Sir William Osler, one of the world’s great doctors, suggested a treatment for the common cold. He said, “Hang your hat on the bedpost, go to bed, start sipping whisky, and stop when you see two hats!” He was stressing humorously that there wasn’t any sure treatment for the common cold. Now, during the flu season, I’m often asked if I get a flu shot. But there’s a big difference between a cold and the flu. So read this column with reservation, and remember I am not your doctor.
Albert Szent-Gyorgyi received the Nobel Prize in 1937 for his research on vitamin C. At the time vitamin C could only be extracted from adrenal glands and massive amounts of orange juice.
Life Extension, a medical publication, reports that, as we age, our blood and immune cells contain lowered amounts of vitamin C. This can have a major effect on a number of diseases.
For instance, diabetes patients and those suffering from gastritis show one-half the normal amount of vitamin C in their blood. Cancer and arthritis patients show one-third the amount, and following a traumatic accident or a surgical operation, vitamin C levels can drop to as low as 10 percent!
So it’s vital to have sufficient amounts of vitamin C in the blood at all times to energize the immune system. Why? Because immune cells have vitamin C transporter molecules embedded in their membranes, and these actively pump C into cells when more is required.
It’s hard to believe that, when infection or surgery occurs, transporter molecules ensure that immune cells have as much as 100 X more vitamin C as normal in the blood. But this transfer isn’t possible unless the blood always has a big reservoir of C.
Never forget this fact, as this reservoir can be life-saving. For instance, vitamin C can reduce the incidence of pneumonia by as much as 80 percent. This is important as the death rate from pneumonia in elderly people is 16 percent, even with the use of antibiotics! And flu kills thousands of people annually in North America.
Studies show that 23 percent of North Americans have low levels of vitamin C, affecting their immune system. Researchers say that unexplained fatigue may be due to vitamin C deficiency. And skin infections, such as boils, can be helped by even a small dose of 1,000 milligrams of C daily. And older people are particularly at risk of cancer as the immune system ages.
Dr. Linus Pauling, a Nobel Prize winner, reported that high doses of vitamin C could prevent colds. Now, a new study shows that 1,000 mg. of C decreases the risk of a cold by 50 percent in soldiers and athletes undergoing heavy stress. And research also shows that high doses of C can even decrease the risk of heart attack.
So I don’t get a flu shot. But why? Nineteen years ago I suffered a severe coronary attack. I knew of Pauling’s research, so I decided to take 10,000 milligrams of Medi-C Plus, a high dose of vitamin C available in health food stores, rather than risk the many potential complications of cholesterol-lowering drugs.
So my blood is always loaded with C. This means my immune cells can obtain adequate amounts of C if I suddenly develop a cold, the flu or other viral diseases such as meningitis or encephalitis. Big C will also help if I face the stress of surgery. And I have not had a cold for years.
I also realize that, as a senior, I need to maintain a high level of immunity for unexpected stress as getting old is a dangerous disease.
So what should you do? Remember, how I treat myself is one thing. You should take the advice of health authorities and your family doctor, realize that the flu virus kills, and get a flu shot. But it’s also prudent to have high amounts of vitamin C in the blood at all times for added immunity protection.
Dr. Ken Walker (Gifford-Jones) is a graduate of the University of Toronto and The Harvard Medical School. He trained in general surgery at the Strong Memorial Hospital, University of Rochester, Montreal General Hospital, McGill University and in Gynecology at Harvard. He has also been a general practitioner, ship’s surgeon and hotel doctor. See www.docgiff.com for past columns. For comments: firstname.lastname@example.org