Vitamin D3, Omega-3s, & Yin Chiao to Prevent Flu & Colds
Here in New York City this winter, many people are coming down with bad colds and a nasty version of the flu that often take weeks to get over. It’s possible to protect yourself from these viruses … and at the same time increase your odds of avoiding a wide range of other diseases and health problems too. A nutritious diet high in whole foods and short on junk foods is of course very important for staying healthy. Functional Medicine doc Frank Lipman’s HEALTHY EATING CHECKLIST is a good resource for figuring out what to eat to maximize your health and stay well. He emphasizes “food quality, not calorie counting, so you’ll be including the healthiest foods and avoiding common irritants and harmful foods that drain the body of energy, including processed foods, sugar, gluten, dairy, caffeine and alcohol.” (Lipman, 2015)
Here are also a few suggestions for supplements to build up your immune system so you’re less likely to succumb to whatever viral thing is making the rounds – and improve your health in general. VITAMIN D3
The vast majority of Americans have woefully inadequate vitamin D blood levels. A 2000 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine reported that 77% of Americans are vitamin D deficient. (Hardin, 11/30/2014)
The graphic below lists some of the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency along with some of the diseases and conditions associated with it:
Causes of vitamin D deficiency include (CATIE, 2011), (Magee, 2014), (Shankar, 2014) & (Wortsman et al, 2000):
Insufficient Consumption of Vitamin D in the Daily Diet
Milk Allergy or Sensitivity
A Strict Vegan or Vegetarian Diet: Vegans and vegetarians are at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency because most of its natural sources are animal-based: fish and fish oils, egg yolks, cheeses, fortified milk, and beef liver. (Magee, 2014)
Limited Sun Exposure or Use of Sun Screen
Weight: Very overweight and obese people (a BMI of 30 or greater) tend to be vitamin D deficient. Obesity-associated vitamin D insufficiency is likely due to a decrease in the bio-availability of vitamin D3 because it gets deposited in body fat compartments.
Dark skin: The skin pigment melanin reduces the skin’s ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure. Some studies show that older adults with darker skin are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Crohn’s Disease or Colitis: Chronic inflammation of the inner lining of the intestine and colon cause dysentery, leading to the excretion of large quantities of vital nutrients – including vitamin D.
Cystic Fibrosis: Cystic Fibrosis impairs the ability to absorb fats and fats are needed for the body to utilize vitamin D.
Old Age: The skin of elderly people takes longer to absorb vitamin D. The kidneys of older people may also lose their ability to convert vitamin D from sunshine into its active form.
Continual Exposure to Toxic Substances and Harmful Chemicals
Recipients of Transplanted Organs: Anti-rejection medications taken to suppress the immune system interfere with vitamin D production.
Side Effects of Pharmaceutical Medicines and Some Herbs, Including:
Antibiotics – rifampin (rifampicin) and isoniazid, commonly used to treat TB. Vitamin D levels can sometimes fall after as little as two weeks’ exposure to these drugs.
Anti-Seizure drugs – phenobarbital, carbamazepine, phenytoin
Anti-Cancer Drugs – Taxol and related compounds
Antifungal Agents – clotrimazole and ketoconazole
Anti-HIV Drugs – research suggests that the drugs efavirenz (Sustiva, Stocrin and in Atripla) and AZT (Retrovir, zidovudine and in Combivir and Trizivir) may reduce vitamin D levels in some people. In contrast, exposure to darunavir (Prezista) appears to raise vitamin D levels.
The herb St. John’s Wort or its extracts (hypericin, hyperforin)
Anti-Inflammatory Drugs – corticosteroids
Researchers continue to study the possible effects of various medications on vitamin D levels, so look for more news about this in the future.
It’s important to have your 25 hydroxy-D blood level checked fairly frequently to make sure your blood level of vitamin D isn’t TOO LOW or TOO HIGH … both are problematic. Dr Robert Mercola included this chart in a recent article called The Real RDA for Vitamin D Is 10 Times Higher Than Currently Recommended, which I suggest reading:
In taking nutritional supplements, it’s best to look for ones made by companies that produce high quality products – ones that contain the supplement in bio-available form. These often cost somewhat more than the brands you’ll find at chain drugstores but will make a bigger difference to your health. Bio-availability is the amount of a drug or supplement that is physiologically absorbed from a given dose – as distinct from its chemical potency. My personal favorite D3 supplement is made by Metagenics. They make three types: a bio-active micro-tablet containing 1,000 iu of D3, high potency softgels containing bio-available 5,000 iu of D3, and a liquid delivering 2,000 IU of vitamin D3/dose in its most bioactive form. All the Metagenics’ forms of D3 are gluten and GMO free. Dr Mercola says it’s important to know, when taking oral vitamin D supplements, that you increase your need for vitamin K2. Vitamin D also requires sufficient amounts of magnesium and zinc to work properly, and is best taken with some healthy fat, as it’s a fat-soluble vitamin. (Mercola, 2015) OMEGA-3 ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS
In addition to supporting cardiovascular health, reducing inflammation in the body, and enhancing cognitive brain function, consuming omega-3 fatty acids is an excellent way to prevent colds and even cure flu – including “bird flu”. (Louis, 2013), (Morita et al, 2013) & (Rodale, 2013)
Our bodies can’t generate omega-3s so we must obtain them from outside sources. Plant sources include avocados, walnuts, and seeds (chia, flax, and hemp). Animal sources include fatty fish, egg yolks, and high-quality cuts of meat like grass-fed beef.
