Proven Flu Prevention
Are you concerned about the flu? You’re right to be concerned: About 90 percent of the people who die from the flu are adults 65 years and older.1
And if you want to live to see next year, you’ll want to make sure you keep influenza far, far away.
So, you may be thinking of getting a flu shot. You’ve probably already been bombarded with flu shot propaganda for months—and pretty much everywhere you go, from the doctor’s office and pharmacy to the supermarket.
But recent headlines have done a good job of confusing the issue of flu shots, making it hard to know whether you’re better off risking it without the vaccination… or wasting your time by getting one.
I’m here to tell you that there are some great ways to protect yourself from the flu that don’t involve getting a shot. And if you do end up saddled with the flu (since your chances of getting the flu are good, even when you’ve gotten the flu shot), there are some great ways to get some relief from it.
But first, I want to talk about the flu vaccine.
Does the flu shot work?
When my patients ask me whether or not they should get an injectable flu vaccine (the “flu shot”), they usually just want to know, “Does it work?”
I tell them that according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu shot’s effectiveness is about 50 percent.2 Assuming that is true (and we all know how easily statistics are manipulated these days), that isn’t all that good.
That means whether or not you get the flu shot, your odds come down to nothing more than the flip of a coin.
And from a statistical point of view, those are exactly the same odds if you DON’T get a flu shot.
Predicting the flu vaccines effectiveness is far from scientific. In fact, it’s pure speculation.
Your chances could be 50 / 50—or, heck, the effectiveness could come in at 9 percent, like it did for folks 65 and older just three years ago.3
The truth is that every year, the CDC is guesstimating what the effectiveness of the flu shot will be—and this year is no exception. In fact, we really won’t know until after the fact… that is, after the data is examined next year, near the end of or after the flu season.
The flu strains selected for a vaccine are picked many months ahead of time of the upcoming flu season. Since viruses can mutate quickly, it is difficult for the strains chosen for the current year’s vaccine to always be correct. Sometimes, the flu shot can actually make things worse! (See sidebar)
As the CDC states, “It’s not possible to predict with certainty if the vaccine will be a good match for circulating viruses.”4
But what happens if there is a deadly virulent flu strain, like there was during 1918-1919 the influenza pandemic (meaning worldwide epidemic) known as the Spanish flu? It was the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. Up to 40 million people died worldwide, and an estimated 675,000 Americans perished.5
In a case like that, if the flu shot ends up being about 50 percent effective—which would be GOOD for the flu shot—then you’d have no hope of controlling the epidemic. There would still be 30 million or more people who’d get very sick with the flu.
A change of heart on last year’s overhyped vaccine
The non-injectable nasal spray FluMist was highly promoted last year—and while it’s understandably more popular among children, it was promoted for anyone between the ages of 2 and 49 (with the exception of pregnant mothers).
But that was last year.
This year, you’ll see headlines like “Pediatricians Give Thumbs-Down to FluMist Flu Vaccine”10 because when all was said and done, it just didn’t work very well. Last year’s effectiveness against any flu virus was only about 3 percent!
It’s funny—because conventional medicine and the mainstream media give those of us doctors who recommend natural protection from the flu a hard time, questioning the efficacy of our approach. Hypocritically, when a vaccine like FluMist is found to be LESS effective than a PLACEBO, they’ve got nothing critical to say about it.
They should acknowledge that millions of people were given a dud—and start issuing refunds!
Which flu shot should you choose (if any)?
This year, the 2016-2017 flu vaccines protect against three or four viruses that are thought to be the common ones we’ll be facing this flu season. Again, it’s a bit better than a shot in the dark guess, but not by much.
Your options will include:
- a standard dose flu shot
- a shot made with adjuvant (an enhancer) for older people
- a shot made with virus grown in cell culture
- a recombinant vaccine that does not require the use of flu virus.6
If you decide to get the flu shot, make sure it’s from a single-dose vial—the ones that contain just enough solution for one dose only.
