Tossing the “do I or don’t I” get a flu vaccine question around in my head each year is crazy making. It doesn’t seem to matter how much or how little I educate myself the outcome is the same.
This is an emotional topic. Both sides equally passionate. I am writing this post to try to untangle the knots in my own head and come to terms with my decision to once again this year, not get the flu shot for myself or my kids.
For those of you that have already been vaccinated, or for those on the fence, this post is in no way meant to be inflammatory or self righteous. Any dialogue/response this stirs up is welcomed. I am searching for clarity in very muddy waters.
Of late, I have been back and forth on this topic with a trusted friend Glen, a Homeopath (and awesome teacher with the TDSB) and have to share the beginning of his first note to me when I asked him if he and his family got a flu shot this year…. “With flu vaccines, let me first start by saying that I’m not against vaccination; I’m against side effects and poor evidence”. Perfectly put and a great place to start.
In order to put a needle in my arm and the arms of my children I need to trust. I need to trust in the entire process. In the case of the flu vaccine there are simply too many red flags. Everywhere I turn in my decision making process I hit something hard.
Truth be told, I think I am more afraid of the vaccine than I am of the flu…..
In order for me to trust in this vaccine I would need to trust the pharmaceutical company that produced it, which I don’t.
I would need to trust the government agencies that supposedly inspected the plants in which it was manufactured and then approved it, which I don’t.
I would obviously need to trust it isn’t contaminated and that all the strange and suspect ingredients are in fact safe, which I don’t.
It’s hard to forget about the Thimerosol (ethyl mercury used as a preservative) and the formaldehyde and the aluminum which make up part of the vaccine. Even though all these additives are purposeful and apparently safe, again I simply don’t trust this to be true.
I don’t even believe that if I got a flu shot that I wouldn’t still get the flu.
When I canvas my friends and family about how they go about making their decisions around the “do we or don’t we” most say that how sick they got days after receiving the vaccine in the past has made them very skeptical and wary of the sense it makes. Or worse, that the years they got vaccinated were the years the flu hit them or a family member the hardest.
They say there are two weeks between getting the flu shot and it starting to work. I believe this time period is when a lot of people actually get sick. Not necessarily from the shot as lots of us think, but rather as a result of nuking your immune system at the beginning of cold and flu season when boosting it to bionic strength is the smartest path. Creating a vulnerable environment in which flu can take you down is so counter intuitive. Following are a few ways (there are many more…) to naturally build your immunity this winter….
- Drink your lemons. Lemon is the ideal food for restoring balance. Drinking freshly squeezed lemon juice in water helps maintain the body’s internal “climate” at a pH which supports healthy bacteria instead of the viruses and harmful bacteria which thrive in more acidic environments.
- Get a full night’s sleep. Everybody’s different: your body may need anywhere from 6 to 10 hours of sleep each night. Whatever your personal sleep requirement is, get it!
- Drink plenty of water. Headaches and thirst are both signs of dehydration. You should be drinking, in daily ounces, half your body weight in pounds. (i.e. Body weight in pounds, divided by 2 = number of ounces of water per day.)
- Stop drinking coffee (or limit!?). Drinking coffee is one of the worst things you can do for your immune system. Caffeine robs your body of minerals and vitamins, and it dehydrates you. If you drink coffee, make sure you add an additional two glasses to your water intake per cup of coffee. I am not even mentioning pop here because I like to pretend we live in a world where it doesn’t exist.
- Worse yet is the impact of refined white sugar. If you do only one thing to boost your immune system, eliminating sugar will do the trick. You will see noticeable results in your energy levels, weight distribution, immunity and your ability to think clearly when you break the cravings and stop eating refined sugar.
- Stock up on raw fruits and vegetables for their antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber and enzymes. The nutritional content that you receive from raw fruits and veggies is unparalleled. Many vitamins, including C, are antioxidants and will protect cells – including those of your immune system – from damage by toxins in the environment. Dark-coloured produce (berries, kale, broccoli) tends to be higher in flavonoids, polyphenols and other antioxidants.
- Spend some time out in the cold. Snowball fight, anyone? Exercise can make a noticeable difference to your health and happiness by releasing endorphins. Most of us spend 90% of our lives indoors, inhaling dubiously filtered air and other people’s germs. Get outside…it’s fun.
- Nurture yourself. Make sure you take time to yourself, spend some time with friends, and indulge yourself with a massage, a hot bath, or just curl up with a book once in a while. Our bodies respond to our emotions- if you’re feeling harassed and anxious, it can manifest in a sore throat or a cold. Take a mental health day!
- Note how you feel about your food choices each day. If something doesn’t bring you pleasure check it and change it. You won’t believe the results in both your mind and body.
- One last one that seems obvious but I am really focussed on this year…wash your pillow cases, towels, hand towels and scarves more often than usual. Especially your kids…I see so much suspect nose wiping. It can’t hurt.
A scary fact for the vulnerable (arguably all of us) that surfaced last week is that the predominate strain of flu this year is a particularly nasty one, H3N2, and while it is in the vaccine, this strain has “drifted” or mutated, as these wily bugs do. So from what I understand in a lot of cases, this strain will not be recognized by our immune systems, and as such we could not mount an attack against it anyway, even if we were vaccinated.
I could share the multitude of articles and reports I have been pouring through but I think we all do our own soul searching. Or do we? Maybe it is more black and white than I think. Maybe more of us trust the system than I think. I have talked to only a handfull of people who chose to vaccinate this year though and most are hard pressed to say why….just a feeling they had. Others who did say if it wan’t so convenient to do so they likely wouldn’t have.
“Flu season’s barely starting, but most cases are being caused by a strain called H3N2 this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a health warning issued to doctors Wednesday night.
The flu vaccine protects against three or four strains of flu — there’s always a mix of flu viruses going around — and H3N2 is one of them. But the strain of H3N2 infecting most people has mutated and only about half of cases match the vaccine, CDC said.”
When I asked my friend Glen about the flu shot he volunteered a homeopathic flu remedy that he and his family use preventatively. I am going to try this with my family as well. For more information get in touch with Glen at http://www.downtownhomeopathy.com.
In closing I need to get out there that I have never been one to say things out loud that are better left in my head, and if I do I usually respectfully whisper them. Saying things like “I never get sick” or “the baby is finally asleep, let’s have dinner” or “as if it will rain” all seem like invitations to this big eared universe to show me who is boss. Writing here about the flu feels super dodgy. Hopefully I’ve been diplomatic enough to be spared an ass kicking.
What now? From here I will forge through this flu season the way I always do and try to stop second guessing myself. I will feed myself and the ones I love healthy whole foods packed with immune boosting nutrients, encourage sleep, hydration and give lots of snuggles.
I will put my trust in my own instincts and hope for the best.
I seriously urge you to watch this youtube video for a great giggle on a serious topic…..