The Common Cold

The Common Cold
Dr. Jimmy Steger

There is a connection between stress and susceptibility to the common cold. Lifestyle, in general, can have an effect on the immune system. Alcohol consumption, smoking and even skipping breakfast can make you more susceptible to colds and the flu, according to the Economic and Social Research Council (research released March 2002).
    A research study preformed at the School of Psychology at Cardiff University involved nearly 500 students. The subjects were asked to present themselves within six to 96 hours of contacting an upper respiratory infection. More of the 188 subjects who caught colds were likely to be drinkers or smokers than those who stayed healthy. Stress also seemed to increase the chance of illness.
    A second study, involving 100 participants, was performed. It related illness to dietary habits. The subjects kept a diary for 10 weeks; in it they recorded any problems with memory and attention and any illness. Subjects who had more than one illness during the study were less likely to eat breakfast and more likely to drink alcohol. Those who developed more than one illness also tended to have negative, stressful events over the proceeding year.
    According to Professor Andrew Smith, author of the studies, the studies demonstrate the effect of upper respiratory infections on performance and mood. They also show that health habits and behavior may be related to the tendency to get colds or the flu. “Further research on the impact of minor illnesses in industry and education is now needed’ says Professor Smith, Awareness of the effects of performing whilst ill should also be increased and possible counter measures considered”.

The Flu and Vitamin D

    According to research appearing in the British journal, Epidemiology and Infection (2006 Dec; 134(6):1129-40), there may be a connection between the flu and vitamin D deficiency. The article cites R Edgar Hope-Simpson, who noticed the seasonality of influenza epidemics, and the possible relation to solar radiation.
The researchers propose that the seasonal connection between vitamin D and the flu may be vitamin D. Flu season is during the winter, and vitamin D deficiency is common in the winter—due to the lack of solar radiation. Solar radiation triggers vitamin D production in the skin. Ultra violet radiation (found in sunlight) reduces the incidence of viral infections. Cod liver oil, a source of vitamin D, reduces the incidence of viral infections. Treating children with vitamin D reduced the incidence of respiratory infections. Activated vitamin D is a steroid hormone that has an effect on immunity. It reduces inflammatory chemicals (cytokines) and increases the effectiveness of certain white blood cells. it stimulates potent antimicrobial  peptides found in white blood cells and in the cells lining the respiratory tract.

Heath Care In America Could Be Better

    According to a report released in September, 2006 by the Commonwealth Fund, a non-profit, non-partisan organization, American health care only scored 66 points out of a possible 100 and lagged far behind the rest of the industrialized world. American health care received low grades on efficiency, access to care and in outcomes.
    The United States spends about 15% of it GDP (gross domestic product) on health care, compared to 10% of the GDP spent by most other industrialized nations. Insurance administrative costs in the U.S. were more than three times the rate in countries with integrated payment systems. Nearly one-third of Americans under the age of 65 have trouble paying their medical bills. Unfortunately, the increased spending does not result in better care. The US rated 15th out of 19 nations with regard to preventable deaths. It is estimated that 115 per 100,000 people who would have survived if timely and appropriate medical care was administered. France scored highest in this category, with only 75 deaths per 100,000.
    The US ranks last in infant mortality, with 7 deaths per 1,000 births. The top three countries have 2.7 deaths per 1,000 births—less than half our number. We are at the bottom of the list in life expectancy. American children miss more school for illness than the children from the other industrialized nations. Fewer than half of American adults receive the recommended screening tests appropriate for their age and sex. Preventable hospital admissions for chronically ill patients (e.g.; those with asthma or diabetes) were twice as high compared to the nations at the top of the list. The rate of readmission of Medicare patients ranges from 14-22%.

Sub Optimal Vitamin Intake Linked To Disease

    According to an article appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2002; 287(23)3127-9), many of us may need to be taking vitamin supplements. This article acknowledges that while extreme deficiency syndromes (like pellagra and beriberi) are rare in Western society, sub optimal intake of certain nutrients is a risk factor for disease. The article states that deficiencies of folic, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 increase the risk for heart disease. These deficiencies also increase the risk for breast and colon cancers, as well as for neural tube defect (a common birth defect) in developing fetuses. Deficiencies of antioxidants, like vitamins A, C and E are also linked to a number of diseases. The article acknowledges that the diets of countless Americans are not getting enough of many of these nutrients and sees the wisdom of supplementation.

Where Did Those Super Bugs Come From?

    According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (June 19, 2002; 287:3096-3102, 3103-3109, 3133-3135), fewer doctors are prescribing antibiotics to children and teens than in 1990. This is an attempt to halt the rise in antibiotic resistant infections. Overuse of antibiotics in the past has created antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.
    Doctors gave only 30 million prescriptions for antibiotics between 1999 and 2000 to children under the age of 15. Between 1989 and 1990 the same age group was given 45 million antibiotic prescriptions. This is according to the Centers for Disease control and Prevention in Atlanta. The number of office visits was the same for the two periods of time.
    The authors of the JAMA article believe that the reduction in the number of antibiotic prescriptions was due to awareness that giving unnecessary antibiotics help to create bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. The article’s findings were formed from surveys conducted from 1989 to 1990, and then later from 1999 to 2000. The physicians reported on their use pf antibiotics in as many as 13,600 office visits with patients under the age of 15.

Nutrition and Lung Disease

    Research published in Epidemiologic Reviews (2001; 23(2): 268-87) indicates that antioxidants vitamins, like vitamin E and vitamin C may protect against the development of lung disease. Oxidation from free radicals (chemicals that have an electron that reacts easily) can be liked to damage done by chemical “bullets”. That spare electron is analogous to a bullet. Antioxidant nutrients act like chemical bullet-proof vests that protect the cell from oxidation. Antioxidants could also play a protective role in gene-environment interactions in complex lung diseases like childhood asthma.
    The authors did a review of the medical literature and found studies that indicated vitamin C supplementation improved lung function of COPD patients (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease—emphysema and bronchitis). Consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables may improve asthma symptoms in children. The researchers point out that fruits and vegetables contain many antioxidant components. Vitamin C is only one of those components, so it is hard to identify a single constituent that is most beneficial. While the researchers point out the protective effects of antioxidants on short-term lung function, they stop short of stating that long-term supplementation can slow the progression of lung diseases. They do, however, recommend antioxidant supplementation to patients who have high levels of oxidative stress (smokers, people who live where there is a lot of air pollution, etc.).
I suggest to all my patients use my pro-vitamin-multi-mineral formula along with  6,000mg. of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), mixed with bio-flavonoids. I also suggest to compliment this with a complete wheat germ product 3 times daily with their meals.  
If you truly want to be healthy, give up the junk food and add a few good supplements to your diet and watch the difference in your health.  Feeling is believing,  Let’s get healthy for life.

Until next time, Stay Healthy!

Dr. Jimmy Steger