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Every year there are predictions by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the severity or the mildness of worldwide influenza.
This year is no different. From many reliable sources comes this prediction: “It’s going to be BAD.” This assessment is due to the severity of the Australian influenza during their recent winter season. An unusually severe season has already racked up record numbers in Australia, and – with the virus making its way into the Northern Hemisphere – experts warn that the United States should expect the same.
Over the past several years the number of affected individuals has risen in Australia from 59,000 in 2009 to a whopping 215,000 this year (2017). The problem this year, according to the CDC, is that this flu shot is only effective 10% of the time! The makers of the flu shot guessed wrong this year.
Consumers who have long questioned whether the benefits outweigh the risks of getting the flu vaccine had those concerns validated recently when the Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that this year’s flu vaccine (2017-2018) may offer little defense against the strain that is now most active across the U.S. However they still recommended that everyone be vaccinated because the strain is very bad. (?)
Since we are now in the peak flu season in the United States, December through February, let’s look at ways to reduce the chances of contracting the flu.
- Consider not getting the flu vaccine. This may seem counter-intuitive at first; after all, the flu shot should protect us from the flu, right? At best, the flu shot is a “shot in the dark”. A new flu vaccine recipe is made every year. But, the scientists and companies that make it have to guess which strain of influenza will be going around that year and they make that year’s vaccine based on their best guesses.
Because it can take many months to develop a flu vaccine, discovering what strains will be most active during the next flu season becomes a giant guessing game – and is not good science. The decision of what strain to include is made six months before the flu season and in that time the strains often mutate.
So choosing the strains that will work is an iffy proposition at best. When people get the flu shot they often assume that they are “covered”. Even in the best guess vaccine scenario, the efficacy rate tops out at about 50 to 60 %. When the assumption of full coverage is made people often don’t take the real precautions that could be of the most benefit against the flu and colds.
- During years when the flu vaccine is not well matched to circulating influenza viruses, it is possible that no benefit from flu vaccination may be seen as in this 2017-2018 season. During years when there is a good match between the flu vaccine and circulating viruses, it is possible to measure benefits from flu vaccination in terms of preventing flu illness.
However, even during years when the flu vaccine match is good, the benefits of flu vaccination will vary, depending on various factors like the characteristics of the person being vaccinated, what influenza viruses are circulating that season and even, potentially, which flu vaccine was used.
We see signs in every pharmacy, doctor’s office and on billboards; “the flu shot is available now, get yours today”. This year when the director of the CDC has stated that it is of little worth, why is the vaccination still encouraged at every turn?
Read on and you can see that there are warnings from many well respected medical sources. I have just included a sampling here.
- Research in the Journal of Virology found that the seasonal influenza vaccine can weaken a child’s immune system and increase their chances of catching influenza viruses not included in the vaccine!
- A study published in Science Translational Medicine found a surprising complication of the vaccine design. It was found to increase the risk of contracting the influenza – after vaccination!
- The Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine has reported that giving young children flu shots appeared to have no impact on flu-related doctor visits or hospitalizations during the two recent flu seasons.
- Researchers at the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER), a branch of the FDA, set out to understand why people vaccinated for the 2009 flu season were more inclined to catch the H1N1 strain of the flu.
- A large-scale, systematic review of 51 studies published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that the flu vaccine was no more effective for children than a placebo.
- And research published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine similarly reports that there has been no decrease in deaths from influenza and pneumonia, despite the fact that vaccination coverage among the elderly has increased from 15 percent in 1980 to 65 percent today.
- The nasal vaccine, FluMist2, has not worked in recent years, the panel was told by scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The expert panel reviewed numerous studies that found no evidence the vaccine protected people who had the FluMist puffed up their nostrils over the past three flu seasons.
Also, there are controversial additives that have been used for years in seasonal flu shots. The most well-known is thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative that has been associated with brain and immune system dysfunction. The majority of flu shots each contain 25 mcg of this neurotoxin IF it is from a multidose vial.
