Control-D to Bookmark
Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks





No Flu Shot? No Worries!
Why it's ok that we're out of the flu vaccine.
by Jennifer M. Moffitt, MS, L.Ac., Dip. OM


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 for my next installment, or email me directly at jmoffitt at acunut dot com.

Join the PulseMed mailing list

About The PULSE
All information herein provided is for educational use only and not meant to substitute for the advice of appropriate local experts and authorities.

Copyright 1999-2074, Pulse Media International, Brian Carter, MSci, LAc, Editor