulates (balances) your immune response, it can prevent an overreaction in the form of inflammation, which can lead to a variety of autoimmune disorders, such as Crohn’s disease for example.

When you consider the fact that you only have about 25,000 genes in your body, and vitamin D has been shown to influence nearly 3,000 of them, the bigger picture of its true impact on your health can be easily understood.

It may, in fact, have literally thousands of health benefits!

However, it’s also very clear that unless you have taken specific measures to address it, the odds are overwhelming that you are deficient in this important nutrient.

Are You Vitamin D Deficient?

Vitamin D deficiency is a growing epidemic across the world and is contributing to many chronic debilitating diseases. There are a few reasons for this trend.

First, most people spend far too much time indoors during daytime hours. You may also have also been seriously misled by “expert'” recommendations to avoid all sun exposure, and to slather yourself with sunscreen whenever you do go outside. Please understand that sunscreen will virtually eliminate your body’s ability to produce any vitamin D because it blocks the UVB radiation that causes your skin to produce it naturally.

As a result, in the United States the late winter average vitamin D is only about 15-18 ng/ml, which is considered a very serious deficiency state.

In fact, new studies show that about 85 percent of the U.S. population is vitamin D deficient. This is primarily related to the recent appreciation that your levels of vitamin D should be MUCH higher than previously thought.

Consider the following vitamin D facts:

  • Vitamin D deficiency is epidemic in adults of all ages who have increased skin pigmentation, such as those whose ancestors are from Africa, the Middle East, or India, who always wear sun protection, or who limit their outdoor activities.
  • African Americans and other dark-skinned people and those living in northern latitudes make significantly less vitamin D than other groups.
  • 60 percent of patients with type 2 diabetes have vitamin D deficiency.
  • Studies showed very low levels of vitamin D among children, the elderly, and women.
  • One nationwide study of women revealed that almost half of the African American women of childbearing age might be vitamin-D deficient.

Winter, when sun exposure is at its lowest, is the time of year when you need to be most concerned about the amount of vitamin D you are receiving, as your vitamin D levels can drop by up to 50 percent in the winter.

Of course, if you have the tendency to spend the summer months indoors, out of the sun, or you only go outside with sunscreen on, then you would need to be concerned during the summer months as well.

The Many Health Benefits of Vitamin D

It’s absolutely tragic that dermatologists and sunscreen manufacturers have done such a thorough job of deterring people from the sun — your optimal source for natural vitamin D.

Their widely dispersed message to avoid the sun as much as possible, combined with an overall cultural trend of spending more time indoors during both work and leisure time, has greatly contributed to the widespread vitamin D deficiency seen today — which in turn is fueling an astonishingly diverse array of common chronic diseases, including:

Cancer Hypertension Heart disease
Autism Obesity Rheumatoid arthritis
Diabetes 1 and 2 Multiple Sclerosis Crohn’s disease
Cold & Flu Inflammatory Bowel Disease Tuberculosis
Septicemia Signs of aging Dementia
Eczema & Psoriasis Insomnia Hearing loss
Muscle pain Cavities Periodontal disease
Osteoporosis Macular degeneration Reduced C-section risk
Pre eclampsia Seizures Infertility
Asthma Cystic fibrosis Migraines
Depression Alzheimer’s disease Schizophrenia

Vitamin D Against Cancer

A study by Dr. William Grant, Ph.D., internationally recognized research scientist and vitamin D expert, found that about 30 percent of cancer deaths — which amounts to 2 million worldwide and 200,000 in the United States — could be prevented each year with higher levels of vitamin D.

Other studies showed that you can decrease your risk of cancer by more than half simply by optimizing your vitamin D levels with sun exposure.

Vitamin D has a protective effect against cancer in several ways, including:

  • Increasing the self-destruction of mutated cells (which, if allowed to replicate, could lead to cancer)
  • Reducing the spread and reproduction of cancer cells
  • Causing cells to become differentiated (cancer cells often lack differentiation)
  • Reducing the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones, which is a step in the transition of dormant tumors turning cancerous

When is the Best Time to Go Out in the Sun, and for How Long?

