The public is generally expecting vaccines
to prevent them from getting infections.
Although there is evidence demonstrating
that some vaccines can establish a permanent
immunity with some diseases (such as, measles,
mumps, rubella, polio, etc.), vaccines are
far from adequate in the case of influenza
and some other respiratory vaccines.
There are over 200 different viruses which
can cause upper respiratory diseases which
vary in severity from the common cold to
more serious viral pneumoniae. Getting
one of these infections usually results in immunity
to future reinfection by the same strain.
The problem is that there are many strains
of these viruses. If one gets 3-4 cold-like
infections per year, it might take 57 years
before one would exhaust all the potential
The problem with influenza virus, is that
it has the ability frequently to mutate
sufficiently so that the emerging strain
to the antibodies elicited by the strain
causing the epidemic the season before.
Some individuals getting influenza one
might be partly protected if the mutation
of the emerging strain is not severe. If
the mutation is severe, the emerging strain
has the capacity to spread and cause a
Also, when other viruses newly emerge,
such as SARS (serious acute respiratory
syndrome) – viruses
to which humans have not been previously
exposed – the effects could be devastating.
These new viruses may have the capacity
to spread rapidly and with high mortality.
The person who never gets sick:
Have you ever wondered why some individuals never get ill,
when others get everything “coming down the pike?” Although
it is important to study ill individuals, the health profession
should also be studying those who almost never get sick to
find out why.
Research in the field of nutrition is demonstrating what
some have known all along. Our diets are key in developing
and maintaining an healthy body. With increased intake
of processed foods, our bodies are becoming increasingly
in those nutrients required to function normally and resist
We have done well to discover some vitamin deficiency diseases:
|Vitamin B3 (niacin)
|Vitamin B12 (pyridoxine)
|Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
||Rickets in children; Osteoporosis in adults
What about relative deficiencies of some very important
minerals, such as zinc, selenium, chromium? Many of these
are required to establish and maintain an healthy immune
system. We are now beginning to appreciate that there are
such conditions as “sub-clinical” pellagra – not
due to a serious deficiency in niacin, but rather to a mild
deficiency of the vitamin.
We also know that simple sugars inhibit the ability of neutrophils
to phagocytize viruses and bacteria within the body. Neutrophils
are those white blood cell components which search out and
eat unwanted infectious agents: phago (to eat); cytize (cell).
An appropriate program of elimination of all refined sugars,
and the addition of vitamins A and C, and zinc would go a
long way in boosting one’s immune system. The key is
the word “appropriate,” and a knowledgeable and
trained nutritionist can help one determine what would be
appropriate. Some individuals may require doses of supplements
considerably higher than the recommended daily allowance
(RDA) and monitoring may be necessary to achieve optimal
An healthy body and lifestyle should be able to establish
within an individual a degree of natural immunity to the
next infection coming down the pike. If one gets a viral
infection, adjustments in supplementation would result in
a milder infection than would ordinarily be the case.
Certain foods, such as milk, result in excessive mucous production
in the nose and throat. This increased mucous and the resultant
stagnation of the lymphatics in the area create an environment
conducive to viral and bacterial growth.
Some may be concerned – and reasonably so – about
using a nutritional approach and supplements to treat something
like a strep throat. In this case, the more appropriate treatment
would be to administer an antibiotic. It would then appear
reasonable to begin a systematic program of nutrition and
supplements to help build one’s natural resistance
so that the next time the individual is exposed to strep
s/he would be resistant to infection.
A serious problem today is the overuse of antibiotics which
result in dysbiosis – a situation where the normal
good bacteria of the intestinal tract (and the vaginal tract
in women) are replaced by potentially pathogenic bacteria
and yeast. Candidiasis, caused by an overgrowth of pathogenic
yeast) is becoming an increasing medical problem because
of frequent use of antibiotics. After a diagnosis is made,
a program of elimination of the antibiotic, and administration
of probiotics, usually in the form of cultures of Lactobacilli
(yogurt), to help re-colonize the intestinal tract with non-pathogenic
bacteria. Frequently, temporary use of antifungal agents
may be necessary during the transition period. Additionally,
there are herbal preparations which can also be used.
Another aspect of prevention: Keep away from crowds.
In the Eastern part of the United States influenza usually
peaks each year sometime during the last two weeks of December
and the first two weeks of January. It is usually over by
the last week of January. One of the ways to decrease your
risk of getting influenza is to decrease your exposure. The
yearly custom of many individuals flocking to stores shopping
for Christmas sets up a situation where all these people
are exposing themselves to each other and viruses are exchanged.
It takes time for a virus such as influenza to build up within
the population. One infected person may infect two others.
In turn these two will infect four, then in the next wave
eight, and so on. Within a month there are many people infected,
and soon we have an epidemic on hand.
The reverse is true as the epidemic subsides. As the epidemic
reaches its peak, there becomes less susceptible people
in the community. This heralds the decline in the ability
influenza to spread.
We need to change our customs. If we wish not to get influenza,
we need to keep away from crowds during the season when
we are expecting influenza to appear.
nicola michael c. Tauraso, M.D.
Tauraso Medical Clinic
7051 Poole Jones Road
Frederick, Maryland 21702