Flu prevention: safe, effective strategies

With winter now upon us, the annual influenza season is gathering pace. While the flu is rarely a serious illness in people who are generally well, it is dangerous for those with compromised immune systems including the elderly, pregnant women, diabetics and people on immunosuppressant drugs.

And it feels absolutely lousy for those suffering it (and their families!) and leads to lost productivity in the workplace and missed days of school. Flu vaccination is heavily promoted by doctors and the media, but as you’ll read below, there are serious doubts about its safety and effectiveness.

What can you do to safely protect yourself against the flu? Plenty!

Vitamin D

The ‘sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D, is absolutely vital for the function of T cells, the immune system cells that defend us against viruses, including the various influenza viruses. T cells require vitamin D to ‘trigger’ them into action after they have been exposed to an invading virus.

If there is insufficient vitamin D circulating in the bloodstream, they don’t get activated, but instead remain dormant, leaving us wide open to viral infection (1).

In a study conducted among Japanese school children throughout the flu season of December 2008-March 2009, vitamin D supplementation reduced the risk of developing influenza by a whopping 40% (2).

In addition, among asthmatic children, only 2 who received the vitamin D supplement had asthma attacks during the study period, while 12 asthmatic children who received the placebo (inert ‘dummy pill’) had asthma attacks.

The dose given to these children was only 1200 iu per day. Vitamin D experts recommend an intake of 1000 iu per 11 kg of body weight per day for children (3), so in my opinion, giving a higher dose than that used in the study would decrease your child’s risk of getting the flu even more dramatically – especially if combined with…

 

High intake of fresh fruit & vegetables

When the cold weather hits, most people reduce their intake of fresh fruit and vegetables in favour of stodgy, starchy ‘comfort foods’. Bad idea!

Fresh produce is by far our richest source of dietary antioxidants. Antioxidants combat free radicals – rogue molecules formed in our bodies every day from normal processes of metabolism, as well as by consumption of heat-damaged fats, smog and a wide range of other chemicals.

If your dietary intake of antioxidants is less than is required to neutralise the free radicals you produce, you experience oxidative stress.

If a virus invades your body while you are in this state, the oxidative stress will alter its genome (genetic sequence), causing it to mutate into a more virulent form – that is, the virus becomes capable of causing more serious and prolonged infection, because of the oxidative stress in your body (4).

Eating a nutrient-dense diet with a very high proportion of green and other non-starchy vegetables; along with fruits (particularly the high-antioxidant fruits such as berries, red grapes, pomegranate and kiwifruit); legumes (lentils, dried peas and beans), nuts, seeds and whole grains, will ensure you meet all your needs for the nutrients crucial for normal immune function.

Deficiences in virtually any known vitamin or mineral reduce the effectiveness of your immune system. And if you’re eating the Standard Australian Diet (the SAD) you can guarantee you’re deficient in at least some of these nutrients, and woefully deficient in immune-boosting carotenoids and other phytochemicals.

 

Sleep

Sleep enhances your immune system’s efficiency, and sleep deprivation impairs immune function. A 2009 study found that people who sleep less than seven hours per night are about three times more likely to develop respiratory illness following exposure to a cold virus than those who sleep eight hours or more.

Reduced sleep efficiency (spending less than 92% of time in bed asleep) was also associated with a 5 1/2 times greater likelihood of becoming ill than good sleep efficiency (spending 98% or more time in bed asleep).

Fascinatingly, people who were efficient sleepers were just as likely as the inefficient sleepers to have cold viruses in their blood and mucus samples, but they did not actually ‘get a cold’ nearly as often.

How could you be infected but not feel sick? The researchers commented that

“sleep disturbance influences the regulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines, histamines and other symptom mediators that are released in response to infection.”

In other words, it’s the body’s response to viral infection that determines how sick you feel, and well-slept people’s bodies respond in ways that make them feel less sick (5).

 

Exercise

Engaging in regular aerobic exercise such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling and swimming increases your resistance to the flu and other upper respiratory tract infections.

A study of 1002 adults aged 18–85 years, and conducted over 12 weeks during the autumn and winter, found that those who exercised on 5 or more days each week had a massive 43% decrease in the number of days they were sick with an upper respiratory tract infection, compared to those who exercised on 1 day per week or less.

When regular exercisers did get sick, their symptoms were fewer and less intense than the couch potatoes (6).

