Do You Really Need to Get the Flu Shot?
“It’s flu season!”
You hear the ads on the radio and see them on television; you can’t escape the fact that the “flu shot is available here!” (fill in the name of the pharmacy or department store nearest you.) It’s a highly personal decision whether you opt for a flu shot. However, there are some individuals for whom getting the shot MAY make sense – those with immune-compromised systems and those who work in health care or in prison populations, for example.
For the rest of us, it’s not a simple answer and here’s why.
The “flu” is not one organism or germ.
The flu is not singular, nor is it the same every year. The viruses the shot combats are a moving target. The CDC trusts it has developed the “best” vaccination to address this seasonal menace, but they play a guessing game on which strain of the flu will be the most virulent.
Because there are myriad viruses circulating, it’s an annual challenge for scientists and researchers to predict which of the viruses will be the most potent and prevalent. Once they’ve focused on the few strains they will target, they must grow vaccines that will (hopefully) kill the virus you may end up catching.
How do you “catch” the flu?
Individuals contract the flu when the virus enters the body through your eyes, nose or mouth. Once the virus is inside your body, it targets the lungs. The flu can cause all manner of upper respiratory distress and can lead to viral pneumonia or a viral respiratory infection. Individuals who have a severe flu infection run the risk of other organs in their bodies being impacted by the virus. Individuals with immune-compromised systems are also at a higher risk of developing pneumonia – this impacts the very young and the very old – and can be lethal.
Know that flu vaccine takes two to three weeks before it is fully effective in your body; this means that if you’ve been exposed to the flu virus prior to getting the vaccination, it will be essentially ineffectual. Some people say they don’t get the flu “as badly” if they have the vaccination and still contract the disease.
The true goal of the vaccine isn’t to necessarily prevent the flu, but to prevent an epidemic and reduce the cases of severe flu infection.
Flu shot concerns
These concerns have been noted for those who have gotten the flu shot.
1. You could be more susceptible to other viral respiratory infections
2. Repeated shots for the seasonal strains of the flu increase risk of developing a severe infection to other pandemic strains
3. Flu shots provide short-term immunity, but fail to provide any protection about half of the time
4. Because researchers aren’t certain what strains they’re fighting in any given season, the type influenza strain circulating means the effectiveness of the flu shot you receive could be as low as 30%. In fact, the flu shot given in the 2004-05 flu season were only 10% effective.
Do any of these statistics make you feel comfortable and reassured about avoiding the flu because you’re getting a vaccination?
Boost your immune system and avoid the flu
Sometimes it seems we are a society that wants the quick fix rather than being in it for our health for the long term. Death is inevitable; aging in a healthy manner and living a long, fruitful life is something we can take control of and should strive for. If we change our lifestyles and adopt a more active life, we can age healthier, and who doesn’t want that?
You need to be healthy to stay healthy
If you’re already “run down” and your immune system is compromised, you will be more prone to suffering from coughs, colds and the flu this season. To prevent illness from striking, you can prevent illness daily by eating healthful meals, taking supplements to boost vitamins and minerals you’re getting from your foods and getting up and moving.
The benefits of natural remedies and flu avoidance
As we age, our immunity changes. The body’s immune response gets weaker; this makes vaccines less effective and infections more likely. Getting the right nutrients through diet and by taking supplements are key to maintaining immune health.
Gentle exercise, herbal teas and dietary supplements boost your immune system. If you’re looking for ways to support your body’s own ability to maintain and restore its health and if you prefer more natural, less invasive approaches, naturopathic remedies can be empowering and boost your immune system. We certainly aren’t saying no one should get the flu vaccine, that’s a personal choice – as is a healthy diet and lifestyle – it’s your choice.
Ways to naturally boost your immune system
Wouldn’t you rather boost your immune system naturally? The benefits are you may stay healthier year-round – and won’t have to rely on vaccinations or anti-biotics to fight off illness because your body will fight it off on its own.
Take a look at this list of ways to naturally boost your immune system and incorporate some, or all, into your daily routine
1. Get out in the sun. Even in the corners of the country steeped in gray days and lack of sunshine, there are ways to get Vitamin D. Get out in the sun, even if it’s cold outside. Invest in a sunlight simulating lamp to boost your D quotient. Vitamin D helps boost immune systems and you can enhance your sunlight-D with supplements.
2. Boost vitamin intake. A lack of vitamins, also known as micronutrients have been linked to reduced immunity. Take multivitamin supplements as well as supplements A, B, C, D and E vitamins.
3. Alleviate stress. Whether you alleviate stress through meditation or physical exertion, it is crucial. The physical effects of stress on your immune system leads to a whole host of negative physical and emotional issues. Take a long, hot bath with Epsom salts to reduce stress and induce a sleepy feeling. A good night’s sleep boosts your immune system.
4. Turmeric. Turmeric. Turmeric. I cannot sing the benefits of this bright orange spice enough. It has anti-inflammatory properties and there is increasing evidence that points to its illness preventative properties.
5. Fresh fruits, vegetables and mushrooms. Fresh fruits and vegetables just make sense. Eating a healthy diet will help eliminate inflammation in the body, help with weight and are always a better choice than eating processed foods. Mushrooms boost the production of immune cells and are loaded with antioxidants.
6. Add spices to your meals. Garlic, especially fermented black garlic, and ginger add a delicious taste to your meals and also bring immune-boosting properties. Raw garlic contains cancer-agents and antimicrobials. Ginger is a traditional treatment for nausea, and cold and flu symptoms.
7. Get moving. Physical activity and regular exercise contribute to overall health. A healthy body leads to a healthier immune system. Look for exercises that improve strength, balance and flexibility.
8. Probiotics matter. A probiotic brings “good” bacteria into your gut and a healthy gut can boost your immune system. It’s believed that probiotic supplements help prevent and combat colds. You can find probiotics in supplement form or through eating naturally fermented foods.
Don’t look at natural remedies and at boosting your immune system as a one-and-done change. Natural remedies, physical activity, adding supplements and eating healthy whole foods and eschewing processed foods is a conscious lifestyle choice.
Given the choice of being sick and tired, wouldn’t you prefer to be healthy, active and living and loving life?
Look at your current regimen and make small, manageable changes; you will notice a difference in your life and health and just might be able to avoid the flu shot and its questionable benefits.