Many providers and medical centers often use multi-dose vials, so that they can give more than one vaccine per vial—but that increases the risk of bacteria growing in the vaccine vial. So, the multi-dose vials contain thimerosal, a mercury-containing compound that prevents bacterial growth.
If you don’t want to be exposed to mercury, getting the single-dose vial type of flu shot is the only way to avoid it (besides not getting the flu shot at all).
The following are the single-dose vaccines that do not contain thimerosal:
- Fluarix Quadrivalent
- Flulaval Quadrivalent
- Fluzone Quadrivalent **available single-dose and multi-dose
- Flucelvax Quadrivalent
- Afluria **available single-dose and multi-dose
- Fluvirin **available single-dose and multi-dose
- Fluzone High-Dose
This is especially important for children and pregnant mothers who are at greater risk from being injected with a known neurotoxin.
In spite of the CDC’s promise to eradicate mercury-containing compounds from vaccines “as part of a strategy to reduce mercury exposures from all sources,”8they’ve really only required that “efforts be made.” And that means there will be millions of Americans getting the flu shot who are, indeed, injected with mercury.
4 needle-free ways to keep the flu at bay
That being said, getting the flu shot isn’t your only choice for flu prevention—nor is it the best one. In fact, there’s a lot you can do with natural medicine to be proactive against the flu.
Here are my top 4 pillars of flu prevention. These same techniques boost your immunity to also protect you against all the OTHER viruses and bacteria that cause upper respiratory tract infections this time of year.
- Diet and Lifestyle: A healthy diet and lifestyle are critical for a supercharged immune system. Make sure to get at least seven hours of sleep a night. Keep your simple carbs and sugars to a minimum—no more than 20 grams of simple sugars daily, to avoid white blood cell suppression. And remember to exercise regularly, as it heightens immune activity and normalizes stress hormones such as cortisol that suppress immunity.
- Vitamin D: Flu prevention is just another reason to supplement with this supercharger of the immune system. Since sunlight exposure is the main source of vitamin D, many people have decreased levels in the winter. But every day, I find patients whose blood work shows vitamin D deficiency—even here, in sunny San Diego! Research supports that this super nutrient reduces the risk of developing flu symptoms and even of dying from the flu. Vitamin D increases your count of antiviral white blood cells AND your levels of two microbe killing compounds, known as cathelicidin and defensins. Have your doctor check your blood level of this nutrient, and strive for a level of at least 50 ng/mL. For adults, I recommend 5,000 IU of vitamin D daily with a meal. For children and infants, a typical dose is 2,000 IU daily. If you come down with the flu, you can triple your dose for a few days to get an immune boost.
- Beta glucans: Supplementing yeast or mushroom-derived beta glucans is a powerful way to prevent infections this winter. This compound is produced naturally by fungi, grains, seaweed, and yeast—and yeast-derived beta glucans in particular have been the subject of over 800 scientific studies. Taken orally, it stimulates the first line of defense immune cells, called macrophages. This, then, activates other components of the immune system that attack viruses and other microbes. Human research has shown that supplementing beta glucan extracts reduces the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections, so I generally recommend this type of supplement for patients who seem to be very susceptible to them (or the flu). I use a purified yeast-derived beta glucan. Since the product is so concentrated, patients only need to take one capsule daily. If you want to use the immune enhancer I use with patients, it’s called “Immune Blast.”
- Probiotics: Modern medicine has finally accepted what naturopathic doctors have been saying for decades: A healthy gut is necessary for a healthy immune system. This is why probiotics that contain immune stimulating good flora (sauerkraut, yogurt, kombucha) are so important in both the diet and supplementation. When supplementing a probiotic, make sure to use one that has published human-studied strains. Take about 20 billion CFUs (colony forming units) a day.
Your plan to protect yourself from the flu, however, isn’t a matter of “either / or.” These natural strategies aren’t ONLY useful if you decide not to get vaccinated for the flu. They’re safe to combine with the flu shot—and they’ll stack the odds in your favor, regardless of whether or not the CDC did a good job on their guesswork this year.
