By Dr. Christina Bjorndal, ND
Taking a flu vaccine is an individual choice. Vaccine proponents claim that it protects against influenza infection and if contracted, lessens the severity of the illness. However, there are concerns about this approach, such as:
- There are over 500 different viruses that can cause flu-like symptoms and these viruses are constantly changing. The vaccine is formulated from the three most common strains seen in the previous year which may not be specific for the current year’s flu;
- Vaccines contain many ingredients including a preservative – either egg protein or Thimersol (a mercury containing compound which is toxic) and formaldehyde. Allergic reactions can occur to these ingredients; and
- It takes about two weeks after the flu shot to develop enough antibodies to protect yourself from the influenza virus. These antibodies start to lose their effectiveness within a few months.
I find in today’s society, many people fear getting sick. The reasons they give vary from not having enough time to get sick to looking at any form of illness as an inherent weakness within themselves. What they don’t realize is that getting sick is actually a good thing. Why? Because it gives your immune system a chance to work. Your immune system is intricately designed as a “policing” system to distinguish between foreign and internal “invaders”. By “invaders” I am referring to bacteria, viruses, fungi, and cells within our body that are no longer functioning properly, such as cancer cells. If you never get sick, then how will you know that your immune system is working for you as it should? Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating that you run out and contract deadly forms of viruses just to challenge your immune system. What I am saying, however, is getting a benign cold or flu every couple of years is not a national emergency. It allows your body to form the natural defenses or immunity that it needs so that the next time it comes into contact with the same virus, it knows exactly how to take care of it. Plus, it gives you the added reassurance that your body is working as it should, naturally.
It is important to be aware of whether you have sub-optimal immune function. The table below lists several factors that could put you at risk for having depressed immune function.
|· You frequently (more than 4x/yr) get acute infections (e.g. cold, flu, ear infections)
· You have a persistent infection (e.g. candida, parasite, athlete’s foot, Epstein-Barr virus, herpes, warts…)
· You have cancer or you are at risk of cancer
· Your wounds heal slowly
· You have unexplained fatigue
· You eat a lot of sugar
· You eat foods you are allergic to
· You are under excessive stress
· You don’t get enough sleep
· You are overweight
· You have silicone implants
|· You exercise excessively
· You regularly take aspirin or acetaminophen
· You are on cortisone or chemotherapy
· You have taken many antibiotics
· You have recently had an accident or surgery
· You have been exposed to mercury (dental amalgams, contaminated fish), lead (old paint, copper water pipes), cadmium (cigarettes), and arsenic
· You are exposed to pesticides (in non-organic foods, on lawns and houses)
· You are exposed to organic solvents (paint thinners, petroleum distillates, carpet cleaners)
If many of the above statements ring true for you, then you will want to investigate ways you can change your lifestyle or modify your behaviour so that they are not working against your immune system. The good news is there are many herbs and supplements that you can take to compliment the effectiveness of your natural immune system. So, how do you protect yourself, naturally? Firstly, eat a diet that is low in sugar, caffeine, fat and alcohol as these substances reduce immune system function. Focus on eating 5 – 10 servings of fresh fruit and vegetables daily and include garlic, onions, thyme, cayenne, ginger and oregano in your cooking to boost your immune system and fight off viruses. Balance your activities and work – the effects of stress decrease our immune system’s ability to protect us against bacteria and viruses. Often, we get sick because we don’t take the time to care for ourselves when we are well. If you develop flu-like symptoms, stay home, limit exposure to others, stay well-hydrated, get plenty of sleep and allow your body time to recover. Lastly, do not touch your mouth, nose or ears without washing your hands, as these are portals of entry for viruses.
The cold and flu viruses are constantly mutating and dividing to form new strains. Our bodies have never seen these strains before and as they say in sports – the best offense is a good defense. Therefore, in order for your immune system to operate optimally, it needs certain nutrients that can be provided either from food or food supplements. When you support the natural processes of your body, you bounce back and recover quickly from any cold or flu virus that you may contract. There are many natural treatments available to support your immune system, such as Vitamin C (with bioflavonoids), Zinc, Vitamin A, garlic, probiotics, essential fatty acids and herbal and homeopathic remedies. Nutritional supplements are important, but are only one aspect of health. A positive mental attitude, healthy diet, adequate sleep and managing stress are critical to achieving and maintaining good health in the long run 4. Edit from: The vaccine is formulated from the three most common strains seen in the previous year which may not be specific for the current year’s flu; to: The vaccine is formulated from the most common strains seen in the previous year which may not be specific for the current year’s flu.