In January 2018 a study was published in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal demonstrating something I have been sharing with my patients, family and friends for years. Vitamin D is a cold and flu killer. The study focused on infants with influenza but results are similar for older children and adults, too. The multicenter, randomized, controlled, clinical based trial showed that low and high dose vitamin D was effective and safe in treating infants with influenza A. In both groups common symptoms like fever, cough, and wheezing were shorter, but significantly shorter in duration for the high dose group.
10 years ago Dr. John Cannell, founder of the Vitamin D Council, put forth the idea that vitamin D deficiency may be a root cause of influenza. Subsequent studies based on this hypothesis did show that individuals who were vitamin D deficient experienced significantly more colds and flu. In February of last year Time Magazine wrote an article “Here’s How to Avoid Catching Colds and Flu” which summarizes the findings of a meta analysis of 25 studies covering 11,000 people. Daily or weekly vitamin D supplementation reduced colds and flu by half in those with the lowest level of vitamin D. Even people with the highest level of vitamin D saw a 10% reduction in respiratory infection including colds and flu which makes it as effective as the flu shot.
Other studies have revealed that it requires 40 people to be treated with a flu vaccine to prevent one case of flu, 33 people treated with vitamin D to prevent one case of flu, and only 4 people if they are vitamin D deficient to prevent one case of flu. Therefore, for those who are vitamin D deficient a vitamin supplement is 10 times more effective than the flu shot.
Vitamin D is produced naturally from exposure to sunlight rendering us most susceptible to vitamin D deficiency in the winter months when the days are shortest and it may be too cold for outdoor activities. Working indoors, wearing sunscreens, or having darker skin pigmentation can further reduce our vitamin D levels which should be taken into account when considering supplementation. Some people may require as much as 6000-10000 IU of vitamin D3 supplementation to maintain a healthy levels of vitamin D. One may further consider increasing vitamin K2 and magnesium which help optimize vitamin D levels.
Adults: Vitamin D3 50,000 IU once a day for three days.
Children: A proportional fraction of vitamin D3 50,000 IU based on an average adult weight of 150lbs. For example a 30lb child would receive 1/5th of the adult dose or 10,000 IU once a day for three days.
The vitamin D3 should be started within 24-36 hours of the onset of first symptoms.
You should consult with your physician before initiating this protocol as you may have a medical condition precluding vitamin D at these doses.
A mom asked me what my thoughts were on sleepovers because in her view they are sneak-outs, sneak-ins, drink ups, and just a big hot mess to avoid. Her view is increasingly shared by other parents that interpret the world as changed since our childhoods. Society is not only more dangerous but increasingly more litigious adding another layer of risk. Once upon a time parents worked things out, or gave children room to work things out on their own. Now lawyers and law enforcement are a starting point for resolution. It goes without saying that as a parent you will be held responsible for your children’s and their friends’ actions while under your roof. In the mom’s view, there is an age when sleepovers are no longer appropriate which is between 13-15.
While younger children may not be sneaking out, drinking alcohol, or using drugs there are dangers to be aware of. As a father of six daughters and two boys, I am cautious of the people I entrust them to, as you should be with your children. This is especially true with young children. Sexual abuse affects 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys. It is most prevalent between the ages of 7-15, and most commonly perpetrated by people you know and trust. These are facts and I see them first hand in my role as a physician with the child protective team. Part of protection from abuse is bringing it into the light, talking about it at an early age, using correct terms for body parts, and teaching them that their body is their own.
So, my stance on sleepovers is that an actively involved parent will know the right choice to make. Consistently making good decisions requires being an involved parent. That means participating in school, sports, and social activities. It means getting to know your child’s friends, friends of friends, and other parents. The world is not the same as it was when we were young, nor was it then the same as when our parents were young. Kids should not be sheltered and should be given space to make moral decisions which will help them to grow into caring and moral individuals
For me, that means judging a situation case by case, but my default is to say yes when the hosts are trusted and my child is doing all the right things otherwise.
For thousands of years health and wellness treatments were collected, curated and shared from generation to generation until families began to breakup and drift apart while at the same time breaking their sacred relationship with the earth. Instead of living together with nature mankind felt a need to tame and conquer her. Over time ancient medicines were lost, hidden, or destroyed.
Here are six of my favorite medicinal herbs and foods.
