It’s time once again to consider getting your flu vaccine.
When it comes to flu shots, I admit I take a far more conventional approach than many patients at WholeHealth Chicago and regular readers of these Health Tips might expect of a doctor who calls himself “alternative” or “integrative.” I’ve recently been reading some of the alternative medicine newsletters online warning people away from flu shots. The conclusion often seems to be “…and I’ve got this product you can buy instead.”
I became a major advocate of flu vaccines in 1974 when there was a flu epidemic and my wife and I simply had forgotten to get immunized. Being in health care, I got the flu quickly from one of my patients and brought it home to share. Illness-wise, we look back on March, ‘74, as simply the worst month of our lives: four solid weeks of being housebound with fever, headaches, exhaustion, and body aches that seemed to never go away. We’d awaken in bed and ask “I wonder if we’re still sick” before coughing deeply and gasping for breath, muttering “Yep, still sick.” We staggered around the house and had friends leave groceries at the front door. Tamiflu, which can offset the seasonal flu, hadn’t yet been invented.
Since 1974, we’ve never missed a flu shot. And although we’ve had very light cases of flu despite being immunized, we’ve never been that sick again.
Let’s review a few of the sentences of protest from patients who opt not to get immunized:
• “I took a flu shot and got the flu anyway.” This is possible. Maybe you got your shot too late in the season and your immune system didn’t have enough time to make antibodies. Maybe the vaccine didn’t target the exact flu strain that year. But at least with an immunization you have a shot at protection (pun unintended).
• “I’m allergic to eggs.” Very few people have a real allergic reaction (sudden onset of hives and wheezing) to eggs. This is not the same as being sensitive to eggs, such as when eggs appear as a positive on food sensitivity testing or you don’t digest eggs well.
• “I don’t want the mercury.” Yes, thimerosal, which contains 25 micrograms of mercury, is used as a vaccine preservative. A microgram is a millionth of a gram, such a minute amount that it’s cleared out by your liver and is harmless.
• “Should I really get two flu shots?” You may not need both. Regular flu shots are always strongly recommended for people over 50, health care workers, anyone with a chronic illness (heart disease, lung disease, etc.), and those who have a lot of contact with other people. Everyone else is welcome to have a regular flu shot, which is why you see so many signs advertising “Flu Shots Here.”
• “I never get a flu shot and I’ve never had the flu.” Congratulations. You’ve apparently got an immune system like a long-range missile protection program. Since there’s no government mandate to be immunized, you can continue as-is. I hope your luck holds out.
Tips on Preventing and Treating the Flu
Since all flu strains are airborne viruses, spread by the invisible droplets people shower you with when they cough and sneeze, avoid the immediate vicinity of both coughers and sneezers. One reason elementary school teachers get frequent colds is their moist and drippy little children lovingly cough right in their faces. If you’re at a movie and the person behind you is coughing mightily, just move away. If you can avoid crowded spaces, like buses and elevators, this too might help.
Viruses are also spread from surfaces, including skin, health club equipment, remote controls, and computer keyboards. If you see someone covering her mouth with her hand when she coughs, it’s best not to shake that hand or use her keyboard, remote, or StairMaster and then inadvertently rub your nose or your eyes with your own hand. This is how the flu virus spreads. And when you yourself cough, remember to do so into the crook of your arm rather than into your hand. Interestingly, billboards throughout Toronto are teaching their citizenry this correct coughing technique.
If you want to boost the status of your immune system, there are two supplements you can take throughout the flu season.
• The first is Host Defense, an extraordinarily popular and effective blend of immune stimulant mushrooms. Clinical mycology is the study of the medical benefits of mushrooms, which have been used for more than 5,000 years to prevent and treat disease. Weighty textbooks and medical journals are devoted to this topic. Host Defense, formulated by well-known mycologist Paul Stamets, is a blend of about 15 immune-boosting mushrooms. You simply take one capsule twice daily for the rest of the flu season.
• In addition, take vitamin D . Ideally, you want blood levels of around 40-60 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter).You could ask your doctor to measure your level, but it’s not necessary. The days are getting shorter here in the northern hemisphere and I haven’t seen any sunlight for a week, so it’s safe to assume your vitamin D is low. We now know that low levels of vitamin D affect your immune system’s ability to fight anything–from viruses to cancer–so just take 2,000 IU of D every day. There’s no danger of overdose.
If you feel you’re coming down with any viral respiratory infection, I suggest starting ViraClear EPs 7630 , a homeopathic remedy recently licensed in the US from one of Europe’s largest nutritional and herbal companies. EPs 7630 is obtained from the roots of the South African pelargonium sidoides plant and in a post-marketing survey of more than 9,000 patients was shown to reduce the severity and duration of a wide variety of viral respiratory illnesses. One published study of 103 patients showed significant improvement of symptoms using EPs 7360 when compared to placebo.
If you’re getting the flu, consider the prescription antiviral drug Tamiflu. If you think you’re coming down with the flu, have your doctor phone in a Tamiflu prescription ASAP. Tamiflu is effective only when started at the very onset of symptoms, ideally within the first 24 to 36 hours. Remember, flu symptoms are much more systemic than cold symptoms, meaning you feel them bodywide. With a cold, everything is rather superficial: runny nose, sneezing, scratchy throat, cough. But you can function with a cold. With flu, you start feeling a little bad in the morning and by evening you feel like you’ve been hit by a train. There are respiratory symptoms (worse than a cold), but also fever, muscle aches, brain fog, and tremendous fatigue. This is the flu.
If we have an epidemic here in Chicago, WholeHealth Chicago patients shouldn’t bother making an office appointment to see me. You’ll just infect everybody in the waiting room. Instead, have your pharmacy contact us for a Tamiflu prescription. You’ll get ten capsules and you’ll take two daily for five days. Tamiflu won’t cure you overnight but it will shorten the duration of your flu and reduce the severity of symptoms.
If you’re the well one but some family members have the flu, taking one Tamiflu capsule daily for ten days will lessen your chances of getting the infection yourself.