So, if for some reason, you decide to get the flu shot, make sure it is from a single dose vial. These do not have the dangerous mercury preservative added. However, as we have learned, neither are they very effective against the flu this year (2018) as per the CDC director’s recent public announcement. Be aware that your doctor may still urge your compliance.
I mention all of these published warning bulletins and scientific studies because the public should be aware of all significant flu vaccine information that is available each year. Sometimes the opposing opinion and facts don’t receive equal coverage, making it difficult for consumers and even medical professionals to make medically informed decisions.
More Natural Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Family
Build your immune system by:
- Eating Well
Frank Lipman, MD, an integrative and functional medicine physician and founder of Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City, has this to say about immunity:. “A strong immune system relies heavily on having a healthy, well-functioning gut – as 70 percent of your immune system is in the gut — and probiotics help keep your gut engine humming.”
Probiotics are “good” bacteria that help reduce inflammation and prevent infection; they may also reduce the severity of a cold or flu”. Here are a few suggestions…..choose your favorites or try something new.
It is so very easy to make and keep on hand. We eat this with fruit daily or make yogurt fruit and green veggie smoothies for lunch.
A great tasting probiotic!
Try mixing in some pomegranate seeds and juice which are high in antioxidants.
So have some good plain probiotic yogurt every day. It doesn’t have to be much, maybe ½ cup. Or eat something naturally fermented like kimchi or fermented sauerkraut or take a good pre-probiotic capsule daily. Keep those in your refrigerator.
If you have not tried kefir check out the organic refrigerated section of your local grocery. It comes in several flavors like blueberry, strawberry, lemon or plain. It is as delicious as it is good for your gut. It comes in quart size and you only need take a couple of ounces twice a day. Kefir and yogurt are probiotic dense foods and it’s simple to take some daily.
It’s wise to keep your fridge stocked, especially in the winter season or if you have taken a round of antibiotics and need to aggressively replace the good flora back into your gut. If you are lactose intolerant then you might want to opt for the probiotic capsule.
Don’t forget your colorful fruits and vegetables. You remember the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” there is wisdom in those words! Add a little almond butter and it becomes a fine dessert.
The anti-inflammatory properties in nutrient-dense foods, like dark leafy greens, berries, salmon, and sweet potatoes, help build up your immune defenses. But you should avoid sugar, most grains, and all processed foods — all of which dramatically decrease immune function and weaken your gut over time.
Have 5 servings a day. A great warming way to do this is homemade veggie soup, made with healing bone broth of course!
One of my favorite superfoods is bone broth. I use it as a base for soups and stews for additional nutrition and immune support.
We keep a dozen or more quarts on hand at all times. Sipping a warm mug of this homemade goodness is almost an instant reviver if you drink it at the first hint of flu or a cold. See BDS article on making real homemade chicken stock or bone broth.
This one is made with nutrient-packed, immune-building, homemade bone broth, chicken, celery, red pepper, spinach, arugula, kale, onion, garlic and cauliflower.
Add the Mighty Mineral Zinc to Your ‘Stay Well Regimen
Here is a list of some of the top foods containing the mineral Zinc. Since zinc has wonderful immune boosting properties let’s take a minute to go over a short list of foods containing higher amounts of this powerful mineral.
- Number one is lamb weighing in at 45% DV
- Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil at 40% DV
- Grass fed beef, 30 DV
- Chickpeas, 17% DV
- Cocoa Powder, 13% DV
- Cashews, 11% DV
- Kefir or yogurt 11% DV
These foods have at least two positive effects against the flu. Probiotic to help repair the gut and boost immunity as well as having a substantial amount of usable zinc to boost immunity. In addition to supporting healthy digestion and boosting the immune system, they promote cardiovascular health and regulate your mood.