Dr Josh Axe (a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutrition, and chiropractic) recommends these as the 15 best food sources of omega-3s (Axe, 2016):
Omega-3s from Natural Sources + Supplements Dr Axes advises: “When it comes to getting enough omega-3s into your diet, I recommend eating plenty of omega-3 foods and also supplementing in most cases. Through a combination of both, my advice is to make sure you’re getting at least 1,000 milligrams a day of EPA/DHA and about 4,000 milligrams of total omega-3s (ALA/EPA/DHA combined).” (Axe, 2016) Dr Andrew Weil’s recommendations are to eat oily fleshed, wild caught, cold water fish 2-3 times a week. If taking a fish oil supplement, he recommends choosing one “derived from molecularly distilled fish oils – these are naturally high in both EPA and DHA and low in contaminants. Also choose a supplement brand that has been independently tested and guaranteed to be free of heavy metals such as mercury and lead, and other environmental toxins including polychlorinated biphenyls, also known as PCBs.” (Weil, 2013) YIN CHIAO
Maybe you get run down or super stressed out and, in spite of having built up your immune system, you start coming down with a cold or flu … Dr. Shen’s Yin Chiao Pills are good for keeping something viral from taking hold if taken at the first sign of a cold or flu. They’re made of herbs and contain no pharmaceuticals, dyes, animal products, preservatives or unlisted ingredients. This Yin Chiao formula has been around for a lot of years and is a favorite of many people. It was first published in a Chinese herbal text by Dr. Wu Ju Tong in the year 1798. There are other brands of Yin Chiao on the market but I’ve found Dr Shen’s to be the most effective.
One dose usually dispatches my symptoms. If any return, I take two more Yin Chiao a few hours apart until my immune system has successfully fought off the virus. The wild crafted herbs in Dr Shen’s Yin Chiao are:
Honeysuckle (Lonicera flos) Jin Yin Hua
Forsythia (Forsythia Suspensa Fructus) Lian Qiao
Balloon Flower (Platycodi Grandiflori Radix) Jie Geng
Peppermint (Menthe Herba) Bo He
Edible Burdock (Arctium Lappa) Niu Bang Zi
Crested Grass (Lophatheri Gracilis) Dan Zhu Ye
Schizonepeta (Schizonepeta Tenuifolia) Jing Jie
Fermented Soy Bean (Sojae Praeparatum Semen) Dan Dou Qi
Chinese Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza Uranelsis Radix) Gan Cao
Dr Shen’s Yin Chiao is available on Amazon, elsewhere online, and at some health food stores.
For more information on Dr Shen’s Yin Chiao and other ways to avoid getting something viral, see also Fighting Off A Virus. (Hardin, 10/12/2014)
Here’s the Dr Shen’s website about their Yin Chiao formula.
