Alternatives to the Flu Vaccine
Many patients understand my hesitancy in supporting the flu vaccine campaign fervor that has gone on over the last ten years. The lack of data supporting its efficacy and its questionable ingredients are enough to cause pause. But the “best guess” approach by vaccine makers to designing a vaccine that must be produced, bottled and ready for a flu bug that will hit next year seems a little magical. These points have my eyebrows permanently raised over the issue. I also struggle to find the possibility that a flu vaccine could be truly effective when the very nature of a virus is to be dynamic not only season to season, but from person to person. Finally, the knowledge that “flu vaccine business” has become a several billion dollar industry and the realization there is an ever widening net on who “should get the vaccine annually” has me a little suspicious of motive. Okay, I digress, my question to patients is this; “Are there better alternatives to a flu vaccine in preventing flu?” I believe there are.
The non flu shot alternatives to preventing the flu. (In order of importance)
- Sleep: Probably the most important by a mile. The flu bug is opportunistic. It is looking for immune systems that are shaky on their feet. Lack of sleep quality or quantity is one of the biggest hackers on our immune system.
a. Sleep in a dark room.
b. No electronics within a 30 minute window before lights out (preferably a “no electronics” in the bedroom rule including TV, cell phone, iPad.)
c. If you use your cell phone for an alarm turn it to airplane mode while sleeping.
d. No stimulants like caffeine or sugar two hours before bed.
e. Pets should not sleep in the room. They are vigilant of you and you are vigilant of them. This disrupts both of your sleep quality.
f. Go to sleep at the same time nightly.
- Food: It’s no coincidence that the flu hits after the holidays. All that sugar and alcohol suppresses the immune system enough to create ample opportunity for the virus to attack.
a. Eliminate sugar.
b. Make sure to eat lots of vegetables and fruits.
c. Winter is about comfort foods- Watch the JUNK!
d. Winter diets typically contain less fruits and veggies. Make it a priority to have a fruit or veggie every time you eat.
- Hydration: We typically do not hydrate as well in the winter months as we do in the summer months when we spend more time outdoors. Winter is often dryer and so we have a heightened need for hydration during this time. Drink half your body weight in ounces every day to help flush toxins out of the system and keep all your organs and muscles functioning optimally.
- Stress: Do I really need to discuss this? Increased stress increases stress hormones like cortisol in your system which acts to decrease your ability for your immune system to function. (Sometimes we cannot change our stressful environments but we can choose how we react to it. Make sure to have plenty of distressing rituals in your day- deep breaths, meditation, exercise, and debriefing with friends.)
- Hand Washing: Wash often and with REGULAR soap not antibacterial soap. Antibacterial soap has not been shown to be more effective and it may result in the potential of antibiotic resistance.
- Supplementation: If the above factors are proving overwhelming to address here are the supplements I recommend if you are trying to give your system a little extra support. You can find the below supplements at our LWC Online Dispensary.
a. Vitamin D
b. Fish Oil
c. A good probiotic
d. Wellness Formula
e. (If interested in exact dosages please contact me.)
If you do feel something coming on consider some of the noninvasive things like Oregano oil, elderberry syrup and increased doses of Vitamin A (for no more then two weeks). Your local naturopath has some excellent tips and options for fighting a bug if one does come on.
So when considering the flu shot think about whether the gap between its effectiveness and its potential risk factors is narrow enough to take the chance. Maybe a better question is can you do a better job of protecting yourself against flu by addressing the natural factors that help equip your immune system to fight ALL bugs you may be faced with this season?
Dr. Heather Denniston