Research & Education

Flu Season

It's that time of the season where talk of the seasonal flu and the potential need for preventative vaccination begins to heat up.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) continues to recommend the annual flu vaccine for most people but especially those who are most vulnerable to serious flu-related complications. Included are those individuals over 65 and children under 2 years of age.

While the CDC many physicians and hospital and school administrators continue to advocate and in some cases insist on their patients and employees getting vaccinated against the flu the scientific literature does not conclusively support the efficacy of the flu shot deeming it tenuous at best. Additionally while most of us are aware of their potential hazards and safety issues (therefore I won't dwell on these concerns in this particular blog) the flu vaccine has been shown to disrupt the normal development of a child's immune system particularly virus-specific CD8+ T cell responses.

A review of the literature focusing on the elderly concluded that the overall evidence was of poor quality regarding the effectiveness and efficacy of the influenza vaccine in this especially vulnerable population.

In a different review the same source observed in healthy children that reliable evidence on influenza vaccines is thin. Interestingly the reviewers went on to say that studies financed by industry sources were more prone to find them published in highly regarded journals than studies done by independent ones.

In health care workers who work exclusively with the elderly studies again concluded “there is no evidence that vaccinating health care workers prevents influenza in elderly residents in long term care facilities.

During the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic the use of the trivalent flu vaccine in England did not confer any substantial benefit nor did it produce additional effectiveness against this flu variant.

As noted in the prestigious journal Lancet in some seasons influenza vaccination protection was greatly reduced or even absent altogether.

Finally in a Canadian study reviewing use the use of the trivalent vaccine during the 2008/2009 season found that the vaccine actually increased the risk of contracting the H1N1 flu during that time.

While the threat of another flu-like pandemic always seems to be lurking around the corner (at least according to the media who constantly reminds us of such) it's better safe than sorry when it comes to being aware of those agents that possess either immune-boosting or anti-viral properties such as green tea extract which can inhibit replication of the flu virus.

I've personally used moderate to high dose Vitamin C (10-20 grams a day) to great success in holding off the flu. While high dose vitamin C can cause a gastrointestinal flush reaction depending on the dose and the individual's tolerance level if it is spread out in divided doses throughout the day this common side effect can often be reduced and/or eliminated.

There are fortunately many naturally occurring anti-viral and immune-boosting compounds such as silver olive leaf medicinal mushrooms and lauric acid that when used aggressively do an outstanding job of reducing the replication of various viruses including the flu while also improving the immune response to these problematic microbes.

by Michael Fuhrman D.C.