- Shiitake mushrooms 9% DV
- Spinach 9% DV
Spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense foods in existence. It contains special protective carotenoids that have been linked with decreasing the risk of many diseases, including heart disease, obesity, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and even cancer.
- Chicken 7% DV
As well as including some of these foods into your normal diet to increase natural sources of zinc, you can take 25 mg of zinc daily when you feel you are getting flu or cold symptoms.
Zinc helps in the wound healing process. Several years ago we had a patient at the hospital that was having a difficult time healing after abdominal surgery. I had just read about zinc’s link to wound healing and so suggested this to the doctor.
He agreed to try it and within a few days the wound began to close and the patient was sent home to finish her recovery. After that experience the doctor put all of his pre-surgical patients on zinc and they continued on that regimen until there was complete wound closure.
Take Immune Enhancing Vitamins
- Vitamin C, of course, has been proven to be the top vitamin against colds and flu. The challenge is the recommended daily dose (RDA).
It is only 75 mg for females and 90 mg for males. This has been proven over and over again since the 1970’s to be a miniscule dose. It will prevent scurvy. That was the criteria for this low dosage. Dr. Linus Pauling, a two time Nobel Laureate, was a pioneer proving that high dose vitamin C was effective against many diseases.
The topic of vitamin C is extensive and there is not room enough here to do it justice…so let’s just say for the purpose of this article….eat fruits and veggies daily especially oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, broccoli, strawberries, papaya, cantaloupe, kale and Brussel sprouts.
To build your immunity, before and during flu season, take 500 mg. of vitamin C at least twice a day. C is a water soluble vitamin. If your stomach is disturbed after taking this amount it is a good idea to take a buffered C product like Ester C, but it shouldn’t be a problem.
- Vitamin D3 has important roles in addition to its classic effects on calcium and bone. It can modulate immune responses. A low vitamin D3 level can increase susceptibility to infection.
Most people, especially those living colder climates suffer from very low levels. Naturally vitamin D is absorbed through bare skin which is exposed to the sun. So the first approach is to get some sun…but today, where I live, it is 15°! Not an option for me today, thanks you!
So what to do? Have your levels of vitamin D3 (known as serum 1,25-dihyroxy D3) tested annually, even if you have to pay out of pocket (the test usually costs less than $100). Most insurance cover these checks once a year though.
If your score is lower than 50, you need to take at least 1,500 IUs twice daily. Depending on your test scores, your doctor may recommend as much as 5,000 or even 10,000 IUs daily. You want your D3 blood level to be generally between 75-90. Vitamin D3 supplements cost just pennies a day, so this won’t break the bank.
Or you can judge your limited sun exposure and decide to take 1500+ IU’s of vitamin D3 twice daily throughout the fall and winter months when sun exposure might be limited. After 3-6 months on this regimen, return to your caregiver for a follow up D3 level to see if it is where you and your doctor want it to be. An added benefit to D3 is strengthened bones.
Sleeping 7 – 8 hours per Night
According to Dr. Pina LoGiudice Lac, N.D. Naturopathic Medicine, it has been shown that people who get 7 hours of sleep or more a night will improve their immune status 3 fold over those who get less.
A study from the Archives of Internal Medicine evaluated 153 people, and exposed them to a cold virus via nose drops. What was found was those who had less than 7 hours of sleep were three times as likely to catch the virus and get sick than those who had more than 8 hours of sleep. Other studies have also shown inadequate sleep lowers natural killer cells, which are immune cells that fight cancer.
We all know we feel better when we get a solid night’s sleep. Our immunity is pumped up and we feel better. As a nation we are generally sleep deprived which creates our immune system weaknesses and makes us more open to contracting various form of illnesses, from a simple colds and flu to cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
Appropriate to your physical condition. At least 3-4 times a week for 30 minutes. I always chuckle at this because my daily tasks keep me active outside stacking wood, feeding the animals, raking leaves, shoveling snow and traipsing around the woods and fields as I forage year round.
