Every year in late summer and early fall we begin to hear about the coming flu, how dangerous it is, and how the best way to protect ourselves is by getting the flu shot. Both of these statements are patently false.
First of all, the flu is not really dangerous. When the CDC tells us every year that so many people die from the flu, if you look at the numbers closely you will see that they actually say that so many people die from flu and pneumonia each year. For example, in 2005, deaths for both flu and pneumonia combined were 61,000. But deaths from influenza alone were only around 1800 people. And, in fact, deaths from influenza since 1979 have been fairly consistent, averaging around 1300 people each year.
The second issue is that of the flu shot being useful in protecting ourselves. There is an organization, the Cochrane Collaborative, that is an international collective of individuals who evaluate scientific data from all over the world and publish their findings in the form of reviews. When reviewing scientific data, they throw out studies that are biased and/or designed poorly.
Their reviews of studies looking at the effectiveness of flu vaccines quite clearly show that there is little or no evidence that the flu vaccines are useful in the following populations… babies under 2 years old, children with asthma, adults, elderly adults. Furthermore, Cochrane reviews also show that healthcare practitioners that get flu shots do not protect the elderly in nursing homes that they take care of.
The real reason we get the flu is the combination of a few simple factors that, when adjusted, make it much easier to avoid the flu and much easier to treat the flu if contracted.
Factor number one has to do with our lifestyle habits that make our immune systems less effective at fighting off the influenza virus. There is more detail about this in the lifestyle section, but here is a synopsis of the issue. October begins a 3-month long sugar eating, lack of sleep, stress-inducing time period that we expose ourselves to. Beginning with Halloween, and then Thanksgiving, the Holidays, and culminating with New Years, we get too much sugar, not enough sleep, and stress galore trying to accommodate family and friends, buy the perfect gifts, etc.
The other factor has to do with our Vitamin D levels dropping. Did you know that there really isn’t a flu season along the equator? That’s because proper exposure to the sun, year round, keeps Vitamin D blood levels elevated; which plays a major role with appropriate immune function!
Our recorded webinar entitled “Here comes the flu again” is available here.
For dietary concerns there are “do’s” and “do not’s”
The “do not’s” really revolve around sugar… in all of its various forms. That obviously means cakes and cookies and candies and doughnuts. It also means avoiding too many processed and refined carbohydrates. Too much pasta, bread and cereal can be just as detrimental. Also, take an inventory of how much high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) you are ingesting in your diet. You might be surprised to find that some of your foods, like soups or salad dressing, contain this health-damaging form of sugar. Here is a link to an article for more details about HFCS.
Fruit juices are also a source of concentrated fructose that should be avoided.
The ‘do’s” have to do with foods that give your body, and in particular your immune system, what it needs to function optimally at this time of year. It may seem obvious, but I’ll state it anyway… more fresh fruits and vegetables will serve you well. Please also remember that water is essential for all cells to work properly, including your immune cells. Water also helps loosen and break up mucus in the chest and sinuses.
For the Vitamin D issue – there are really no viable ways to get enough Vitamin D from your diet – you must supplement with it – see the supplement section below for more information.
The following issues are of equal importance – so don’t just grab on to the one thing here that is easy for you to do. Give each of these areas equal and fair attention!
There are supplements to use now to help prevent the flu and ones to use if you happen to get the flu.
These supplements are best used at the very first sign of getting the flu. So, if you wake up in the morning feeling that scratchy throat or sinus congestion, you want to have these things in your home already – don’t wait until you get sick to go find these supplements.