Axe, J. (2016). 15 Omega-3 Foods Your Body Needs Now. See: http://draxe.com/omega-3-foods/ CATIE. (2011). Overview of vitamin D – sources, dosing, drug interactions, toxicity. See: http://www.catie.ca/en/treatmentupdate/treatmentupdate-185/nutrition/overview-vitamin-sources-dosing-drug-interactions-toxi Dr Shen’s. (2016). Dr Shen’s Yin Chiao Pills. See: http://drshen.com/collections/dr-shens-chinese-herbs/products/dr-shens-yin-chiao Hardin, J.R. (10/12/2014). Fighting Off A Virus. See: https://www.allergiesandyourgut.com/post/fighting-off-a-virus Hardin, J.R. (11/30/2014). Alzheimer’s, Gut Bacteria and Music. See: https://www.allergiesandyourgut.com/post/alzheimer-s-gut-bacteria-and-music Lipman, F. (2015). HEALTHY EATING CHECKLIST. See: https://www.bewellbydrfranklipman.com/healthy-living/eating-plan.html Louis, P.F. (2013). Research: Treat severe flu with omega-3 fatty acids. Natural News. See: http://www.naturalnews.com/039954_omega-3_influenza_defense.html# Magee, E. (2014). Vitamin D Deficiency. WebMD. See: http://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/vitamin-d-deficiency Mercola, R. (undated). Beginner Plan: Fats. See: http://www.mercola.com/nutritionplan/beginner_fats.htm Mercola, R. (12/13/2012). Zinc—One of the Best Supplements to Help Fight Cold and Flu. See: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/12/13/zinc-for-colds-and-flu.aspx Mercola, R. (10/19/2013). Vitamin D and K2 Work in Tandem to Slow Arterial Calcification. See: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/10/19/vitamin-d-vitamin-k2.aspx Mercola. R. (12/8/2013). Magnesium—The Missing Link to Better Health. See: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/12/08/magnesium-health-benefits.aspx Mercola, R. (5/10/2015). The Real RDA for Vitamin D Is 10 Times Higher Than Currently Recommended. See: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/05/10/vitamin-d-recommended-dietary-allowance.aspx Morita, M. et al. (2013). The Lipid Mediator Protectin D1 Inhibits Influenza Virus Replication and Improves Severe Influenza. Cell, 153:1, p112–125. See: http://www.cell.com/abstract/S0092-8674(13)00216-X Rodale. (2013). Best And Worst Natural Cold And Flu Remedies: Find out which immune-boosting supplements really help—and which are just hype – Omega 3s. Prevention. See: http://www.prevention.com/health/health-concerns/best-and-worst-natural-cold-and-flu-remedies/omega-3s Shankar, S. (2014). 6 Causes Of Vitamin D Deficiency In The Body. See: http://www.searchhomeremedy.com/causes-of-vitamin-d-deficiency-in-the-body/
Weil, A. (1/10/2013). Fish Oil and Omega-3. See: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03050/Fish-Oil-Omega-3-Dr-Weil.html Wortsman, J. et al. (2000). Decreased bioavailability of vitamin D in obesity. American Society for Clinical Nutrition, 72:3, 690-693. See: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/72/3/690.full © Copyright 2016. Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Comments submitted prior to 8/25/2021
Great post, Joan. You’re right that vegans and some vegetarians may need to supplement with Vitamin D. My physician checks both my D (natural and supplemented show up differently) and B12 levels routinely. I have used a variety of different brands and forms of both, and I have found My Kind vegan organic liquid D3 and B12 sprays the best. In addition to the vegetable sources of the vitamins, each has a base of fruit and vegetable extracts and a very pleasant taste, sweetened with stevia.
This is TERRIFIC information! In the past decade I’ve warded off even the slightest hint of a cold with monthly colonics from a professional colon hyrdotherapist as well as daily neti pot use in the shower. Saccharomyces boulardii is another wonder product should you get a tummy bug!
In reply to Scott Moshen
Thanks, Scott. Great that you’ve figured out how to ward off upper respiratory viral infections! I strongly agree about using a neti pot daily but am not so sure about monthly colonic irrigations. Can’t they remove the probiotics in the colon along with pathogenic organisms and toxins? See, for example:
HEALTHY INTESTINAL FLORA & COLONICS
By Carla Roter on October 14, 2012
http://naturallysavvy.com/eat/healthy-intestinal-flora-colonics and Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 1988 Feb;11(1):10-6. Potential impact of colonic irrigation on the indigenous intestinal microflora.
Sisco V1, Brennan PC, Kuehner CC.
In reply to Sonnische
Thanks, Sonnische. That’s very helpful information about vitamin D3 supplements for vegans & strict vegetarians.
Hi Joan – I want to thank you for the additional info. I am not sure about your probiotic point. Which isn’t to say I doubt it. To me, the proof is in the pudding- > if you’ll forgive the expression in this context. I’ve felt a world of difference since I began the monthly
irrigations. All for the better.
In reply to Scott Moshen
My concern is that the mucosal lining of the gut is thin & delicate so it seems colonic irrigation could damage – or at least disrupt it and the probiotics that reside in it. In the small intestine, the thin epithelial layer takes the form of villi. In the colon, there are no villi & the mucosa is covered by a single layer of epithelial cells that form a flat surface containing thousands of glands. The mucosal layer renews itself every 4-5 days.
For a description of the gut’s lining, see: http://allergiesandyourgut.com/2015/05/10/increased-gut-permeability-causes-consequences/
and of the Human Large Intestine http://inside.ucumberlands.edu/academics/biology/faculty/kuss/courses/Digestive%20system/HumanLargeIntestine.html