Vaccines and Immunity

In the last couple of weeks, I have been getting hundreds of emails from patients asking my opinion on the H1N1 vaccine as well as the regular flu vaccine, so I wanted to address these viruses and vaccines to help you make the choice that is best for you.

H1N1 virus is a relative 1918 Spanish flu virus. However even though there has been much hype about the dangers of this virus, there is a lot we can do about it.

Yes there have been some deaths, particularly in people under 20, but research shows that H1N1 is not any more lethal than other flu strains and furthermore, many of the deaths are actually not caused by the virus itself.

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that of the 36 children who died from H1N1 from April to August, six had no chronic health conditions. But all of them had a co-occurring bacterial infection. The most common co-occurring infection that causes flu-related deaths is staphylococcus aureus. A third of the population actually carries it in their nose or on their skin. The flu causes upper respiratory damage, which allows the strep to make its way into the lungs.  While antibiotics are not effective against viruses, it is very important to watch for secondary infections and in those cases, the use of antibiotics may be warranted to prevent further problems.

Recent studies have also indicated that strep infections, rather than the flu virus itself, may have killed most people during the 1918 influenza pandemic, which further adds to the notion that the swine flu is being over-hyped. During the 1918 flu incident there were no antibiotics, no IV fluids and no respirators so all the doctors of that time could offer was rest, fluids and aspirin. Strep is much easier to treat than the flu using modern medicine, so a new pandemic might be much less dire than it was in the early 20th century.

How vaccines work

The flu vaccine is created within chicken eggs, and is processed to create a large batch of antigen, which will provoke an immune response within the vaccinated individual.  A vaccine that is intended for injection contains only purified pieces of dead flu virus which is unable to cause an infection, but stimulates the production of antibodies within the body.

Inhaled flu vaccine however, contains a weakened version of the living virus. The fact that the virus is alive makes this type of vaccine slightly more effective in the prevention of the swine flu, or other strains of influenza but it also makes the vaccine riskier. Live virus vaccines carry a risk of genetic instability, which can cause them to revert to their previous virulent state.  For this reason, extensive testing must be done on new vaccines as they are created to treat new viral influenza strains. Without comprehensive testing, a live vaccine can increase the spread of the disease, rather than stopping it.

In terms of accuracy, the beneficial thing with H1N1 vaccine is that we know the strain of the virus to use in the vaccine. The problem with regular flu shots is that they are never 100% sure which strain is going to develop and the strain used in the vaccine is not always the one that may infect you.

In terms of efficacy however, studies show that developing an H1N1 antibody after getting an H1N1 vaccination has no correlation with not getting sick and that a sizable antibody level only protects up to 50% of people from getting the flu. The protection percentage is even lower than that with a regular flu shot.

According to an article published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews  in 2008, in a review of more than 51 studies involving over 294,000 children, it was found there was “no evidence that injecting children 6-24 months of age with a flu shot was any more effective than placebo. In children over 2 yrs, it was only effective 33% of the time in preventing the flu. In another review of 48 reports including more than 66,000 adults, “Vaccination of healthy adults only reduced risk of influenza by 6% and reduced the number of missed work days by less than one day (0.16) days. It did not change the number of people needing to go to hospital or take time off work.”

With these statistics, we have to ask ourselves – with the benefits being as low as they are, is it worth the risk?

What is in a flu shot?

  • Egg proteins: including avian contaminant viruses
  • Gelatin: can cause allergic reactions and anaphylaxis are usually associated with sensitivity to egg or gelatin
  • Polysorbate 80 (Tween80(tm)): can cause severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis. Also associated with inferility in female mice.
  • Formaldehyde: known carcinogen
  • Triton X100: a strong detergent
  • Sucrose: table sugar
  • Resin: known to cause allergic reactions
  • Gentamycin: an antibiotic
  • Thimerosal: mercury is still in multidose flu shot vials

It has also come to my attention that younger people are catching the swine flu more often than other age groups. Looking into this further I learned that if someone was born before 1950, they most likely have antibodies and tend to be immune which is why there seems to be more deaths in younger people than the elderly population.

