Boosting Immunity Safely
Several years ago, a 5-year old boy here in Eugene died of complications from the flu. The local newspaper reported on the story, along with the usual medical advice to go get the flu vaccine.
I met the mother of this boy on the one-year anniversary of his death. She worked for my mechanic and drove me from home to get my car. She seemed blue that day, and when I inquired, she told me the story. It was disturbing on many levels, including that her son had been vaccinated.
Vaccines are not overly effective to begin with and this year effectiveness is dismal. The CDC estimates 10% effectiveness, one of the lowest ever. Most would look at this as still something, some kind of protection. After all 10% off new shoes or a new smart phone is nothing to scoff at.
Or is it?
Some studies show annual vaccines suppress immunity, leaving us more vulnerable to all sorts of other illness, including the plethora of flu strains not in this year’s vaccine as well as flu-like illness.
Research shows annual vaccines can leave children less able to fight illness, including pandemics.
A Canadian study found getting the annual flu vaccine increased risk of getting the swine flu.
In 2008-09, people who were vaccinated had twice the risk of those who did not of succumbing to the swine pandemic.
At best, vaccines are effective against 10% of all circulating viruses. What about all the other viruses? You’re on your own.
This season’s flu is supposed to be even nastier than past year’s. But, let’s be clear, this 10% protection is inflated. Pharmaceutical companies use relative risk, a trick that inflates the benefit of a drug. It is difficult to find out the actual risk of catching the flu or how many are likely to avoid the flu with the vaccine.
The following are effective strategies you can take to stay well, even halt a cold or flu in its tracks. These strategies not only help you fight off all types of infections, they build health in other ways.
Eat Garlic: The pungent bite of garlic comes from Allicin, an antimicrobial agent. Studies show allicin helps us fight germs. Allicin can dramatically reduce frequency and duration of colds and flu.
Garlic can stop a flu or cold from taking hold if you jump on it. An elderly folklore-driven Romanian man I once knew told me the secret to his health (he was 90, vital and never got sick) was garlic. He claimed putting fresh raw garlic cloves in his house slippers always knocked out an impending cold or flu, overnight.
If you prefer not to step on it, you’re in luck. Most recommend the oral route. My favorite is garlicky pesto: parsley, cilantro, or arugula in winter. Or add minced garlic to soups, stews, and roasted veggies. The key seems to be to keep it fresh and raw.
Hate the taste of garlic? One study with 146 volunteers found a garlic supplement reduced risk of getting a cold by 63%; only 24 of the garlic-popping group caught a cold whereas 65 of the placebo group got sick. In those who did catch a cold, duration was 70% shorter.
Vitamin D. Some argue the flu is a vitamin D deficiency, hence the surge of flu in winter, when access to D-making sunlight ebbs. Vitamin D produces hundreds of antimicrobial proteins that kill bacteria and viruses, keeping our immune systems on task. A Time Magazine article cited a review of 25 cold and flu studies that showed those who took vitamin D supplements had less infections, and less cases of the flu. If you can’t take a tropical vacation this winter, consider a supplement of 1000 to 5000IU per day, or a high quality cod liver oil. Check your D levels before supplementing; too much has its own downside.
Vitamin A. This vitamin D partner not only boosts immunity, it helps maintain the integrity of our mucous membranes, our first defense against infection. Vitamin A (and vitamin K) work as a team with vitamin D. You need A with D to keep immunity up, plus vitamin k to keep arteries unplugged and bones strong. In nature, vitamin A is generally found four to five times higher than vitamin D. Researchers suggest this is a good ratio for optimum health. Food sources include grass fed butter, egg yolks, and liver. The superstar source for both D and A, is cod liver oil.
Shun sugar. For a full half hour after a sugary snack, your white blood cells’ ability to engulf foreign invaders is slashed by half. Your immune system remains weekend for even longer, rendering you more susceptible to a flu or flu-like infection. In addition to holiday cookies, soda, and fudge, sugar lurks in fruity yogurts, smoothies, bran muffins, breakfast cereals, BBQ sauce, and fruit juice.
Zinc-up: In addition to calming an overanxious mind and nourishing your thyroid, zinc keeps immunity strong. Oysters top the list of good sources, but beef and lamb are good sources.
Sleep in. Adequate sleep is vital to a strong immune system, not to mention a honed mind, tolerable mood, and prevention of obesity and diabetes. If you are challenged here, email me for specific sleep strategies or schedule a phone consult. I was once an insomniac.
Oscillococcinum is a preventive as well as early treatment for cold and flu. Two European double blind placebo-control studies found a significant reduction in severity and duration of flu symptoms with use of this remedy.
Influenzinum, also a homeopathic, was reported by French homeopaths to be highly effective as a flu preventive in 90% of cases treated over a 10-year period.
Influenzinum is an annual homeopathic preparation (much like a flu vaccine) that targets the most likely flu virus that season. My mentor Joette Calabrese recommends taking it as a preventive as follows: four doses a day once a week for three weeks, then four doses a day once a month. You can take additional doses if you still wind up with the flu.
Homeopathy can be one of the most effective and fast acting ways to thwart a cold or flu, but you need to select the right remedy for your situation.
If the flu takes hold this year, try this homeopathic protocol suggested by noted homeopath Joette Calabrese: Rhus tox 30 alternated every few hours with Bryonia 30.
If nothing happens after four doses, STOP. More is not better. Homeopathy is not like vitamins, you don’t keep on it. They give your body a push toward balance, so you need to stop after you’re heaed in the right direction.
And finally, be sure to follow the basic advice from medical authorities: wash hands with soap and water frequently (Antimicrobial soap not needed). Disinfect (white vinegar works as well as antibiotic soaps) phones, keyboards and other surfaces. Avoid crowds, and cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing.
Cheers to a healthy holiday this year.