||Jennifer Moffit is a Licensed
Acupuncturist with a Masters of Science in Traditional Oriental
Medicine. She received a Bachelor's of Science in Environmental
Toxicology at UC Davis, teaches Oriental Medicine to medical
students at UCSD, and practices in San Diego at the West Coast
Center for Integrative Medicine.
No Flu Shot? No Worries!
In light of the Flu-shot Crises of 2004, I wanted to address
the concerns for some of my readers about the flu and ways to
protect yourself in the absence of a flu vaccine.
What Does the Flu Vaccine do anyway?
I am not sure when the push for everyone to get a flu shot became
so strong - I don't seem to remember it being so dramatic before
2000. Remember that the flu is a virus - it mutates, and it is
difficult to predict in advance which strain is going to be the
most active. The affects of airline travel around the world only
make it more complicated. The CDC makes recommendations annually
as to which strains are the most likely to be active based on
the epidemiologic evidence, but it's a guess - an educated one,
but a guess never-the-less. Therefore, it is possible that to
get flu shot for a strain of flu that is not even active, so it
may not give you any added protection or immunity.
That being said, a bad case of the flu can prove fatal to seniors,
those who are immuno-compromised, or with a weak respiratory system.
So for these cases, the CDC strongly advises a flu vaccine. Even
if the strains are not a perfect match, it can help lessen the
severity of the flu once it is contracted.
OK, no flu shot. Now what?
Rather than being alarmed by the turn of events, the shortage
of a viable vaccine is a great opportunity for us to mature in
terms of our approach to health care. Our over-reliance of medication
and vaccines has given us a false sense of security when it comes
to colds and flu (and most other diseases as well don't you think?).
We have cultivated a 'Harry Potter' approach to self-care - one
shot and magically you have the immunity to ward off anything,
even in the absence of good self-care and common sense.
While sadly not true, in light of recent events perhaps we will
begin to turn our attention back to those activities which, when
performed with some regularity, strengthen the immune system naturally,
to prevent getting sick in the first place - not just with colds
and flu, but with the myriad of chronic illnesses that currently
plague our country - diabetes, cancer, heart disease, auto-immune
disorders. There's the catch - by turning your attention to flu-prevention,
you might actually be creating life-prevention!
The best flu defense...
Is a good offense. We have heard this saying forever, and it
is true in preventive medicine as well. Here are a few things
which will help you preserve and protect your body's protective
energy, called wei qi (pronounce way-chee), to keep you healthy
and fit this winter and beyond:
Get enough sleep! The body needs at least 8 hours and
in the US we average about 4.5. (For a more detailed explanation
on the importance of sleep, you can read my article Back To Basics:
A Good Night's Sleep). This is one of the most important ways
to restore the wei qi of the body, so don't overlook this.
Clean up your diet. This is helpful in so many regards,
and we have been beaten over the head with all the different weight
loss options available. There are many to choose from, my personal
favorites are the South Beach Diet for those who have a few pounds
to lose, and the Blood Type Diet by Peter d'Adamo for those who
are already at goal. I particularly like the Blood-type Diet to
help provide a cushion of vital energy so that if there is a hit
to the system in the form of a virus, there are more resources
available to defend it. (You can download food lists for each
blood type here)
Mild to Moderate Exercise. Seems pretty straight forward,
doesn't it? But there are deeper reasons biochemically as to why
this is so important for the immune system. Elevated levels of
stress create elevated levels of certain chemicals which, when
unchecked, have a damaging effect on the immune system. Add to
it, the benefits of more restful sleep, and an elevated metabolism
to help strengthen the body against external attack and maintain
weight, you have a pretty important addition to the package.
Supplementation. The judicious use of herbs and supplements
to help strengthen the immune system is a time-honored tradition
in many cultures and ours is no exception. There are no magic
herbs to recommend - what you need is as individual to you as
the color of your hair. If you are really concerned or more prone
to exposure (from the kids, for example), cut to the chase and
have an herbal consult with a licensed practitioner (such as an
acupuncturist or naturopathic physician). You will save money
over the long run by targeting herbs and supplements to your condition.
A competent professional should be able to help you prioritise
which are the most important for you now, and will be able to
advise you if your condition changes and new ones are needed.
The body is not a static - it changes over time, and your needs
for supplementation will change with it. Also, you have the benefit
of working with professional grade products, and can be assured
of their quality.
A caveat: Beware of any practitioner who wants to charge
hundreds of dollars for 'diagnostic testing' or herbs/supplements.
Even my most physically challenged patients don't spend usually
spend more than $100 unless they want to. It is my job to help
them prioritize so that this is a long term affordable addition
to their health care.
A little bodywork... goes a long way. By bodywork I mean
acupuncture, therapeutic massage, chiropractic, etc. Every little
bit helps, and the more you support the physical body, the more
resistant you will be to fighting infections.
Professional bias aside, I find acupuncture and oriental medicine
to be particularly helpful in this regard. Traditional oriental
medicine has had the cure for the common cold for over 2,000 years,
and I find that my patients who come in for regular tune-up treatments
are much less likely to catch something even when everyone else
around them has caught it. Practitioners of acupuncture and oriental
medicine can detect very small changes to the pulse which let
us know early on that the body is fighting off an infection, sometimes
even prior to the onset of serious symptoms. When we catch a cold
or virus at this stage, usually the patient is only laid up for
a day or two with very mild symptoms.
To illustrate the point, if we look at the nasty sinus infection
making the rounds through the offices in San Diego County, an
untreated case usually ended with a 10-day cycle of antibiotics
and a few weeks of misery. I treated about 8 people who were in
the very early stages - meaning the first 36 hours. Literally
everyone one of them were back in form within a few days, and
none required antibiotics.
Everyone else has the flu...
Now that you have a few things to think about to help prevent
you from getting sick, what to do when everyone around you already
has it and you
a) Don't want to get it
b) are just starting to feel that little tickle in the back
of your throat?
Check back later on my website www.acunut.com
for my next installment, or email me directly at jmoffitt at acunut