Just this past week, the CDC stated that the flu has officially reached epidemic proportions. If you follow the recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you’ve probably already gotten your flu shot for this year. You might even be congratulating yourself for being proactive in defending yourself from what’s being called “the worst flu outbreak in the past decade.”
Unfortunately, the flu vaccine doesn’t offer the protection that people assume they’re receiving. More disturbingly, the vaccine can cause serious side effects. Even the CDC admits that the vaccine is far from perfect—for example, this year’s vaccine is estimated to be only 62 percent effective. No one wants to get the flu, but there are several reasons why I advise against the flu vaccine:
- The flu vaccine uses thimerosal as a preservative. This mercury-containing compound has been found in numerous studies to be neurotoxic. Thimerosal contains 49.9% ethyl mercury by weight, and up until 2001 (when it was removed from most childhood vaccines) the largest human exposure to mercury in the U.S. was in children under 18 months of age undergoing routine childhood immunizations. Thimerosal is still present in the flu vaccine, which is given to pregnant women, the elderly, and children.
- The virus strains used in making the flu vaccine are selected months prior to flu season, and it’s not uncommon for one or more of the strains to mutate, making the vaccine ineffective. Studies confirm that neither seasonal nor pandemic influenza vaccines can be regarded as an ideal solution, because they have to be frequently adapted to new virus strains and they lack effectiveness in particular risk groups, such as those over the age of 65 (Grund, et al., 2013).
- We don’t know how effective the flu or pneumonia vaccine really is. Although vaccination is used as the primary strategy in preventing the flu and pneumonia, studies attempting to determine clinical outcomes and immune response following vaccination have yielded conflicting results. According to a recent study reported in Clinical Interventions in Aging, “The assessment of clinical benefit from influenza vaccination in the elderly population is complicated by varying cohorts, virulence of the influenza strain, and matching of vaccine and circulating viral strains. The presence of selection bias and use of nonspecific end points in these studies make the current evidence inconclusive in terms of overall benefit,” (Assaad U, et al., 2012).
- Vaccine-induced immunity is very different from the body’s natural immunity. Most pathogens enter the body through the mucous membranes (the nose, mouth, digestive tract, or respiratory tract). This triggers the IgA immune system response, the body’s first line of defense, which is often sufficient for warding off the virus. But vaccines are injected into the bloodstream, bypassing the essential defense mechanisms of the immune system and disrupting the natural immunological process of recognizing, responding, and recovering from invading organisms. Ultimately, this weakens the immune system. As long ago as 1908, Eli Jones, the great Eclectic cancer doctor, regarded vaccinations as a primary cause of the cancer epidemic.
Fortunately, we have effective botanical and nutritional medicines to prevent, treat and recover from the flu. These natural approaches support the immune system, rather than overriding the body’s innate wisdom. I recommend the following protocol for enhancing immunity and recovery from the flu (and other acute respiratory illnesses):
- Adaptogens are essential for prevention and for recovery and should be taken daily, except during the acute phase of an illness (indicated by fever).
- I recommend a diaphoretic tea of the following herbs (available from Mederi Centre for Natural Healing): peppermint, elder flowers, yarrow, honeysuckle, boneset, linden, and ginger. Drink several cups a day; in the evening soak in a hot Epsom salt bath, go to bed, get under the covers and sweat. This old-fashioned remedy helps to stimulate immune function and alleviates flu-related aches and pains.
- Eat light and nourishing foods such as this delicious Hot and Sour Soup:
Hot and Sour Soup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 2-3 green onions, chopped
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 6 ounces frozen snow peas
- 1 (8 ounce) package firm tofu, cubed
- 1 (8 ounce) can sliced water chestnuts, drained
- Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add red bell pepper and green onions and sauté for 5 minutes.
- Add 2 cups water, broth and soy sauce, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 5 minutes.
- In a separate medium bowl, combine vinegar, red pepper flakes, ground black pepper, cornstarch, 3 tablespoons water and sesame oil. Add to soup and simmer for 5 additional minutes, or until soup becomes thick and bubbly.
- Add tofu, snow peas and water chestnuts and continue cooking 10 minutes, or until heated through.