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A recent CBC report stated that last year’s flu vaccine had an effectiveness rate of around 50%, up from “essentially zero” the year before. Earlier this year, a Canadian study showed that people who were vaccinated consecutively from 2012-2014 appeared to have a higher risk of infection. The article also states, “Canadians who had received a flu shot in late 2008 were between 1.4 and 2.5 times more likely to contract an H1N1 infection,” compared with those who did not.
Yet every year, the flu vaccine is advertised as the best (& only) prevention strategy. Is this truly the best we can do?
The flu can be a very serious illness- especially in the very young, the very old and people who have any compromise to their immunity. However, our current shot in the dark strategy of vaccine production based on “our best guess” principle falls radically short of offering real protection for Canadians.
The state of your immune system is the strongest predictor of whether or not you will get sick this winter. The good news is that there are sound yet simple immune-boosting strategies that need not be expensive, require no injections, come with no questionable fillers and actually will improve your resistance to all viruses and bacteria. So try some of these suggestions to keep your immune system supported and strong for a healthy winter season.
Ensure your have adequate levels of Vitamin D.
As the weather gets colder, we need to ensure adequate vitamin D status. In one study, children taking just 1,200 IUs of vitamin D3 per day, were 42 percent less likely to come down with the flu.
Focus on eating good quality fats (think coconut oil, nuts, avocado), lean protein, vegetables (frozen is the next best to fresh) and whole grains and fruit sparingly (due to their sugar content) for a well-balanced whole foods diet that promotes healthy immune function. Add fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and/or kombucha to provide sources of probiotics, or supplement a good probiotic as well. One study of 3 to 5 year olds indicated that ingestion of probiotics 1-2x/day resulted in:
- Reduced fever by 53 percent and 73 percent respectively
- Decreased coughing by 41 percent and 62 percent
- Reduced runny noses by 28 percent and 59 percent
- Reduced antibiotic use by 68 percent and 84 percent (which is a major gain in and of itself because antibiotics are vastly overused in children and also devastate your gut flora)
Adding garlic, onion and honey into your daily foods can help ease symptoms of congestion, sore throat and cough. Warm foods like soups and stews are always easier to digest in the winter months.
Washing your hands frequently is perhaps the simplest measure we can do to stop the spread of the virus. Just plain soap and water will do. Take the time to wash thoroughly, between fingers and under nails. Make a point to limit contact at the office/classroom by staying at home for much needed rest if you do get sick.
Increase your body temperature.
A warm body temperature is less likely to harbour the virus that causes the flu. Short, intense bursts of exercise (like running in place as fast as you can for a minute) several times a day are enough to stimulate your metabolism and your immunity. Another option would be to perform warming socks – a wonderful,simple and effective method to use in both prevention and treatment of acute flu/cold. Or sit in a sauna regularly to enjoy its immune-boosting benefits (and warmth).
In a recent cold study, participants who had reported being under stress were twice as likely to get sick. Prolonged stress will, over time, decrease your immune response. Conversely, skilled relaxation results in a corresponding increase in protective antibody production. Balance your life between work and play, spend quality time with loved ones, practice deep breathing/yoga/meditation/prayer, exercise, and/or journal to help keep stress in check.
There is no guaranteed way to prevent the flu. The best approach for staying well this winter is to have a robust and well-functioning immune system. I hope these tips help you and your families stay well this upcoming season.