Every year the shift towards cold temperatures in winter marks the beginning of flu season in the northern hemisphere. The spread of the flu virus is further facilitated by people gathering and staying indoors and by people with compromised immune systems. Therefore, many turn to supplements to support their immune system and boost internal protection against viruses. However, in choosing supplements most of us miss an important aspect that is the efficacy of the supplements to support healthy blood production and a strong immune system. This may be a reason why some people, despite regularly taking vitamins, become sick simply, because their body may not be properly absorbing the supplements. This knowledge is particularly important and something we should retain, as we get older.
After 50, the body’s capacity to absorb many essential nutrients is weakened because the stomach produces less gastric acid and other cofactors that are needed for effective absorption of micronutrients. One important cofactor is called Intrinsic Factor. It is a protein secreted by the cells lining the stomach and it is essential for the absorption of vitamin B12 in the intestines. Our immune system operates as a finely orchestrated mechanism and any dysfunction in even one part of it can affect the entire system. The immune system cannot function effectively, without Intrinsic Factor and it is vital that Intrinsic Factor is included in the supplements one takes.
Moreover, vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient for life and an untreated B12 deficiency can be fatal. In addition to its supporting for the production of red blood cells, vitamin B12 plays a critical role in short- and long-term immune response. It is important in the production of T-lymphocytes (the white blood “police” cells) and natural killer (NK) cells activity, which are required for the destruction of virus infected cells. Secondly, by increasing antibody production, vitamin B12 helps build long-term immunity and prepares the body for combating future attacks by similar pathogens.
The production of Intrinsic Factor is compromised not only by age. In younger people who take drugs like antacids or anti-diabetics (metformin), a decrease in the production of Intrinsic Factor is quite frequent because these drugs attack the stomach lining. Also, there is decreased production of Intrinsic Factor in people with gastritis or H. Pylori infection. The lack of Intrinsic Factor prevents B12 absorption leading to decreased immunity, pernicious anemia, and neuropathies.
On the other hand, media continues to promote the flu vaccine although experts doubt its efficacy and safety because of the inactive ingredients present in the vaccine. Flu vaccines are typically designed to protect against three strains of the influenza virus. However, the virus changes (mutates) rapidly and the previous year’s vaccine will not work against newly mutated virus spreading the next year. Therefore, these vaccines are modified each year predicting which particular strains of influenza virus should be included in the next season’s batch. Obviously, it is a very difficult task. It is especially true for this flu season when the CDC has confirmed that the current vaccine is less effective because the virus has mutated after the last vaccine production. Despite the efficacy doubts and risk of adverse effects, the flu vaccine is recommended for everyone over six months old. And there is no clear evidence that the flu vaccine is effective in people over 70 who account for two-thirds of all flu deaths. Drugs such as Tamiflu have minimum efficacy as well as flu viruses become resistant to them.
A safe and effective alternative to flu attacks is a natural micronutrient support for the immune system. It is important to take micronutrients that work together and include a combination of vitamin B12 with Intrinsic Factor. Intrinsic Factor assures vitamin B12 absorption in the intestine and thus indirectly plays the key role in healthy immune function, and healthy nervous and cardiovascular systems.