The optimal time to be in the sun for vitamin D production is as near to solar noon as possible. That would be between roughly 10:00am and 2:00pm.

During this time you need the shortest exposure time to produce vitamin D because UVB rays are most intense at this time. Plus, when the sun goes down toward the horizon, the UVB is filtered out much more than the dangerous UVA.

When you’re out in the sun, be very careful about the length of your exposure. You only need enough exposure to have your skin turn the lightest shade of pink. This may only be a few minutes for some. Exposures any longer than this will not produce any more vitamin D but will accelerate photo aging and increase your risk for non-melanoma skin cancers like basal and squamous cell cancers.

Once you reach this point your body will not make any additional vitamin D and any additional exposure will only cause harm and damage to your skin.

Most people with fair skin will produce the maximum amount of vitamin D in just 10-20 minutes, or, again, when your skin starts turning the lightest shade of pink. Some will need less, others more. The darker your skin, the longer exposure you will need to optimize your vitamin D production. African-Americans need perhaps 20 percent more sun exposure time than whites.

And contrary to popular opinion, your body simply cannot make adequate vitamin D from the sun unless you have more skin area exposed than just your face and hands. In fact, at least 40 percent of your body should be uncovered to optimize your vitamin D production.

Another option is to use a safe tanning bed, again paying attention to not getting burned.

New Way to Protect Against Sunburn

A few months ago I found out that a carotenoid extracted from algae called astaxanthin can be extremely useful in preventing and eliminating sunburn.  Interestingly, this is the antioxidant in krill that prevents it from being damaged.

What current research is showing is that if you are on 2 mg of astaxanthin for a month, it becomes very difficult to get sunburned.

Additionally, it also appears to prevent the development of the most common form or blindness, age-related macular degeneration, as well as cataracts, and most likely protects you from EMF when you are flying or being exposed to diagnostic X-rays.

The key though is that it takes weeks to build up in your tissues, so you  can’t just swallow a few pills prior to your exposure and expect to receive any benefit. Astaxanthin is also fat soluble and needs to be taken with some fat or you simply won’t absorb it.

Vitamin D Supplements: How Much Should You Take?

It is wise to consider oral vitamin D3 supplementation during the winter months, or year-round if you haven’t time or sufficient access to the sun or a safe tanning bed.

However, the Reuter’s article above is years behind the research on their recommended dosage of 1,000 IU’s a day

It’s true, there are no definitive studies on the optimal daily dose of vitamin D, but based on studies on healthy indigenous peoples, many vitamin D experts now agree that most adults, including pregnant women, require about 5,000 IU of vitamin D daily for optimal health – or 35 IU’s of vitamin D per pound of body weight, which is certainly well above the current RDA.

That said, although these recommendations may put you closer to the ballpark of what most people likely need, it is impossible to make a blanket recommendation that will cover everyone’s needs.

The ONLY way to determine how much you might need is by testing your blood level of vitamin D.

This is in fact a very important aspect of optimizing your vitamin D levels that you should not skip over.

Why?

Because while overdosing on vitamin D from sun exposure is highly unlikely as your body has a built-in “failsafe” feedback loop, which will tend to shut down production when your levels are healthy, it IS possible to overdose when taking supplements.

So you need to be careful when using oral vitamin D therapy and make certain you have your blood levels checked. Many of you may choose to ignore this warning, but I am telling you in no uncertain terms that while vitamin D has enormous potential for improving your health, it has significant potential to worsen it, if you use it improperly.

What Vitamin D Level do You Need to Stay Healthy?

The OPTIMAL value of vitamin D that you’re looking for has recently been raised to 50-70 ng/ml, with even higher recommended levels required for more serious disease prevention, as shown in the chart below.  The only caution is to use Lab Corp, as tests done at Quest are consistently falsely elevated due to a different assay. 
Vitamin D Levels - Hydroxy D

I hope you can see now some of the many benefits of vitamin D, and why it is so critical to make sure you and your family maintain healthy levels at all times.