I suspect that many readers get exercise just by their daily chores. But if not, then follow the regular exercise protocols with the approval of your healthcare professional and your common sense.
As a general rule we are told to drink the number of ounces of half our body weight daily. If you weigh 100 pounds then drink 50 oz. per day. There are about 1.45 million hospital outpatient visits in the U.S. each year as a result of dehydration. Some people just don’t realize they can quickly become dehydrated from a cold or the flu. Staying hydrated is essential.
If you get the flu and can’t keep fluids down it is extremely important to watch for signs of dehydration. If possible drink more fluids. If you or a loved one is too ill to keep liquids down then head to your doctor right away. Once dehydration has progressed beyond a certain point it becomes more difficult to reverse the course.
Let me share a few early warning signs to look for in adults. (Babies have less tolerance for fluid loss and can do downhill very quickly…so talk you your pediatrician early)
- Brain fog and various symptoms such as fatigue, lack of sleep, feeling faint.
- Decreased urination~Regularly urinating (4 to 7 times per day) is also a result of drinking a healthy amount of water. Because your body will release toxins via urination, not urinating regularly may become a problem. If your urine is light or clear, it indicates that you have a well-hydrated body. But if it is amber or dark yellow, this will indicate signs of dehydration in your body.
- Muscle cramps and joint pain
- Accelerated heart rate. As you become dehydrated you can experience a decrease in plasma volume, which makes your blood thicker. This, in turn, affects to your blood circulation as well as increases the heart rate.
- Scaly Dry Lips and Skin.
- Weakness and Fatigue
- Dry Mouth and Bab Breath
Keeping Germs at Bay
1. Quarantine Yourself
If you or a loved one is immune compromised quarantine yourself as much as possible during the cold and flu season. Since my husband is severely immune compromised, we do a lot of keeping to ourselves when illnesses are rampant in the “outside world”. I can’t take the chance of bringing something home to him.
If you feel you are coming down with the flu (chills, fever, body and joint aches, nausea, vomiting etc.) or other illness, then stay home from work. Rest and take care of yourself for a few days. You may choose to follow recommendations in this article and your own common sense. Your boss and coworkers will probably appreciate your consideration.
2. Keeping Clean at Home
- Wash your hands well and often (see BDS article on hand washing.) https://www.backdoorsurvival.com/do-it-yourself-vaccine-to-halt-the-spread-of-germs/
- Keep bed linens fresh.
- Shower if you feel up to the task.
- Change bedside drinking glasses or bottles often.
- Don’t forget the household surfaces.
I enjoy using essential oils because they are safe, if used correctly, and they actually work. I make my own hand sanitizer by adding 5 or 6 drops of antiviral, antimicrobial oil to enough water to fill a 2 ounce spray bottle. In this case I used lavender and melaleuca oils.
There are other oils that have those same medicinal properties such as lemon, lemongrass, marjoram, clove, cinnamon, helichrysum and On Guard blend…and others. I carry this with me, shaking it well before using then spraying it on my hands or on the surface of a shopping cart or door handle.
It doesn’t dry and crack my hands like alcohol sanitizers can. The drying and chapping of hands makes transfer of viruses and bacteria easier.
Here are a few items we use to keep colds and flu at bay or to shorten the duration if it sneaks by our defenses. I’m sure you have others in your arsenal. Please share what works for you so we can all benefit.
The small blue dropper bottle on the left is a homemade oxymel. See more in the foraging article I wrote here on BDS. This recipe contains elderberries, mullein, anise hyssop, grated ginger root, mint and lemon balm. It is made with raw local honey. This makes an excellent cough syrup and is a lung strengthener.
If you don’t have the time to make your own cough/ immune support remedy, pictured below is one that doesn’t contain the usual harsh artificial ingredients that cause severe drowsiness or hyperactivity in children.
It doesn’t contain alcohol. Children as young as one year can take this supplement. Only 1/2 teaspoon is needed for ages 2-12 years. You can add the ½ teaspoon to a little water or juice and they can drink it down.
