We’ve had a tough flu season this year, and it doesn’t seem to be clearing up just yet. What’s made matters worse is that this year’s flu vaccine has not been particularly effective. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the vaccine has perhaps protected about 56 percent of people who have received it. However, in people over age 65, this year’s flu vaccine has helped only about 9 percent of those who received it — a pretty dismal efficacy rate for a vulnerable population.
Part of the problem is that, in general, the flu vaccine is based as much on educated guesswork as it is on rigorous science. The CDC and other health organizations have to predict the most virulent flu strains in any given year, and the vaccine is developed based on those predictions. If they guess wrong, people get sick.
On the other hand, some people seem to get sick anyway, even when flu shot manufacturers do create the “correct” vaccine. A review published in the British Medical Journal called into question the gaps between flu vaccine policy and evidence of effectiveness. Another study, published in The Journal of Virology, suggested that while the vaccine might protect children from the flu, it can also make their immune systems vulnerable to other viruses.
So no matter what government agencies and vaccine manufacturers may assert, the verdict is still out on the wisdom of flu shots. This is not necessarily a bad thing: Rigorous science requires ongoing debate and discussion. But it does drive home the fact that we shouldn’t rely on Big Pharma to make our health decisions for us.
The first line of defense against the flu, or any pathogen, is common sense. Wash your hands frequently, avoid people who are obviously under the weather, drink plenty of fresh water and exercise regularly.
Pay close attention to your diet. Emphasize meals rich in whole grains, lean protein and low-glycemic fruits and vegetables. Remember, antioxidants, which are found in abundance in many fruits and vegetables and other whole foods, can significantly support immunity. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and kale also contain numerous compounds and nutrients that are excellent for the immune system.
Vitamins and minerals are also important. Vitamins C and D both boost immunity and C is a potent antioxidant. Zinc is an essential cofactor for many proteins associated with immune cells, and research has shown that zinc deficiency can depress the immune system.
Another key to boosting immunity is getting enough sleep. As many as 60 million Americans suffer difficulty sleeping. Aside from boosting energy, adequate sleep is necessary to rejuvenate the body, particularly the immune system, and protects against numerous chronic conditions.
There are a variety of herbs and botanicals that can help support immunity. Medicinal mushrooms are well known for their immune-regulating abilities. Mushroom cell walls contain a family of carbohydrates called beta-glucans that work closely with immune cells, modulating the functions of T-cells, natural killer (NK) cells and other immune components. One of the prime benefits of medicinal mushrooms is they go beyond merely boosting boost immunity; they optimize it and, as such, they can be useful for people with autoimmune disorders.
I also recommend modified citrus pectin (MCP), one of the most broad-ranging and versatile immune boosters that also supports numerous areas of health. MCP is a powerful yet gentle detoxifier and is also a powerful cellular health agent. On the immune side, MCP has been shown to selectively increase the activation of NK, T and B cells, significantly enhancing the action of NK cells against cancer.
For detoxification, MCP binds to heavy metals and other toxins, safely removing them from the body without depleting essential minerals. It also controls levels of a protein called galectin-3. At elevated levels, galectin-3 causes inflammation and has been implicated in the progression of cancer, heart disease and other serious conditions.
Another helpful supplement is honokiol, an active ingredient extracted from magnolia bark. Honokiol is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that also works against pathogens like the flu virus. It has been shown in multiple studies to fight aggressive cancer. In addition, honokiol acts as a gentle relaxant and calming agent. If you’re having trouble unwinding from stress or problems sleeping, honokiol may help.
I also recommend a Tibetan herbal formula, which has decades of clinical research showing its abilities to significantly reduce inflammation and improve circulation. These and other actions offered by this ancient formula benefit immunity and numerous additional areas of health.
The key to fighting any disease, flu included, is to support immunity in several ways. Good nutrition, plenty of filtered water, extra sleep, antioxidants and natural immune optimizers all contribute to keeping the flu at bay and can help speed recovery if you do get sick.
Whether a flu shot is necessary or not is beside the point at this juncture. A strong, robust immune system, supported by natural therapies and good lifestyle habits, is the best way to protect your health.
For more practical health information, visit www.dreliaz.org.