Please take this opportunity to use one — or more — of the options I’ve suggested for getting your daily dose of vitamin D. Optimal vitamin D, however you get it, can literally make the difference between a lifetime of chronic disease and one of vibrant health and vitality.

For even more information about this essential nutrient, please peruse the links below.

Related Articles:

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Vitamin D deficiencyAccording to a new study, vitamin D deficiency is associated with arterial stiffness, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, in black teens. Vitamin D supplementation of 2,000 international units (IU) per day resulted in a decrease in central arterial stiffness.

In the study, 44 black teenagers were randomly assigned to receive either 400 IU of vitamin D per day (the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics) or 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day.

Newswise reports:

“Study subjects taking 400 IU of vitamin D per day did not achieve vitamin D sufficiency, while their peers who took 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day on average became vitamin D sufficient.”

Further, a separate report highlighted just how widespread vitamin D deficiency is, noting that a huge part of the population is deficient in this essential nutrient.

Every tissue in your body, including your brain, heart, muscles and immune system, has receptors for vitamin D, meaning that this nutrient is needed at proper levels for these tissues to function well.

According to the New York Times:

“Studies indicate that the effects of a vitamin D deficiency include an elevated risk of developing (and dying from) cancers of the colon, breast and prostate; high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease; osteoarthritis; and immune-system abnormalities that can result in infections and autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.”

Low levels of vitamin D could account for the high incidence of several chronic diseases in the U.S. For example, he said, in the Northeast, where sun exposure is reduced and vitamin D levels consequently are lower, cancer rates are higher than in the South.

Sources:

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

Arterial stiffness, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke — two of the most common killers in the United States — is associated with vitamin D deficiency.

Yet when black teens — 95 percent of whom were vitamin D deficient — took the 400 IU of vitamin D per day recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, it was nowhere near enough to bring their levels into a healthy range. In this latest study, only the teens who took 2,000 IU of vitamin D a day became vitamin D “sufficient,” instead of “deficient.”

There are two important points to be gleaned from this finding. One, if your vitamin D levels are not optimized, you’re very likely putting your future heart health and risk. And, two, if you listen to the government’s recommendations about how much vitamin D you need to stay healthy you’ll likely come up far too short.

Why is Vitamin D So Important for Your Heart?

Vitamin D is not “just a vitamin” that is necessary for strong bones. Rather, vitamin D is the only known substrate for a potent, pleiotropic (meaning it produces multiple effects), repair and maintenance seco-steroid hormone that serves multiple gene-regulatory functions in your body.

Each cell in your body has its own DNA library that contains information needed to deal with virtually every kind of stimulus it may encounter, and the master key to enter this library is activated vitamin D.

This is why vitamin D functions in so many different tissues, and affects such a large number of different diseases and health conditions, one of which is heart disease.

There are a number of physiological mechanisms triggered by vitamin D production through sunlight exposure that act to fight heart disease, including:

  • An increase in your body’s natural anti-inflammatory cytokines
  • The suppression of vascular calcification
  • The inhibition of vascular smooth muscle growth

Numerous research studies also show the importance of optimizing your vitamin D levels for a healthy heart:

So you can see that being vitamin D deficient leads to massively increased risks for your heart — risks that could be avoided simply by optimizing vitamin D.

Government Recommendations are Far Too Low

Right now, only 5 percent to 37 percent of American infants meet the standard for vitamin D set by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which will make them prime candidates for a slew of future health problems related to vitamin D deficiency – one of them being arterial stiffness and future heart problems.

At the end of 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics doubled its recommended dose of vitamin D for infants, children and adolescents, raising it from 200 to 400 units per day. But research published earlier that same year revealed children may need 10 times that amount in order to receive the health benefits that optimal vitamin D levels have to offer.

That was certainly the case in the study above, where 400 IU did next to nothing to bring the teens’ vitamin D levels into a healthy range.