The next remedy in the photo is Elderberry Tincture. This is not for children since it is alcohol based. If you care to make your own you can refer to the BDS article –DIY Elderberry Tincture: A Labor of Love.
Since this takes about 60 days to make, you may have to wait until early autumn to forage elderberries. Or you can purchase dried elderberries online now: https://www.mountainroseherbs.com. But, not to worry, this too can be purchased from health stores. I’d recommend Nature’s Way Original Sambucus.
It’s glycerin based so can be taken by children at the dose on the bottle. It isn’t as potent as the homemade version but it’s more accessible to most people. I’d still encourage folks to learn to make their own in order to be as independent in medical preparedness as possible.
The last item in the photo is Organic Apple Cider Vinegar. You have probably heard of the drink made from the apple cider vinegar (ACV), lemons, honey and water. It’s been around for a long time as a folk medicine remedy and has recently come back into favor as a detox, anti-belly fat beverage.
There are many more benefits that we may go over in a later article. There have been books written about and diets created around this drink. Some people now add cinnamon or turmeric to the mix. Our family has been using it since the 1970’s. Wow, on reflection that’s a long time!
- 1 quart of water (32 oz.)
- 4 Tbsp. Bragg – Apple Cider Vinegar(with the mother, the chunks of stuff floating in the jar) Aldi’s also sells Organic ACV with the mother.
- 4 Tbsp. lemon juice – from a bottle is fine.
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon- (optional)
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
- 4+ Tbsp. honey (raw honey if possible, according to taste)
Makes: 4-6 servings
Dissolve cinnamon, cayenne, honey, and lemon in hot water (stir well). (Don’t boil as this destroys the active cultures) Add apple cider vinegar to mixture. Consume right away for a hot tea, or cool and store in airtight jar for an iced detox beverage ready at any time.
The beverage will be rather concentrated, so drink small cups or mix in water if it is too strong for your liking. Will last for up to a week in the refrigerator. This is good for that afternoon pick – me – up.
ACV Immune System Boost – There are many factors at work in apple cider vinegar that may be responsible for the possible boost in immune system health. Filled with minerals and vitamins, apple cider vinegar helps provide vital nutrients that may be depleted in the body.
Wait, there’s more:
Three More Quick Tools in Our Get Well-Stay Well Arsenal
1. Essential Oil Diffusers
We have four diffusers around the house and use them day and night during the cold and flu season. In the bedrooms we use restful relaxing oils or possibly oils to assist respiratory function and open up a stuffy head cold or chest congestion.
During the day in other rooms, we purify the air with oils made specifically for that purpose or oils to lift the mood and energy on a dark winter day. My husband is especially fond of the respiratory blend. Often I make my own blends. We also use oils topically for many of the above benefits.
2. Castor Oil Packs
These can be particularly useful for chest congestion or muscle and joint aches. Check in BDS archives, Oct 16, 2017, “A Brief Tutorial on Using Castor Oil Packs”.
3. Herbal Teas
Now is the time to benefit from all that spring to fall foraging. The herbs and roots pictured above make teas that are valuable in warding off illness and adding favorable vitamins, minerals to boost immunity and just generally give a warming glow to those frigid winter days.
Taking a break to sip on these nourishing teas brings a relaxing feeling we all can enjoy. I wish that I could invite you over to share a cup!
Our health is the most precious thing we possess and we have so many good options and information at our fingertips to help us take responsibility for our own health and well-being. Breaking bad habits and creating healthy ones can be a challenge but no one else can do it for us.
We can improve our health on a daily basis if we choose. There is no magic pill, but if we do all we can to influence our state of wellness we are more likely to feel better and be more fully medically prepared and as independent as possible to help ourselves and others during any crisis situation when outside help is unavailable.
What small changes do you plan to make this year to help you feel your best?
Blessings and have a healthy New Year, Donna