Two good reasons to skip this year
Some research has demonstrated that people who get the most benefit from the flu vaccine are those who haven’t gotten the vaccine in previous years.
Researchers in various countries have found “a blunting or interference effect between previous seasonal vaccines and reduced levels of vaccine protection in later years for some strains.”11
According to a 2014 study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, vaccine protection was greatest for individuals not vaccinated during the prior five years.12
And sometimes, getting the flu shot actually makes things worse.
As I reported in the December 2012 issue of Health Revelations, flu experts at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control found that the people who got the 2008-2009 flu shot seemed MORE likely to get infected by the virus than people who hadn’t received a flu shot at all!13
Reports from other provinces showed the same odd result.
If you still get the flu…
If you find yourself taken down by a bout with influenza, the most important thing is to make sure to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water, electrolyte drinks, and soups/broths. Dehydration sends many people to the hospital.
You can also try:
Intravenous vitamin C and ozone, which are powerful flu-killing treatments that your local holistic doctor can provide. These oxidative treatments have a direct antiviral effect in the bloodstream, where viruses travel. I can’t tell you how many times this has saved my patients from needing to go to the hospital for expensive treatments. (See the story on page 1 for more info.)
Anti-V Formula by Natural Factors, a commercially-available formula in health food stores that contains one of the best-researched and potent echinacea extracts. As well, it is one of the few formulas that contains the herb Lomatium dissectum. This herb was used successfully to treat Native American Indians in the Nevada during the deadly Spanish Flu of 1917. Although it’s available in liquid or capsule form I prefer the liquid version since it directly helps sore throats. The taste of it is pretty strong, so mix it in water or water/juice. Take as directed on the container.
Elderberry, an herb that’s been shown in adults with the flu to relieve symptoms an average of four days earlier than placebo. Flu sufferers were also much less likely to need pharmaceutical intervention, compared with placebo. None of the patients reported any adverse events during the study.9
In addition, these natural approaches can help you fend off not only the flu (no matter which strain comes your way), but also other viruses that mainstream medicine has little help for.
- Estimating Seasonal Influenza-Associated Deaths in the United States: CDC Study Confirms Variability of Flu www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/us_flu-related_deaths.htm
- com. Lisa Grohskopf. No LAIV (Nasal Spray) Flu Vaccine This Season. Accessed September 30, 2016 at www.medscape.com/viewarticle/868666#vp_2
- Frequently Asked Flu Questions 2016-2017 Influenza Season. Accessed September 30, 2016 at www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/fluseason-2016-2017.htm
- Stanford University website. Accessed October 14, 2012 at http://virus.stanford.edu/uda/
- Frequently Asked Flu Questions 2016-2017 Influenza Season. Accessed September 30, 2016 at www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/vaccines.htm
- Influenza vaccines-United States, 2016-17 influenza season. Accessed September 30, 2016 at www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/vaccines.htm
- Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines. Accessed September 30, 2016 at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/rr/rr6505a1.htm?s_cid=rr6505a1_w
- Akay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res. 2004;32:132-40.
- Maggie Fox. NBCNEWS.com Pediatricians Give Thumbs-Down to FluMist Flu Vaccine. Accessed September 30, 2016 at www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/pediatricians-givethumbs-down-flumist-flu-vaccine-n643461
- CBC News. Flu Vaccine paradox adds to public health debate. Accessed September 30, 2016 at www.cbc.ca/news/health/flu-vaccine-paradoxadds-to-public-health-debate-1.2912790
- Huong McLean et al. Impact of Repeated Vaccination on Vaccine Effectiveness Against Influenza A(H3N2) and B During 8 Seasons. Clin Infect Dis. (2014) 59 (10):1375-1385.
Reprinted with permission from Dr. Mark Stengler’s Health Revelations (www.healthrevelations.com)