The other point that is being made is looking at children that are getting
sick and the breakdown of the ones who were vaccinated versus the ones
that were not. Is it possible that getting more vaccines and an annual flu
shot makes the immune system “lazy” and thus this is the reason these
children are not being able to fight off the flu on their own? Not sure
anyone has a concrete answer for this one but makes you think doesn’t it?

What you should do to protect yourself

Bacteria and viruses are everywhere but the portals of entry into your body are through the eyes, nostrils and mouth/throat. Once the virus enters the body, it can be fought of by your immune system, or it can proliferate and develop into a full blown flu.

Most people know it is very important to wash hands regularly, but in addition to that, you want to make sure to keep hands away from your face, especially eyes, ears, nose and mouth.

If you have been around someone that is sick or frequent crowded places such as trains or busses where people are sneezing and coughing, it is helpful to clear out your nasal passages and throat. Use a neti-pot filled with salt water and gargle twice a day with salt water or a product I often use in the practice called Lomatium which has very strong anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It can also be taken orally to help fight off infection if you feel you are getting sick or already have a full blown infection.

Boosting the immune system- the most important protocol

You can have enormous exposure to infectious agents and you simply will not get sick IF you have a healthy immune system.

Lifestyle if the first step to boost your defenses.

  • Practice good sleep habits and get between 8-9 hours of sleep a night.
  • Avoid stress and over obligating yourself.
  • Participate in a regular balanced exercise program that includes cardio and     resistance training that works all major muscle groups.
  • Eat a balanced diet and reduce or avoid sugar and sugary foods as that is the fastest way to drop immunity
  • Run a hair analysis and/or metabolic profile to find out your deficiencies   and replenish the nutrients your body needs.

There are also various immune boosting nutrients I successfully use in the practice with great results.

This year we introduced a new homeopathic formula from Germany called Lymphonest. It’s a lymph drainage formula that goes to work by aiding in elimination of viruses and bacteria from the lymph and boosting the immune system. The great thing about this formula is that is works great for prevention but also a very effective remedy for when you are starting to get sick or are already sick. Simply take it throughout the day if you are feeling ill and watch it drastically cut your symptoms and reduce sick time.

ImmunoBerry is another great formula which is especially great for children due to its natural great taste. The liquid contains Certified organic extracts of Astragalus, Wild Cherry Bark, Shiitake mushroom, Maitake mushroom, Elderberry and Beta 1,3 Glucan.  Research suggests that these herbs, mushrooms and other natural compounds have  potential  antiviral  and  antibacterial ability, as well as the ability to stimulate natural killer (NK) cell activity, necessary for a strong immune defense.

Colostrum is an exceptional nutritional substance, produced by mothers for their newborns, that supports and nourishes the immune system. I recommend colostrum for anyone with weakened immunity and especially if you have gastrointestinal complaints because part of our immune system lies in the gut. It is great to take for 1-2 months to help rebuild the immune system.

Vitamin D has shown great promise in boosting the immune system as well. I recommend testing for vitamin D levels and if they are below 30ml/dl, supplement with 1000-3000IU daily of natural D3, especially during the winter months.

Most of us have heard of healing and protective capabilities of Vitamin C, but I wanted to mention it here again because dosages and forms are very important and vary in different situations. Vitamin C is most potent when combined with bioflavamoids in the buffered form to avoid stomach discomfort. I do not usually recommend that people take vitamin C on a daily basis without testing, as too much vitamin C can lower copper levels. A hair test can help determine what amount if any the body needs daily. However with an onset of a cold or flu, vitamin C can be taken short-term to support the immune system and fight the infection on site. In those situations I recommend taking 3000-5000 mgs of C per day in divided doses for a few days.

Some of you are already familiar with Immunitone Plus from last year. It is a combination I still use often with great results. This powerful immune supportive formula combines herbs that have antiviral and antibacterial properties as well as the ability to maintain Natural Killer cell activity and cytokine synthesis. This formula is extremely powerful yet safe enough to use in high doses for acute applications, while also being suitable for long-term use in chronic conditions.

If you are looking for ways to improve your immunity, please do not hesitate to contact the office so that we can put together an appropriate program for you.

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