Staying healthy during the winter takes more than getting a flu shot. As you probably know by now, each year the vaccine contains two or three strains of flu that might be the one going around. The idea is that if this year's flu strain matches one in the vaccine it will help strengthen your body's immune system.
But if the experts have guessed wrong, it won't help you at all. You need a strong immune system to protect you from colds and flu.
As a subscriber, you know I've told you in the past how to do this. Remember, you have access to all of this information by going to my website, www.womenshealthletter.com and searching through past articles. Your user name and password, which you need to log in, are in every issue.
Whether or not you get a flu shot, you may be at a higher risk for pneumonia if you're taking some common medications.
A very recent study published in JAMA found that people who take antacids are at an increased risk for pneumonia. And, let's face it. Pneumonia is the big winter killer, not the flu.
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Sometimes pneumonia is caused by viruses like the flu. Sometimes it's caused by bacterial infections. If you don't have a strong immune system to fight bacterial infections, you could get pneumonia. If you don't have enough stomach acid to destroy harmful bacteria, you could get pneumonia.
That's right. Stomach acid - the same acid that Nexium, Prilosec, and Pepcid neutralize - destroys harmful bacteria that can lead to pneumonia.
Older people, and people with asthma or other chronic lung problems, are at the greatest risk for getting pneumonia if they?re taking antacids. These are the same people who are most frightened about getting the flu.
But if you can't take antacids to stop pain from heartburn, what else can you do?
Read my article on the subject from the July 2003 issue. It explains in detail why you may actually need stomach acid to stop your heartburn forever. A follow-up article is in the works. It explains how certain foods and medications contribute to heartburn.
You won't want to miss this one if you are one of the thousands of people who suffer from acid reflux or heartburn.
Meanwhile, strengthen your immune system, no matter what else you do. Echinacea Plus tea from Traditional Medicinals is an excellent daily addition to your winter health program. And I've used medicinal mushrooms, especially MycoPhyto Complex(mushrooms grown on immune-boosting herbs), to keep me from getting even a cold for the past four years.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand