Christiane Northrup, M.D.
Every fall, people ask me whether they should get a flu shot. My answer is no. But what about this year? For months, the media has been covering the bird flu, forecasting deaths of immense proportions and claiming that this is the most potent strain of flu virus in nearly a century, when deaths from a flu pandemic in 1918 claimed millions of lives worldwide. They tell us that it’s only a matter of time. Given that there’s no shortage of legitimate natural disasters to report on, you’ve got to wonder why the media is beating the drum of bird flu right now. (I have some ideas but I’m not going to go there. I’m sure you can come to your own conclusions.) Instead, I want to provide you with a rational and empowering way to think about the flu so that you can take care of yourself and your loved ones. Let’s start by getting the facts about bird flu straight.
Bird Flu: Fact or Fiction
The bird flu (or avian flu) as has been around for years. It’s not a recent apocalyptic event. Birds that come down with the flu carry it in their intestines. Like humans, not all birds get sick—even though the flu is easily spread and highly infectious. Interestingly, wild birds seem less susceptible than those raised by humans. People get the bird flu by coming in contact with sick birds. So if you tend birds on a farm or where they are raised commercially, your risk is much greater. According to the CDC, the risk “is generally low to most people because the viruses occur mainly among birds and do not usually infect humans. However, during an outbreak of bird flu among poultry (domesticated chicken, ducks, turkeys), there is a possible risk to people who have contact with infected birds or surfaces that have been contaminated with excretions from infected birds. The current outbreak of avian influenza A (H5N1) among poultry in Asia and Europe is an example of a bird flu outbreak that has caused human infections and deaths.” Although epidemiologists have been talking for years about it being “only a matter of time,” I just don’t understand the magnitude of panic that exists today. While the H5N1 bird flu virus has passed from birds to people, according to the CDC it “has not been observed to continue beyond one person.” (For more reassuring information from the CDC, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/gen-info/facts.htm.)
Symptoms of the Bird Flu
I think part of the fear people have is the belief that if they get this particular bird flu, it will be significantly worse than any flu they’ve ever had. This just isn’t the case. What is the bird flu like? From what we can tell, the symptoms are similar to most other flu viruses and include fever, aches and pains, nasal congestion, and a cough. (You should not expect intestinal distress.) Your likelihood of dying from the flu is very low. You aren’t really at risk unless you develop a secondary infection. These are caused by bacteria that linger in the lungs or nasal passages, which can lead to bronchitis or sinusitis, for example. These bacterial infections are what ultimately lead to more serious complications, such as pneumonia, which is what people actual die from when they get the flu. Those who are most likely to get these secondary infections are those who already have compromised immune systems due to the drugs they are taking (e.g. steroids), from smoking, taking in excess alcohol, eating a nutrient-poor diet, or those who are under an unusual amount of stress. There is ample evidence that the reason so many young men died in the influenza epidemic of 1918 was because they were soldiers who were already severely stressed out by the harsh and overly crowded living conditions of trench warfare in WWI.
Why I Don't Recommend the Flu Shot
I know you’ve all been hearing that you should get a flu shot to protect yourself against possible bird flu. But I don’t agree. The bottom line is flu vaccines aren’t effective, they aren’t safe, and they may compromise your body’s natural immunity. This is a complex subject that I’ve researched meticulously. (I discuss my thoughts on immunizations in great detail in Mother-Daughter Wisdom [Bantam, 2005], and I urge you to read Chapter 9.) Although the medical community would have you believe that getting a flu shot is a sure-fire way to prevent the flu (and save your life!), the truth is that flu vaccines are inherently “hit or miss.” The manufacturers get together before the current year’s flu shot is developed to decide which flu strains will be included in this year’s vaccine. It’s common for 10,000 strains to be included in any given vaccine. Yet despite this coverage, these toxic tails often exclude the flu virus infecting the population at present. This is true of the vaccine available today, which offers no protection whatsoever against bird flu!
What about the effectiveness of flu vaccines over time? A Journal of the American Medical Association study from the Archives of Internal Medicine led by Lone Simonsen, Ph.D. and published in February, 20051 reported some unexpected results, at least as far as the medical establishment is concerned. Although the number of elderly patients aged 65 or older receiving vaccines increased from roughly 17 percent in 1980 to 65 percent in 2001, deaths from the flu also increased during this period. Despite all the media hype, researchers determined that fewer than ten percent of all winter deaths could be attributed to the flu in any given year studied. Dr. Simonsen and his team concluded: “We could not correlate increasing vaccination coverage after 1980 with declining mortality rates in any age group. Because fewer than 10 percent of all winter deaths were attributable to influenza in any season, we conclude that observational studies substantially overestimate vaccination benefits.” Well said, doctor!
It’s obvious to some, but bears mentioning, that there are true risks in inoculating oneself or one’s children with 10,000 strains of any virus! Part of the danger is that when large portions of the population are vaccinated, more virulent strains of the flu develop over time. This has been a trend with infectious disease ever since the overuse of antibiotics became so rampant in our nation. Rather than increasing our body’s ability to fight off the germs it comes in contact with, we’re actually compromising our body’s natural immune system and increasing our vulnerability to more deadly strains.
The injection becomes even more toxic when you consider that many of the flu vaccines contain Thimerosol, a preservative containing mercury. Research by H. Hugh Fudenberg, M.D., an immunogeneticist and author of hundreds of papers in peer review journals, has linked the flu shot with Alzheimer’s Disease. After studying people who received shots between 1970 and 1980, he concluded that those individuals who received five consecutive vaccines were ten times more likely to get Alzheimer's Disease than someone who had two shots or fewer (during the years studied). Dr. Fudenberg attributes this to the gradual mercury and aluminum buildup in the brain, which causes cognitive dysfunction.
How to Protect Your Health Now
Let me remind you that listening to media hysteria on the news can actually make you more susceptible to everything. Feeling vulnerable and fearful compromises the immune system and exacerbates the feeling that we’re not safe on the earth, which ultimately makes one much more susceptible to illness. After the 9/11 attacks, the heart attack rate increased significantly in our local hospital even though nothing was going on here except our increased feeling of vulnerability! Similarly, when hurricane Wilma struck Cancun, the Red Cross director Ricardo Portugal said, “The biggest problem so far were ‘nervous crises,’ and eleven pregnant women who had gone into early labor and had to be ferried to hospitals.”
So take a deep breath and ask yourself the following: Do I routinely come into contact with birds that might be infected with H5N1? Do I touch unhygienic surfaces where bird droppings are? Am I touching or cooking poultry that may be contaminated because it comes from a part of the world where birds are dying from the flu? Is anyone close to me doing this? If the answer is no, then you can relax. (And if the answer is “yes,” there’s still a lot you can do to beef up your immunity and protect yourself.) Of course bird flu is only one of thousands of viruses that circulate in the population in the winter. And some people will get the flu this year, just as in the past. If you want to protect yourself and your family, the best line of defense is to take steps to boost your immune system. Here are a few things I suggest for general flu prevention:
- Supplement every day with a good multi-vitamin, such as USANA’s Essentials or the Health Pak, or Verified Quality’s Super Multi Complex. One of the first things people notice when they begin a good supplementation program is they no longer get as many colds as they did before! So taking one of the multi’s mentioned above may be all you need to do to prevent colds and flu!
- During the height of flu season, take 1–2 grams of vitamin C a day. (Any form is good.)
- Make sure to get adequate amounts of vitamin D daily. The immune system has all kinds of vitamin D receptors on it and most people don't get nearly enough! I recommend at least 1,000 IU per day, which you can get in the USANA Essentials plus USANA’s Active Calcium formula. Cod liver oil is another good source of Vitamin D.
- Kold Kare is an herbal supplement has been clinically proven to boost immunity and help prevent colds and flu. Take two every day during the winter or to prevent colds. Or take two at the first sign of a cold (for me that’s a scratchy throat). Then take two in the morning and two at night for five days or so.
- Zicam zinc nasal spray is another effective remedy. So are Cold-Eeze lozenges with homeopathic zinc.
- Maintain a peaceful home and a positive mental attitude. Remember, through the Law of Attraction, we create the state of our body by the thoughts we think, so see yourself and your family as strong, resilient, and happy.
- Eat nutritious whole, organic foods and avoid spiking your blood sugar when possible. Just one can of soda can decrease the immune system by 50 percent for hours.
- Have some immune system enhancers on hand before you catch a cold. Then they will be there at the first sign of infection.
If you contract the flu or if you come in contact with someone who has the flu, relax! The following is a list of products I recommend. You don’t need to have all of them, but I’d recommend at least three different types. They all work synergistically:
Add the immune boosters Kold Kare, Samento, Sambucol, or extra vitamin C, and/or proanthocyanidins (OPCs) or Umcka Cold Care. I use ascorbic acid capsules (1,000 mg, which is 1 gram, each). I recommend 1 gram every hour until you have reached bowel tolerance, which will manifest as loose stools. There is enormous variation among individuals concerning how much vitamin C they can take without experiencing gastrointestinal distress. Start slow and work up.
Use Kold Kare as above. Proanthocyanidins can be used at the level of 1 mg per pound of body weight in divided doses throughout the day. For example, a 150-pound woman would take a minimum of 150 mg, which is about 50 mg 3 times per day.
In conclusion, I also recommend that you stop watching the news on television, especially before going to bed. Your central nervous system and immune system were never designed to process all the bad news from around the planet every day. In fact, we were designed to deal with what’s in front of us in our own communities. And guess what? If you take care of that, the world takes care of itself! May you enjoy your most vibrant and healthy winter ever!