As of right now, the conventional RDAs are only:

  • 400 IU for infants, children and adolescents
  • 200 IU for adults up to age 50
  • 400 IU for adults aged 51 to 70
  • 600 IU for seniors over 70

These are a far cry from what is actually needed for optimal health.

Based on the latest research, many experts now agree you need about 35 IU’s of vitamin D per pound of body weight. This recommendation also includes children, the elderly and pregnant women.

However, vitamin D requirements are highly individual.

Your vitamin D status is dependent on several factors, such as the color of your skin, where you live, and how much sunshine you’re exposed to on a regular basis. So, although these recommendations may put you closer to the level of what most people likely need, it is virtually impossible to make a blanket recommendation that will cover everyone.

The only accurate way to determine your optimal dose is to get your blood tested. Ideally, you’ll want to maintain a vitamin D level of at least 50ng/ml and perhaps as high as 80-90 ng/ml year-round.

Deficiency Widespread: African Americans Most at Risk

As The New York Times recently reported:

“Most people in the modern world have lifestyles that prevent them from acquiring the levels of vitamin D that evolution intended us to have. The sun’s ultraviolet-B rays absorbed through the skin are the body’s main source of this nutrient.

Early humans evolved near the equator, where sun exposure is intense year round, and minimally clothed people spent most of the day outdoors.”

As a result, vitamin D deficiency is widespread in the United States, where the late winter average vitamin D is only about 15-18 ng/ml — a very serious deficiency state. Meanwhile, it’s thought that over 95 percent of U.S. senior citizens may be deficient, along with 85 percent of the American public, including all ages from newborns through adulthood.

However, African Americans and other dark-skinned people and those living in northern latitudes make significantly less vitamin D than other groups; the darker your skin is, the less likely it is that you will produce adequate vitamin D levels from sun exposure alone.

In one recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 97 percent of African Americans had vitamin D levels that were too low for optimal health, along with 90 percent of Mexican Americans and 71 percent of whites.

This deficiency not only raises your risk of heart problems, it also raises your risk of numerous other chronic diseases. Receptors that respond to the vitamin have been found in almost every type of human cell, from your brain to your bones, which explains why researchers keep finding health benefits from vitamin D in virtually every area they look, including:

Cancer Hypertension Heart disease
Autism Obesity Rheumatoid arthritis
Diabetes 1 and 2 Multiple Sclerosis Crohn’s Disease
Cold & Flu Inflammatory Bowel Disease Tuberculosis
High Blood Pressure MRSA Infections Dementia
Birth Defects Reduced C-section risk Infertility
Melanoma (skin cancer) Asthma Depression
Osteoporosis Alzheimer’s disease Schizophrenia

Researchers have calculated that simply increasing levels of vitamin D3 could prevent diseases that claim nearly 1 million lives throughout the world each year!

A Simple Way to Protect Your Heart and Your Health

Fortunately, you, too, can soon be reaping the benefits that vitamin D has to offer because vitamin D deficiency is incredibly easy to fix!

vitamin d levels

I encourage you to watch my free one-hour vitamin D lecture to find out how to get your levels optimized.

In short, you will need to determine your level using a 25(OH)D, also called 25-hydroxyvitamin D, blood test, and then use a combination of safe sun exposure, a safe tanning bed and supplementation to keep your levels in the healthy range.

My recommended lab is Lab Corp, as they use the standard that all the major vitamin D studies used, while Quest lab does not.  Again, to get all the details you need, please watch my free vitamin D lecture. It is crucially important to your health and the health of your children. Remember, vitamin D deficiency is widespread in infants, children and teens, too, so you’ll want to get their levels tested — and optimized — as well.

Of course, this is just one healthy move you can make for your heart — there are others as well. In this past article I’ve detailed seven simple steps for a healthy heart, and they’re a great starting point to keeping your heart fit and strong.

Related Articles:

  Vitamin D Decreases Heart Disease Death Risk

  How Vitamin D Protects Your Heart

  The Vitamin D Solution

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