1) Korean Ginseng
Korean Ginseng (Panax ginseng) has been used in the Far East as a medicinal herb for over 2000 years. While American Ginseng is in the same family they are distinctly different. Korean Ginseng is very slow growing and is harvested traditionally at 6 years for the greatest health benefits. Ginseng that grows naturally in the wild is thought to provide further health benefits and can fetch a great value to the person who finds it. This has lead to modern treasure hunters who comb the mountainside for naturally growing Ginseng that can fetch over $50,000 for a decades old plant. Ginseng is widely used as an adaptogen thought to strengthen the body against environmental assaults and emotional stress. The active ingredients are part of the plants own immune system that the body absorbs and uses to to strengthen or normalize its immunity. Ginseng is further used to recover vital energy, improve blood flow, assist with mental function, help with fertility and erectile dysfunction, and lessen the effects suffered by menopausal women.
Commonly called “Siberian Ginseng” is not in fact ginseng. However, it does carry many of the same great medicinal benefits as true ginseng and it is highly sought after for that reason. Eleuthero root is believed to enhance energy, mental function, stamina, normalizes physiological processes, improves stress response, exerts protective qualities onto the heart, and promotes antioxidant activity. Eleuthero root is also known as Wucha in China. An ancient herbalist once said, “I would rather have a handful of Wucha than a cart of gold and jewels.”
The use of elderberry is traced back to the stone age in Europe, to recipes in ancient Egypt, and Hippocrates called it the “Medicine Chest.” Not only does elderberry effectively treat colds and flu but it tastes very good. Elderberry tinctures, syrups, juices and wines are a delight to have in your house. They also help with blood sugar levels, sinus infections, relieving arthritis, and improving antioxidant activity.
Ashwagandha is sometimes called “Indian Ginseng” or more dramatically referred to as “Strength of the Stallion.” Ashwagandha is not a true ginseng. However, it’s many potent medicinal benefits and powerful adaptogenic qualities let it stand on its own as a top contender for traditional herbal medicines. It is very capable at helping your body respond to stress. It supports the thyroid and adrenal glands which is probably why it is taken for energy and mood. Ashwagandha is also believed to protect neurological health from decline, boost immunity, and help with glucose metabolism. This all explains the recent popularity of Ashwagandha in supplements and natural health food stores.
Likely the most widely used herbal medicine within traditional oriental medicine. The root of this perennial plant is used to support the immune system for immune deficiency as well as autoimmune disease. Astragalus is used for cold, flu, and respiratory infections. It is used along with modern cancer treatments to support white blood cell counts. The root is rich in flavonoids and polysaccharides which significantly contributes to the medicinal qualities of the plant. It is common to find Astragalus as a tea, capsule, or powder.
Ginger is from the same plant family as turmeric. It is an oft used ingredient in asian cuisine that is both aromatic and spicy do to the presence of ketones. It is a commonly used medicine for everything from colds to cancer. It was known to the Middle East, China, and India for 5000 years. Ginger can be powdered, eaten fresh or cooked, sometimes fermented as when served with sushi, candied, or made into a tea. Ginger appears to have antioxidant properties, have radio-protective effects, anti-inflammatory effects, helps with nausea (superior to dramamine with motion sickness), have anti-cancer effects, and possess cardiovascular protective qualities.
10) Your child’s needs are changing as they grow. Embrace your inner “cup” to fill them with what they need. The value and beauty of a cup rests n its emptiness and ability to receive whatever it is given. You are not exactly the same every day. In the same way, clear your mind of what you think you know of your child, and make an effort to get to know your child on a daily basis as they grow.
09) Begin with the ultimate end in mind. Ask yourself what the relationship with your child looks like 50 years from now. In every action you take decide if this action, is moving you closer to that ultimate destination you want with your child.
08) Help & hug. When young children are acting out they really need help. Forego the threats and consequences. Identify the need and help them to solve their need. Recall the teachers and mentors you lovingly recall are the ones who spent the time learning what you needed.
07) Make yourself happy-not them. True entitlements are few in life, but happiness is surely one of them. Your child is like gold and you the sun. When you shine they glitter. Also, we teach our children to make themselves happy in the process.
06) Timmy Time. Make a special time for your child and do whatever reasonable thing they want during that time. Even if it is watching their favorite show with them. As Jesus did with John the Fisherman, go to them in their own activities.
05) Let your yes be yes, and your no be no. This is an exercise of integrity and humility. We acknowledge that the universe will unfold in its own way and at its own time. Therefore we are careful with our word also understanding and mindful of what we ask of others. It’s about trust and integrity.
04) Respond more and react less. Observe, listen, seek to understand, problem solve and respond instead of roaring and raging. You are the role model. Your children will rage when they do not get their way based on your example and leadership – or visa versa– they will sit with love and understanding as others are struggling.
03) Children learn and model based on the examples we set… especially when you think they aren’t looking.
02) Chores. Get them started early. They will learn the value and satisfaction of work. They will learn the need to contribute to the whole and nurtures them with a sense of responsibility.
01) Listen to your gut and trust your intuition.