When the cold and flu season is upon us, the most important thing is to be well informed. Getting the flu shot is essential if you meet the criteria for its administration. The final decision to receive the flu shot occurs between patient and practitioner. Make sure you have had the appropriate conversations with your health care provider to ensure you are well informed.
During flu season, it is important to maintain optimal nutrition. It is easy to get off track during the holidays. We reach for sweets when we are stressed or in a hurry. We eat late and a lot when we get over busy. The choices we make around food can be poor when the titers of stress elevate. Poor nutrition hinders the immune system and lends us susceptible to colds and flu. The following information gives a few simple reminders of how to keep the immune system strong. If we have good nutritional strategies up our sleeve, we don’t have to lie victim to illness because we fall of the track. The health of our immune system lies in the gastrointestinal system. Good solid nutrition improves the health of the whole system. The healthier the whole system is, the less likely the onset of colds or flu.
11 Ways to Prevent the Flu
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. This is the number one way to prevent the flu and other respiratory infections. You must scrub your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds in order to kill viruses. Twenty seconds is about how long it takes to sing the ABC’s one time through. Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth without first washing your hands.
- Heal your gut. Your gut is the gateway to health. 80% -85%of your immune system is located in your gut. Ensure your intestinal tract is healthy and take a high quality, multi-strain probiotic with at least 25 billion units.
- Reduce alcohol and sugar consumption. Even moderate alcohol consumption suppresses the central nervous system, and therefore your immune system. Consuming too much sugar can suppress the immune system and make it more difficult for your body to fight off infections like the flu.
- Reduce your stress. Stress is known to suppress our immune systems. Consider meditation, yoga, or acupuncture for additional relaxation techniques.
- Get 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Your body relies on sleep to recuperate from daily exposure to toxins. Chronic sleep deprivation can significantly reduce immune function.
- Take glutathione, turmeric, and vitamin C. Antioxidants are very important for your immune function. Glutathione is the chief antioxidant in your body, responsible for enhancing your immune system and helping your liver with elimination of harmful waste. Curcumin is the orange pigment in turmeric and a potent antioxidant that improves joint health and cardiovascular function. Curcumin is also anti-inflammatory aiding to reduce systemic inflammation. Vitamin C provides potent antioxidant protection, support and optimal immune function.
- Take an immune booster. Give your immune system an added boost with some immunoglobulins and proteins. Adding a protein drink with immunoglobulins and a high amino acid score can boost immune function
- Optimize vitamin D. Vitamin D is a powerful immune system modulator. Optimal levels range from 50 to 70 ng/mL. For many that can mean taking 5000 IU per day; however, I don’t recommend this unless you are followed closely by a physician.
- Consider a zinc supplement. Zinc is another powerful antioxidant that plays a crucial role in immune health. Within the immune system, zinc is needed for gene regulation and functioning of neutrophils, natural killer cells, and lymphocytes. Individuals with a zinc deficiency are highly susceptible to a number of pathogens, including the influenza virus.
- Get plenty of exercise. Exercise can boost your immune system by increasing your circulation and relieving stress. Increased circulation allows antibodies to travel throughout your bloodstream faster, making it easier for your immune system to fight off an illness. Exercise can also enhance your immune system by relieving stress and slowing the release of stress hormones in the body.
- Talk to your health care provider. It is imperative to make correct decisions when adding a supplement to your nutritional plan, especially if you take prescription medications or have any type of chronic disease or illness.
What’s in a flu shot?
- Egg protein (cell culture)
- Sucrose (stabilizers)
- Gelatin (stabilizers)
- Polysorbate 80 (stabilizer)
- Aluminum salts (adjuvants)
- Formaldehyde (inactivating ingredient)
- Thimerosal/mercury (preservative)
- Penicillin/sulfa drugs (antibiotics)
The manufacturing of the flu vaccine begins with an egg protein, which is used to grow enough virus to make the vaccine. Next, formaldehyde is added to kill the virus, and small doses of antibiotics are included to prevent any bacterial contamination of the vaccine during the manufacturing process. Thimerosal is added in most flu vaccines as a preservative to prevent any further contamination, and sucrose, polysorbate 80, or gelatin is added to stabilize the vaccine for transportation and storage. Finally, aluminum salts are added in order to help stimulate an immune response to the “dead” virus.
Many of these ingredients are known carcinogens and detergents that have harmful or unknown effects on the human body. Package inserts for Fluarix and Fluvirin even state that they are uncertain as to whether or not your fertility will be affected by the vaccine. Formaldehyde is a powerful chemical used as a disinfectant and preservative in mortuaries and medical labs. It is listed as a human carcinogen in the 12th Report on Carcinogens published by the National Toxicology Program.
Studies have demonstrated that thimerosal can contribute to the development of autoimmune diseases by suppressing the overall immune system and causing systemic inflammation. Due to the controversy concerning this additive, some companies have started producing thimerosal-free vaccines, which are available in a limited supply at certain pharmacies.
Polysorbate 80 is a detergent used to help drugs and chemicals cross the blood-brain barrier. Unfortunately, this stabilizer is also used to treat chronic kidney failure and can contribute to liver toxicity. Polysorbate 80 was also shown to cause “severe non-immunologic anaphylactoid reactions” in this study from 2005. Aluminum is a recognized neurotoxin that can adversely affect the central nervous system and cause cognitive deficiency and dementia if it enters the brain. Numerous studies have linked aluminum to Alzheimer’s disease. The antibiotics hidden in the flu vaccine include neomycin, streptomycin, or penicillin, which can cause severe allergic reactions in many people. Not to mention that the overuse of antibiotics can increase your risk for gut infections, like Candida overgrowth.
Who needs a flu shot?
There is quite a quandary surrounding recommendations for immunocompromised individuals such as those with autoimmune diseases who are on immune-suppressing medications. The original thought was that they would be at higher risk of getting the flu and would benefit from getting vaccinated. However, recent studies have shown that the flu vaccine is less effective in these immunocompromised individuals. Given that thimerosal has been implicated in triggering autoimmune disease and that those with autoimmune diseases are three times more likely to develop another autoimmune disease, it would seem that the risk of getting a flu vaccine far outweighs any potential benefits. Certainly those with chronic lung diseases like cystic fibrosis, asthma, COPD and/or other immuno-compromised conditions may want to weigh the risk with the benefits.
Don’t get caught short with the hustle and bustle of your lifestyle and the increase stress around the holidays. Take the time to prepare your meals. Remember that food is gasoline. Gasoline runs your engine. Poor gasoline equals a slow engine. The more power you put into the nutrients you eat, the better your engine will run and the longer you can maintain your optimal function. Don’t set your self up for the flu if you don’t have to.
If you need help determining if you are a good candidate for the flu shot, schedule an appointment at the Functional Medical Institute in Tulsa. We would love to help!