Whether it is an outbreak of swine, avian or just another variant of influenza, every year it seems as though we should be convinced that this is the worst flu season in history.
Concomitant with this media frenzy is the push for us to collectively vaccinate ourselves against this virus. Flu shots are dispensed at every clinic and pharmacy on every corner in America. I recall one year a few years ago – right as the flu paranoia was reaching its crest – seeing pictures on the news of lines wrapped around city blocks of people waiting to get their flu shot. In a twist of dark, but somewhat comedic irony, some people even died waiting in line for flu shots. I have to assume at that point, your health concerns should lie somewhere other than with the flu and its vaccine.
Never mind the fact, too, that each year virologists and epidemiologists make their best educated guess about which strain of the flu will be the most prevalent, and use that guesswork to manufacture the nation's supply of the flu vaccine. The flu virus has many different variations; if one happens to be more prevalent in spreading through the population, getting vaccinated against a different strain of flu kind of defeats the purpose.
Every year, between 5-20% of people in the United States will contract the flu, resulting in 200,000 hospitalizations. Subsequent deaths range from 3,000 to 49,000 people per year. The flu virus is often not responsible for those deaths; bacterial pneumonia, a common complication in people with severely compromised immune systems, is usually to blame. Naturally, the elderly and the very young are more at risk. The CDC specifically recommends that the elderly and pregnant women get vaccinated. The vaccines used are preserved in thimerosal, which contains mercury. Even healthy people should be wary of mercury contamination, but if I were pregnant (which, obviously is a physical impossibility given my gender), I would be extremely cautious of getting any sort of vaccine preserved with this; mercury can damage your baby's brain, hearing and vision.
Given these risks alone, getting vaccinated hardly seems like a good idea. This is before you take into consideration the mounting evidence that flu vaccines are largely ineffective. Two separate studies have come out with similar conclusions. Dr. Tom Jefferson, an epidemiologist with the Cochrane Vaccines Field, was quoted as saying that "… they show only modest or no effect against influenza and hospitalization from pneumonia." He went on to say that "Studies funded from public sources were significantly less likely to report conclusions favorable to the vaccines." Sound like a conflict of interest?
So how does one protect oneself from getting the flu? Common sense says washing your hands after being public places and avoiding sick people are two good pieces of advice. Staying healthy and keeping your immune system in top shape are two great defenses, as well. Stick close to a Phase 1 diet – avoid all sugar, grain, corn antibiotics and alcohol. Replace those things with grass fed meats, organic fish, chicken and turkey, copious amounts of veggies and fruits limited to the non-sugary variety. Taking real vitamin C in addition to your normal supplement regimen is great immune booster. Beta Glucans can also help fortify your immune system.
Inevitably though, there is a chance you will get sick. What to do if you do? Keep in mind, if you do go to your doctor, an antibiotic will not do anything to help with the flu. Antibiotics are designed to kill bacteria, not viruses. It is important to stay hydrated; drinking plenty of clean, pure water will help flush the virus out of your system. Rest is also critical; be sure to give your body the chance to heal itself. Keeping your diet clean (Phase 1 is a great option) and keeping your supplement regimen robust and regular will give your body the nutrients it needs to heal itself.
Flu season always comes with its share of hype. Catching the flu is miserable. But is it worth getting a flu vaccination? I can say that I'll be avoiding any flu vaccines this year. Instead, I'll choose to stay as healthy as I can, and if I am one of the unfortunate ones who catches the flu, I'll be sure to give my body plenty of time to rest. But worrying about the hype surrounding the flu only serves to stress me out, and stress is no good for the immune system. So I'll choose not to worry this year.