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Strengthen your immune system to avoid Avian flu

Big Bird

The death of a bird in Britain wouldn’t normally be covered by local news outlets in London, much less TV network outlets in the U.S. But if that bird dies from the H5N1 “bird flu,” that’s international news.

When H5N1 was found to be the flu that killed a UK parrot last week, it was a relief to find out that the bird had died while in quarantine, and had apparently picked up the flu from a quarantined Taiwanese bird.

But that’s fairly small comfort in a world already on edge about the potential for an H5N1 pandemic.

Since the beginning of October, traces of H5N1 have been detected in birds in Turkey, Romania and Greece. No humans have been infected in these countries, but Bill Bonner (whose name many of you know from the Daily Reckoning e-letter) offered this assessment of the European mood in a recent DR: “Europe is watching the movement of Avian Flu bugs as if they were a Mongol army. The whole continent is on the verge of hysteria, with newspapers predicting 50,000 deaths in Britain alone.”

No hysteria yet on this side of the Atlantic, but plenty of nervousness. So I’m not surprised that we’ve received many e-mails like this one from a member named Leslie: “Can I please have info on how to protect myself from this avian flu?”

The good with the bad

The best way to avoid seasonal colds and influenza is to strengthen your immune system with regular exercise, a balanced diet of nutritious whole foods, an adequate amount of sleep, and a minimum of stress. Unfortunately, H5N1 is like a double agent spy who tricks the immune system into defeating itself.

In a recent issue of his Baseline of Health e-letter, HSI Panelist Jon Barron explained that H5N1 appears to trigger acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), just as the Spanish Flu of 1918 did. When the immune system recognizes a virus unlike any that’s been previously detected, it launches into overdrive, producing a surge of immune system chemicals that damage lung tissue when the surge becomes extreme. Severe cases of ARDS lead to suffocation.

Obviously, it’s not logical to defend yourself by weakening your immune system. But there are ways to give your immune system a boost when the enemy is as formidable as H5N1. Jon recently sent me an e-mail with this note: “Building up the immune system without using antiviral agents to lessen the viral load is likely to increase your chances of dying with avian flu. On the other hand, building the immune system AND using antivirals gives you the best of both worlds.”

In the e-Alert “Fantastic Four” (10/3/05), I told you about four
pathogen destroyers that Jon recommends as a sort of security force for the immune system. (Just use the keyword “pathogen” to search the e-Alert archives on our web site at

The Big Kahuna

In addition to those four key pathogen destroyers, there’s another powerful antiviral nutrient that’s well known, but still doesn’t get the recognition it deserves: vitamin C.

HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., believes that vitamin C can knock out any virus – including H5N1 – if enough is taken. In an e-mail, Dr. Spreen noted that the key word is “enough.” He writes: “The required dose can, indeed, be hugeeven upwards of 100,000 milligrams/day.

“During flu season, a person wanting some ‘health insurance’ would be well advised to take 2,000 mg of C (orally) 3x/day, along with alpha lipoic acid (ALA), 400-600 mg 1-2x/day. If you get flu-like symptoms, then the vitamin C should be increased to 2,000-3,000 mg per HOUR, up to bowel tolerance.”

In other words, the first signs of diarrhea indicate that you’ve reached the upper dosage limit. But once a flu sets in, Dr. Spreen says getting to bowel tolerance is “nearly impossible,” even with as much as 100 1-gram capsules of vitamin C in eight hours. “Often, until a certain threshold is reached (variable with both the victim, and the extent of the infection), there are no changes at all – then wham, the patient is (very) rapidly much improved. Once the virus is overwhelmed, then a farlower dose will cause diarrhea.”

Intravenous mega doses of C (IVC) might be necessary to defeat a virus as daunting as H5N1. To find a naturopathic doctor in your area who can administer IVC, check the web site for the American College for the Advancement of Medicine (

As always, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor before beginning any high-dose supplement regimen.