The Art of Not Getting Sick (Part One)
Having practiced for about 15 years, I’ve started to notice how rarely my patients get sick. They’ll tell me stories about how their whole family or all their work colleagues got colds, flu, or some other virus, but they didn’t—or if they did, it was significantly less of an issue. Why do we of the wellness tribe seem so much more impervious to disease?
Most of us understand that certain vitamins and minerals—particularly vitamins C and D and zinc—are critical to proper immune function. But maintaining proper levels of these nutrients can be tricky. Vitamin C and zinc must be taken in because the body doesn’t produce them. And other health issues can compromise vitamin D production.
Here’s what you need to know.
How much vitamin C to take has been the subject of controversy. The conventional medicine community considers ascorbic acid to be its active ingredient, and the recommended daily allowance is about 500mg. But most quality supplements contain far greater amounts and often other ingredients, such as zinc, selenium, and quercetin. Plus vitamin C can aggravate digestive problems, as it is quite acidic.
Linus Pauling, the scientist who discovered vitamin C, was at odds with the medical establishment as his study of this important compound continued. He was adamant that several thousand milligrams were necessary, and that ascorbic acid is actually just the antioxidant outer shell of a multilayered vitamin C complex.
Back to zinc. Foods traditionally thought to be high in zinc, like nuts, may not be if the soil they’re grown in has been depleted of minerals by conventional US farming practices. So while Brazil nuts from South African may be high in zinc, those farmed in California may not be.
A soil analysis of large American farms in the 1960s showed a 40 to 60 percent reduction in nutrient content, and the current range is estimated to be closer to 70 to 90 percent. True organic regenerative farming can reverse this trend, but fewer than 5 percent of all farms practice it.
“Vitamin” D is another important nutrient for protection against infectious disease. But both the type and volume of this “vitamin” are critical. Why do I keep putting “vitamin” in quotes? Because “vitamin” D is a hormone. (Some say pro-hormone. Potato, potahto.) A hormone is a compound that stimulates and modulates body function—in this case, the expression of our DNA regarding growth, immunity, mood, and much more.
The human body can make vitamin D, yet more than 90 percent of the population is considered deficient. Is that due to lack of sun exposure, or to not drinking enough milk? (By the way, vitamin D is added to cow’s milk, which is not a natural source of vitamin D.)
Here’s my theory.
Vitamin D is a steroid hormone. To produce it, the body requires proper function of the skin, liver, kidneys, and adrenal glands. The adrenal glands produce and modulate steroid hormones—a powerful class of hormones that can enter the nucleus of our cells and cause DNA expression. Important stuff. The adrenal glands can convert one steroid into another since they all share the same backbone, cholesterol. Is that what’s depleting our vitamin D?
Another possibility is that many of us are dealing with chronic stress or inflammation, both of which increase our natural levels of corticosteroids, like cortisol, which function much like “steroid” medications prednisone or cortisone. To increase cortisol production, the body must take raw materials from somewhere, so it stops making the “less-important” hormones vitamin D, estrogen, and testosterone. As a result, we get sick and have no libido.
This is just a brief explanation of the three best-known nutraceuticals for immunity. There are many more.
In general, to protect against contagious illness, we need to make sure that 1) we have sufficient, perhaps abundant, vitamin levels; 2) our body can properly produce and use immune-boosting compounds; 3) we are managing our stress response.
Next month, we’ll discuss body functions and systems that maximize immunity, and how to improve them.
Dr. David L Pollack is founder of Pollack Wellness Institute, in Commack, NY. For more information, contact him at 631-861-HEAL(4325) or [email protected], or visit PollackWellness.com.