I see both sides of the flu shot debate every day at this time of year. People ask me my opinion since I am in the health care field. This is not to be construed as medical advice or to replace the advice of your doctor. However as my friends keep reminding me…”well you’re a nurse, you should know this”…here is my 50 cents! Everything we choose in life carries some amount of risk. I try to weigh the risk of myself or a loved one with a weakened immune system getting the flu and possibly being hospitalized versus a small percent chance of very serious side effects of receiving the flu vaccine. Will I put my Aunt Millie at risk who recently had a heart attack? Or what about my little nephew who is 2 years old with a developing immune system? What about the health and wellness of my clients? Am I disciplined enough to take the steps to fortify my own immune system to prevent illness instead of getting the vaccine? Do I care enough to research it myself and be my own best advocate or is the advice from my friends’ friend a trustworthy source of solid science?
Whether or not you feel the Center For Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are conspiratorially poisoning the world for profit or manipulation, there are some strong arguments in favor of protection and prevention by getting the vaccine. The treacherous debate on the intentions of these organizations, and the bottom dollar for vaccine companies don’t mean ditly if my newborn Godchild gets put in the hospital because of me giving him the flu. Is it narcissistic to put the responsibility on the weakened ones that need protection? They are at risk, not me; after all, my immune system is strong and I never get the flu. Hmm, will they call me a communist if I get the flu shot for the greater good? I dig a little deeper…
You might consider that the vaccine this year protects against 3 strains which the CDC deems are the greatest risk of serious illness based on evidence that includes what is going on in the Southern Hemisphere during their high flu season. This is their best educated guess. It won’t protect you from every garden variety bug that is lurking out there so you still have the potential for becoming ill with fever, aches & pains. Hopefully though, you will be protected from the most violent strains that can put you in the hospital or at least render you bedridden for weeks.
After some delving into their websites and research and accessing counter arguments found in the news and legitimate alternative health sources on the internet, I still arrive at it being a calculated risk. We are rolling the dice of life folks!
There are some things you can do to strengthen your immune system so that you at least have all your cooty fighters in the ring doing their best to protect you from falling ill. Are you eating a lot of sugar? High sugar intake is a prime culprit in weakening your immune system. Limiting soda, sweets and processed foods is a major boost to your team. Are you getting enough sunlight? One of the reasons the flu is more prevalent in the winter is because there is less sunlight and people stay indoors more. Vitamin D is taking the lead in headlines with websites that maintain double blind studies as the gold standard in research. Recent research suggests 15 minutes of sunlight on your body, but not the face, every day for fair skinned people and longer if you have darker skin or are older or live farther north.
19th and 20th Century health sanatoriums in Europe, Canada, and eventually the North in America, were big into Sun treatments for health. They bundle you up and park you in a lounge chair or hospital bed on a veranda overlooking the mountains soaking in as much sunlight as you can get. Sun exposure boosts the bodies natural defenses because it gives you Vitamin D via the skin (nicknamed the Sun Vitamin). Did you know that they have increased the recommended daily amount of Vitamin D?
You may consider talking to your doc about getting your Vitamin D levels checked. According to my Doctor and many recent articles, most of us in the U.S. have low levels of vitamin D and should be adding a supplement to our diet at least during the flu season. Food sources such as fatty fish, eggs, and meat are rich in vitamin D. (There is a head spinning debate about milk fortified with Vitamin D that I won’t enter into right now. Expect hours of reading and a long recovery from confusion if you care to explore the topic. )
Here’s a thought…Did you know that your sugar intake and your Vitamin D level, among other things like stress, will have an impact on how strongly your body develops antibodies to the flu shot?! When they ask you if you are feeling healthy with no fever when you go for a flu shot, it’s because if your immune system is already depleted, the body will not be as efficient at making antibodies to the vaccine strains. How many people say, “I got the flu shot and I still got sick.”? Did you know that it takes 2 weeks for your body to develop immunity to the strains in the vaccine? About one third of those vaccinated in the first 48 hours of receiving the vaccine run a low grade fever and have some mild aches and pains. That is minor compared to the actual flu. Hopefully though, with the vaccine, you will be protected from the most violent strains that can put you in the hospital or at least render you bedridden for weeks. Who knew that your diet and lifestyle have a part in how you respond to the flu shot and to flu viruses? Hmmm.
I will take steps to fortify my immune system naturally to prevent illnesses including the flu. I will get the flu shot. I know myself, and I would not be able to handle the guilt of a loved one falling seriously ill because I don’t know if I fully trust “the system”and decide to risk it without the vaccine. If you want my advice…Roll your own dice!!