 

What about influenza vaccination?

The recent spate of deaths and hospitalisations of young children who received seasonal flu vaccine has brought the issue of vaccine safety to the forefront. It’s not only children who are at risk of serious adverse reactions.

I received an email from a very health-conscious and normally robust client of nearly 80, describing the disastrous consequences of receiving an influenza vaccination advised by her GP:

“By evening of 30th March [the day she received the vaccine] had lost appetite and had a painful throat. Next morning I went back to [her GP] for blood tests, which were taken. That day I developed nausea and diarrhoea. I vomited twice but the diarrhoea continued for days. I went from my usual 50 kilos weight to 45 kilos in a few days.

Friday 9th April mid-day I fainted (first time in my life) The nurse here [at her retirement village] took my blood pressure and it was very low – had to go to bed for the afternoon.

13th April about 3 a.m. had very bad pain in chest which was keeping me awake so ambulance took me into Sutherland Hospital Emergency. They kept me overnight running tests on me: they did not think it was my heart. They sent me home in morning with letter to take to a gastro-enterologist. The pain did not get any better. I did not think the pain had anything to do with my digestion as my diarrhoea was starting to settle down.

On the 17th April I had an appointment with [her GP] who had returned from his holidays and wanted to see me because of adverse blood test results. In all my 80 years I have been very healthy and have never returned adverse blood test results. He wanted me to go straight round to Sutherland Hospital Emergency: they ran tests on me and admitted me.

I was released on Tuesday afternoon the 20th April. They told me I had a chest infection and was to take a course of antibiotics plus Panadol.

25th April the chest pain is lessening but still have an irritating cough.

26th April am finished antibiotic medication – irritating chest cough still persists.

29th April irritating chest cough still persists and am lacking in my usual energy.

3rd May cough lessening and was able to get back to exercising.

Weight up to 48 kilos.

Doctor and hospital saying it is just a coincidence.”

 

The product insert for CSL’s Panvax H1N1 vaccine (7) lists the following potential side-effects:
1. Reaction around the injection site such as tenderness, bruising, redness, pain, swelling or hard lumps
2. Flu-like symptoms, such as headache, tiredness, fever, sore throat, runny or blocked nose, sneezing, cough, chills
3. Vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea
4. Irritability / loss of appetite
5. Toothache
6. Aching muscles or joints, back pain
7. Tingling or numbness (a serious side-effect requiring urgent medical attention);

and the following very serious side effects requiring urgent medical attention or hospitalisation:
1. Allergic reactions involving rash, itching or hives, swelling of the face, lips, tongue or other body parts
2. Shortness of breath, wheezing or trouble breathing
3. Fit, convulsion or seizure
4. Bleeding or bruising more easily than normal
5. Reduced or absent urination
6. Severe stabbing or throbbing nerve pain, neck stiffness.

Influenza vaccines also contain thiomersal, a mercury compound, as a preservative in multi-use vials. While the amount of mercury per dose is small, if a person gets a flu shot, and perhaps other mercury-containing vaccines, year after year, the cumulative burden of mercury in their bodies, in addition to the mercury from fish and seafood consumption and amalgam fillings, may increase their risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s (8).

On top of these dangers, these vaccines don’t really work very well anyway! A US study showed that, over 8 consecutive flu seasons, children who received the inactivated influenza vaccine were three times as likely to be hospitalised with the flu as children who weren’t vaccinated.

Asthmatic children who received the vaccine were particularly at risk of hospitalisation for flu (9).

And a Canadian study found that adults who received the seasonal flu vaccine in autumn 2008, were up to nearly 3 times more likely to contract swine flu in 2009 (10).

See my article summarising the Cochrane Collaboration’s reviews on flu vaccination.

The choice is clear!!!!!

You can choose to receive a vaccine that is potentially dangerous – even life-threatening – and probably ineffective, or you can eat a nutritionally superior diet, take vitamin D at a dosage high enough to ensure you have optimal blood levels, and get enough exercise and good-quality sleep to keep your immune system working at maximum effectiveness.

Do you come down with every bug that floats by? Do you want to repair your immune system and enjoy freedom from flu and other infectious diseases?

Apply for a Roadmap to Optimal Health Consultation to discover whether one of my individual or group Lifestyle Overhaul Programs is right for you.

 

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